Candidates And Crime – What’s the plan?

by Diane Dimond on November 1, 2008

When you go into the voting booth in a few days to cast your ballot for the next President of the United States ask yourself why neither of the nominees is talking about crime in America.

Maybe I have a one track mind – crime – but why is it that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain have made even the tiniest mention of what all of us worry about on a daily basis?

Will the kids get to and from school okay? Will that far-away parking space prove to be dangerous when you go back to your car late at night? Has your late-for-curfew teenager been the victim of some random criminal act? Is it safe for your spouse to work that overnight shift?

Yes, yes – I know, there are many pressing issues facing America like national defense, the economy and health care. But this campaign has gone on forever and I haven’t heard either candidate say what they plan to do to make me feel safer. Where’s the anti-crime bill proposal to go along with their ideas to wrap up in Iraq or fix the housing market?

Earlier this year a stunning report from the Pew Center for the States concluded 1 in every 100 American adults is now behind bars. In total more than 2 million people are currently incarcerated in America costing states and the federal government (read that: you and me) combined billions – yes, BILLIONS – of dollars every year.

How bad does it have to get, how much higher will those numbers go before our leaders start addressing this thing that plagues and drains us all?

The mainstream media, of which I was a part for many years including coverage of several presidential campaigns, has lost its way somehow. They’ve forgotten to pepper the candidates with questions about issues that cause voters daily distress. They’ve forgotten to dig hard for substantive answers. They’ve forgotten to ask either McCain or Obama what they plan to do about those among us who prey on others – from hardened criminals to corporate bad guys.

Think of the way we’re forced to live our lives now. We’re consumed with working enough hours to pay our mounting bills, including ever rising burdensome tax bills. We fret about the possibility of violent crime, white collar crime, auto theft, child molesting, home invasion, elder abuse, identity theft – the list is long. Among the items we think we must buy are home security systems, car alarms, insurance policies and cell phones for each of our children, just in case something awful happens and they need to call us. We design our daily routines around regular calls to the vulnerable senior citizens in our lives, we shell out money for expensive security for our small businesses and we pay more in school tuitions to make sure the children are safer.

It’s as though there’s a built in anti-crime tax to everything we do.

Is this ok with you? Is this the way you want to spend your money? Well, steel yourself because things could get worse.

A recent report by Third Way, a liberal think tank based in Washington DC, concludes there is an upcoming convergence of events that will make our modern day worries about crime seem miniscule. Among the dangerous trends ahead? First, a huge number of baby boomer convicts are set to be released from prison in the next five years. Let’s hope their rehabilitation and re-training sticks – but don’t count on it. In addition, as our economy tanks there is a bloated group of young people entering their so-called “high crime years.” The report also states that organized criminal gangs are recruiting illegal aliens like there’s no tomorrow. And, the internet is increasingly being used for criminal enterprise and the report concludes more criminals will certainly be using it in the future.

Yet the candidates don’t seem to see the road ahead. The reporters who dog the candidates all day long never shout out any questions about crime. This is strange to me.

About a year ago the firm Cooper and Secrest Associates released a study that asked Americans which threat they took more seriously international terrorism or home grown violent crime. 69 % said they worry more about what’s directly outside their front door. Only 19% worried about another terrorist attack.

Yeah, I guess I have a one track mind. I’ve written about this in the past and I will continue to write about why our leaders don’t put crime prevention on the front burner. Criminals have reached their slimy tentacles into nearly all aspects of our lives. I want to know how the occupant of the White House plans to address the national security situation right here at home.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

jeff liddell November 1, 2008 at 1:15 pm

I did a little research that is relevant to this discussion. Fifty-three percent of jail inmates were on probation, parole or pretrial release at the time of arrest. Four in 10 jail inmates had a current or past sentence for a violent offense. Thirty-nine percent of jail inmates had served 3 or more prior sentences to incarceration or probation. An estimated 40% were black; 19%, Hispanic, 1% American Indian; 1% Asian; and 3% of more than one race/ethnicity. Thirty-one percent of jail inmates had grown up with a parent or guardian who abused alcohol or drugs. About 12 percent had lived in a foster home or institution. Forty-six percent had a family member who had been incarcerated. More than 50% of the women in jail said they had been physically or sexually abused in the past, compared to more than 10% of the men. These stats are from the Bureau of Justice.

These statistics show us that the correlation between economic and social factors will always be applicable and that our prison system does not lend itself to rehabilitation. Economic and social issues are continuously addressed by politicians, the problems within the prison system are covered by indifference and until the prison system is fixed and true rehabilitation becomes part of the program, then no legislation can correct the problem. If you recall the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, designed to set stricter punishment guidelines, took nearly ten years of debates before the bill was finally passed. A decade of indecision, reflecting the apathy that Washington displays when dealing with the subject of crime, “let the next administration deal with it”. While in agreement with your thoughts about the need for this subject to be discussed openly and frequently, I also understand why politicians avoid it while campaigning for office.

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Diane November 1, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Albuquerque Journal reader Herb writes:

“Our crowded jails are the result of numerous factors, but primarily from the view that we are going to punish and rehabilitate all these prisoners. It hasn’t worked well and it won’t work near as well in the future. Here’s the heart of the problem: You can’t rehabilitate someone. They have to rehabilitate themselves.

I’ll draw a scenario —

Many years ago, when people lived primitively and banded together for food and shelter, one fellow wouldn’t help. He’d linger about the camp and abuse the women and children instead of pitching in with food gathering and hunting. The villagers had to decide what to do about him.

They could incarcerate him and assign guards to watch him. They could ostracize him and hope he stayed away. They could kill him.

The villagers tried ostracizing him, but he kept coming back and continued his felonious ways. He even abused and killed a child. The villagers knew that to jail him in a cage would require feeding him, clothing him, and keeping him under strict watch. That was a huge tax to pay. Guards devoted to watching him would not be contributing to the care and feeding of the village. Nevertheless, the guards and the prisoner would all have to be fed, clothed and sheltered. An additional tax, that was. The presence of the criminal was a horrifying memory to those he’d abused and to their families. That was another tax!

So the villagers had to decide what was of greatest value to them. What value did the prisoner bring to the village? Should they sacrifice their own well-being to keep him alive? Could they punish him enough to make him mend his ways? Would the criminal ever be of value to the villagers? What other potential criminals would observe this outcome and take advantage? They decided wisely. Even if this fellow was potentially going to cure cancer, the damage he’d inflict before he got there was too much for them to pay.

They decided to …

Our society struggles with capital punishment questions for the wrong reasons. Repeat offenders who refuse to mend their ways are too big a tax on our civilization. I’ts obvious the current system is not an effective deterrent. If we’d execute repeat offenders because we can no longer afford them, we’d be doing something justified by the price extracted from our productive people. And, it’s not just the money. (We do spend a lot more on prisoners than we do on students, per capita.)

Executing criminals because we’re angry and want them to suffer is not the right reason. Surely, some of these people need to be sent off to their deaths because they are dangerous, but we aren’t going to rehabilitate most of the rest of our prison population. It’s a game they play knowing they are going to win. Our system is easy for career criminals to defeat. The few that want to rehab themselves do it. The rest need an incentive.

Here’s a proposal: Three-time felons are executed. One crime is stupid behaviour. Two crimes might be just bad luck. Three crimes shows you are incorrigible. We can’t afford you. You had your chances and failed to get the message. Reform yourself and make a positive contribution. Else, you’re gone. Terminated. Executed. Paid out. (The only relief is if the criminal’s family is willing to pay for the prisoner’s incarceration for life.)

We’ reduce overcrowding and provide a deterrent and an incentive. Yeah, it’s unChristian. But, religion is all just theory and criminals are reality. Let’s not complicate the issue.”

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jeff liddell November 2, 2008 at 11:23 am

The only part of your statement that makes any sense is that people must rehabilitate themselves, and while this is true, while in the prison system, the tools and proper motivation must be available for inmates to accomplish this. The remainder of your “shoot em all and let God sort em out” mentality is the attitude that compounds the problem. If one receives a sentence that includes a future release date, then the public would be best served if that person is not turned into a repeat offender.

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Jim November 1, 2008 at 9:53 pm

Herb, I agree with you and you are probably being mildly modest so I’d like to reinforce your thoughts if that’s ok.
I’m a minister for 34 years and sat with mothers and children of abuse and rape in the ERs as well in through the court case where the criminal got off scott free and I wouldn’t say that it’s unChristian to think that there needs to be a controlled but determined effort to plass legislature tom place more on death row and speed it up instead of trying to rehab them.
.The difference between Christianity and religion are two different dogs on the same fron porch. If we go back to the roots of Christianity even in the time of Christ (though the diciples were first called Christians after the death of Christ) Jesus was more practical and real and more than a theory and man did he have some pretty grave standards to offer.
He beat the stuffing out of those who polluted the temple. He said that he was come to bring division and to fulfil the OT law which is a much broad statement which means he meant for us to have to think and work things out for ourselves in our society. Having said that it’s my opion that he would have condoned the three strikes and you’re out and I mean not incarcerated forever a tax burden on hard working Americans but “out”, kaplooey, over with, done, no existence here.
One of the four horsemen in Revelations name was Death, the grim reaper. He didn’t come to install direct tv and teach tiddly winks to those who have been ingorigible enough throughout their existence to rape elderly women, disembowel human beings, molest and rape little girls and sodomize boys frequently and covered up by special interest judges and sympathetic attorneys who fought for their “rehabilitation” only to be let out and rape again.
I’m with you and every other American and Christian who feels that it’s time for people of America to let our Congressman nkow that we’re tired of spineless legislators who have more time on the golf green than to work on American’s crime problems and place “one debate only” bills on the table.
I appreciate your stand I just wanted to take it another forward and say Christians have a responsibility to begin calling for the execution of third time offenders and protect out families and children.
There is a difference in killing of a 5 month-in-the-womb baby (abortion) by piercing it’s head and sucking it’s brains out, or killing a baby that survived an abortion attempt, a human being that never had a chance to contribute good or bad to our world and society, and a loser who gets oout to rape over again. Execute them and put society at ease and less tax burdened.
In my little hometown we’ve had over a dozen robberies this summer and one suspect not connected to any of the cases because our pd has to be so politically correct.
Here in my town there is four time felon trafficker out (not on bail) working a job who is just recently alledged to have raped his 4 year old daughter with a Mcdonalds toy We have the emergency room , police reports (I have the incident report) becusee my child abuse ministry took point on the case because no one would touch it because the mother is poor), bloody underwear, doctor’s report and exam, DFCS report, Child Advocacy report, the whole nine yards, and now he isn’t being charged because a detective says (not the court) that she isn’t going to have this (30 something) man’s life ruined over a little blood in somebody’s panties. Yet this child is going to counseling 4 times weekly.
I see the cries and witness the mother’s anguish. Young mothers can’t leave their apartments early in the dark, walk out to their vehicle at their aprtment,place their child in it’s seat without fearing of being attacked. We make the phone rounds each morning to our children to check on them that they got to school jobs and their children to school each morning. We make the same ritual daily at evening to assure they got home ok. We’re just a pee in the pot compared to millioins of others.
Give us some hope.
Jim
http://silentministries.spruz.com

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Diane November 2, 2008 at 6:55 pm

I’m stunned at the amount of time my readers devote to crafting these wonderful comments.
I’m also surprised that this particular column sparked the kind of debate it has.
I was asking why Presidential candidates/politicians don’t talk about crime – YOU all seem to want to talk a lot about specific aspects: the death penalty, rehabilitation of prisoners, the effect on families.
It’s WONDERFUL that my columns spark such dialogue. Now, would any of you like to run for office perhaps!?! 🙂 ~ DD

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Adrian McManus November 3, 2008 at 12:53 am

Listen dd, you all could not handle me , if I were President!! I’de crack the whip!!! However look for my name on the ballot. If you can’t see it WRITE IT IN !

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Adrian McManus November 1, 2008 at 11:14 pm

Here is a thought, maybe couples should be tested before they are able to bring children in this world. Maybe there should be some kind of test a deep mental test , to test how the parents of the unborn child thinks first, before they can bring any of there offsprings to life. If they cant pass the test on how to raise children , then they are banned forever no children. So many people have children and they should not of had any, their kids are running the streets with no supervison, robbing people , selling drugs. It starts at home!! bullies at school. I know a guy who was a big bully in school, and his mother went to school with me, now he is in prison. Why ? cause his mom was too busy to correct him while he was growning up. She should not of had kids. That is why this world is so screwed up, screwed up parents make screwed up children. Who has to pay for all these messed up humans? Us taxpayers. All these people in Prison, they have a good life . They sleep and eat and don’t have to worry about bills , enjoying life really. I am tired of supporting these kinds of people !! It’s so easy to put animals down, they need to start putting these crimals down too. Your very right Diane, but I think it’s too late now. I don’t think any President can fix this problem, it’s already way too out of control, for any fixing now. I think running Candidates know better then to touch that issue.

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Diane November 2, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Adrian – I guess its up to each state to try to get a handle on it, eh? What the feds can’t do states can! ~ DD

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Janet Turner November 2, 2008 at 4:06 am

Hi Diane,
I do not have any statistics or anything like that….I am writing as a mother of two teenagers.
I do worry about them going to school. I have heard increased conversation .if you will…about gang activity. I hear my boys talk about some of the kids in their school being involved. It scares me.
I feel the politicians are too busy bashing each other to even begin to hit on something this important. Health care, taxes,terrorism..I do not believe that the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and the likes are voting for President of the United States….allthough that could probably be in the future…..!
What is important is whether my family will be safe. I hear about our troops protecting other countries..to get them on their feet but what about us? We deserve protecting. I feel that they…the politicians are avoiding the issues right in front of their noses….after all why should they worry…they have Secret Service.
I do not live far fromIndianapolis, Indiana. It has been a terrible year so far. One to two murders a day. I know it is not like the bigger cities……but no one can seem to get a handle on it.
My children endure lock-downs. Last year they were on lock-down half the year. I have even kept them out of school due to ..even rumors..of impending violence.
As a taxpayer…..I should not have to do this.
Growing up we used to sleep with our doors open, left our cars and houses unlocked. Now we can’t even put stupid lawn ornaments out without someone helping themselves to them.
I feel that in someways we have created this society…Let’s increase everything here…..except pay……expand welfare……so people do not have to work for things….I mean after all….if you don’t put your sweat into EARNING IT…it doesn’t bother you to STEAL IT…..and in doing so…sometime kill to do it.
It is easier to rob a person than it is to flip burgers. No time clock.

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Diane November 2, 2008 at 6:58 pm

This is just the dialogue I was hoping for, Janet!
I sometimes think we, the citizens, don’t give a second thought to exactly where all our tax dollars are going. If its NOT okay with you that we all spend a collective BILLIONS OF DOLLARS on keeping prisoners behind bars then let your local politicians know! All politics really is local.
~ DD

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Lyn November 2, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Totally agree with you Jan. What I don;t get is that the statistics show that one a sex offender/child molester/rapist etc gets out – he goes and does it again. Look at the Jessica Lunsford case a couple of years ago..it happened right on Mark’s doorstep. That sex offender was out and committed this horrible crime that could have been prevented. They should not be given a second chance. Once they are remanded then that should be it. Sometimes I really believe in the “old” types of punishment…If offenders knew that they were going to get parts of their body cut off, then I am sure they might think twice. Nothing works does it…..absolutely nothing. They get out and do it all again and somebody elses’s kid or wife is attacked. The justice system in this country is very weird. Fifth amendment? Why have that? If someone does not have anything to hide, then it should not be a problem should it?

Politicians do go out of their way NOT to discuss crime…it’s very sad really and very much an important issue to the American public. If the US had not poked their nose in Iraq in the first place (like they always have and yes I am knocking the US here) then there would be more money to spend here at home. Billions of dollars every month go to Iraq….support our troops….yeh right…and see half of them beat the shit out or innocent Iraqi’s. John McCain goes on about winning the war…..where does he get that information?? Winning the war???? I will shut up now cos that is a different story.

Nothing is going to change.

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Diane November 2, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Oh, Lyn! I hope you’re wrong. We Americans, we solve problems, damnit! Isn’t there some brilliant mind(s) out there who could get their arms around this enormous problem? ~ DD

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Adrian McManus November 3, 2008 at 12:57 am

Hey dd , just another thought, you should think of running for office, hey you got the looks,!!!! and the intelligents!!! Do it!! I sure would vote for you!!

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Diane November 2, 2008 at 6:52 pm

Albuquerque Journal Reader Joseph S. writes:

“Dear Diane,
Yes, there is a lot of blah, blah, blah during the election cycle. Like many others who watch and read the News,
I wish it would end. Why the candidates are not talking about crime I really don’t know. The last time it was
specifically addressed is when a promise to put 100,000 cops on our streets was an issue of the campaign. It was
the big “Law and Order” issue.

One item that is being discussed is the Economy. Directly related to the economy is “JOBS”. I have been led
to believe, by the media and my own personal experience that the higher the employment is in our country the lower the crime rate. At present the unemployment rate is high and the crime rate is on the rise. Be very careful during the holiday season, this is when many criminals do their shopping. We have been advised by the media and Law Enforcement to be wary and thus avoid becoming a victim of a crime. We all know what actions we can take that will reduce our chances of becoming the next
victim. I have worked as a shoeshine boy, paper boy, delivery boy, Western Union messenger, Soda Jerk and never got into
trouble as long as I was working, however, when I was not working I did get into mischief that went beyond being naughty.
A steady job with okay pay was my salvation. Today that is just as true as it was for me.

Again, I don’t know the answer for our Society with respect to crime, but, I do believe that I can lessen the crime
rate by applying “ethics” to my lifestyle. As a youngster, I was taught by my parents and by my teachers at school
that to be a good citizen: one should obey the law, pay your taxes, and vote. I have since learned that another ethical
action I can perform is to “give back” to a Country that has provided so much for me and mine. One ethical act I conciously perform is to really try and observe traffic laws…..watch your speed Joe. I don’t have a cell phone and I will not talk to
my children if they are on their cell phones while driving. Yet each morning when I walk my dog, I see and am terrorized
by mothers and fathers who are driving their children to school and are blah, blah, blahing on their cell phones. I’m sure they would want the other drivers to stop for their children when their children are trying to cross an intersection. They should
put up their cell phones, obey the law, and grant pedestrians the right of way. By the way, deaths in the United States of
America caused by automobile accidents exceeds deaths caused by all the wars we have ever been involved in…now that
surely is a Major Crime.

You and I know the systems are broken and the only way to make them right is to make ourselves right.
so, let’s obey the law – change them if we feel they are unjust – pay our taxes – change the rate by changing
the Tax laws, and voting for whoever we think will best accomplish the above.

By writing these wonderful articles in your column, you are giving back. By responding I am giving back and all those who participate by responding with their critiques are also giving back. We only have our time, talent, and treasure to give back.
The greatest of these is our time. Keep up the “Good Work”!!

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Diane November 2, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Joseph – what a wonderful comment. You challenge us to find the best within ourselves. Thank you so much! ~ DD

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Lyn November 2, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Hey Diane..you do a great job and yes you Americans do solve problems but unfortunately, most of the politicians cause them…i.e. Bush!!!! That;s what I meant about America poking it’s nose in where it should not be. Britain followed along though cos we are the allies. You guys helped us in WW2 = which we would have lost without you but we have stood by the USA ever since. The choices unfortunately have in many cases been the wrong ones..on both sides. I guess I am a bit outspoken and did not want to offend anyone with my comments but…I stand by what I said cos it’s true. Maybe, just maybe, the next President might be able to change things but I seriously doubt it. Whatever changes happen, it;s gonna take yonks anyway.

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Nancy Robel November 3, 2008 at 11:30 am

Oh, Diane. You are such an instigator of lively debate.
The candidates are just trying to win and they’ll only talk about what they perceive matters most to the voters. Somehow they got on the one way train to Iraq and Afghanistan (and the media got on there with them) and they never made any stops on home turf. Crime is a huge problem facing our nation and it is only going to get worse. It’s not just the government that is apathetic, it’s the citizenry. We’ve been ten years in our little neck of the woods refusing to address the jail overcrowding. The last two Sheriff’s couldn’t get a two cent sales tax hike passed to get a new jail built, to save their life. Guess where all those crooks are getting out on probation and parole? Right in our little beautiful city by the sea.

I worked as a deputy in the county jail for five years and watched a female inmate come in and out of the jail system at least five times to meet up with her homegirls. Each time she came in she was hooked on heroin and was pregnant. She’d come in and get cleaned up, get off drugs, get her teeth fixed, have her baby on the taxpayers dime and hand the child over to Grandma. When she got out, she’d go back to prostitution, get hooked on drugs and get pregnant again. The cycle was sickening.
You want to address crime? We need to pass some tough laws on procreation. May sound a little outside of the box, but today parenting should be an earned privelege, not an inalienable right. These criminals should get the “three strikes your clipped law” thrown at them. Because, honestly, where do you think their little offspring are going to wind up while Mom and Pop are doing their time? Trust me, I know.

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Janet Turner November 3, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Diane,
After reading all the comments. I feel that we need Sheriff Joe in office. Alot of people don’t care for him but he gets the job done.

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Lyn November 3, 2008 at 9:39 pm

Um…..have I missed something Jan??

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janet turner November 4, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Yep..! He is supposedly the worst sheriff in the U.S.. He believes that if you commit a crime you actually pay for it. He has brought back chain gangs, taken away privileges, no t.v…..I think they might get to watch Disney. No college education, no exclusive gym to work out in, he also makes them dress in pink One of his mottos is,”If you don’t like the way I run this….don’t come back!”
When I said we need him in office I meant his type. He dares the inmates to complain about working in the hot sunlight when our boys are overseas in full battle gear in temps of 100 +. He is no nonsense. He also does this on a shoestring budget….and has saved the taxpayers millions. I think he is in Maricopa County.

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