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Prison reform can be hazardous to health

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POSTED: July 29, 2013 3:30 p.m.

Watch out, fellow Georgians, another state official is talking about yet another prison reform push. Everyone knows what that means. It means more criminals will remain on the streets or be back on the streets doing what they do best - hurting or stealing from us, our loved ones, our friends and our neighbors.
Yes, the number of criminals in prison and county detention centers across the state is exerting a tremendous burden on tax revenues. Truth be told, though, the majority of law-abiding citizens in this state would rather their tax-dollars go to keeping their streets and neighborhoods safe than providing more freshwater fishing areas.
Public safety is, after all, supposed to be a top priority of those we elect to speak for us in the Georgia General Assembly. Writing laws or creating ineffective programs just to keep criminals out of prison, where they belong, is not why communities put legislators in office.
Sure, it would be great if there was some magic wand that would instantly transform career criminals into productive citizens who respect others and the rules of society. Everyone is aware by now, though, that such a device does not exist. It didn’t in the 20th century, and it doesn’t in the 21st century.
Just recently, take note, a young man arrested a half-dozen times for crimes over the past several years managed somehow to remain on the streets. Today, he is charged with stabbing one individual to death and wounding another. Police say he also is responsible for the disappearance and death of a 22-year-old mother of two from Brunswick. Who can the families and friends of these homicide victims blame for the loss of loved ones? A slow judicial process? An incompetent judiciary? Softened laws that allow criminals to continue to harvest victims?
Every taxpayer is all for saving tax-dollars. What they do not favor are save-a-buck programs strictly designed to keep felons out of prison. It exposes working men and women and retirees to risks they prefer not to have.
What everyone wants - safer streets and neighborhoods - might not matter, unfortunately. It won’t as long as those elected to public office continue to put money before the safety of human beings.
One other note: Georgia does not need to lure more criminals to the state with additional incentives. There’s enough on the books already.

 

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