Pubdate: Sun, 21 Nov 2004
Source: Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
Copyright: 2004 Messenger-Inquirer
Author: Keith Lawrence, Perspective
Bookmark: (Ashcroft, John)


Breathe easier, America.

We are now safe from crime and terror.

Gee, seems like only last month we were all in a dither about terrorists 
planning to disrupt our election.

What? You didn't know we were safe from crime and terror?

Well, I've got to admit that the story was buried on page 4 in the Nov. 10 
edition of the Messenger-Inquirer.

But there, in good old black-and-white, The Associated Press reported that 
in his resignation letter, Attorney General John Ashcroft told President 
Bush, "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and 
terror has been achieved."

Mission accomplished.

Hope Tom Ridge, the Homeland Security chief, got the memo.

If crime is over, it can't come too soon for Kentucky.

In case you missed it, our prison population has grown 600 percent since 1970.

But our population has only increased about 20 percent during those 34 years.

In 1970, the Courier-Journal of Louisville reported Sunday, 2,838 
Kentuckians were in prison.

Today, it's 17,330.

Big crime wave?

Not really. Just a lot of politicians pandering to the fears of the folks 
back home.

I remember back in the '80s, sitting in Frankfort, listening to debates as 
the legislature passed bill after bill to require criminals to spend more 
time in prison.

The experts testified that within a few years, our prisons would be 
overflowing and eating up an inordinate amount of our budget.

But some legislators are only concerned about the next election.

And people who watch too many crime shows on TV are scared and want the 
criminals locked away for years -- whether they're dangerous or not.

But at what cost?

In 1970, we spent $7 million on prisons. That would be worth about $34 
million today.

But a study by Robert Lawson, a University of Kentucky law professor, says 
we're spending $300 million now to house felons.

And that's at a time when we're cutting college funds, money for Medicaid 
and all sorts of programs.

This year, our prison population is growing by about 1 percent a month. And 
we're projecting 4,350 more people in our prisons by 2010.

Folks, we can't afford it.

Why aren't the nonviolent offenders doing community service and paying fines?

That would help our local governments and our state budget.

Lawson's report also says that Kentucky has "laid a foundation for a new 
citizen underclass made up of parolees, ex-convicts and their families."

As long as businesses refuse to hire anyone with a criminal record, the 
number of poor Kentuckians will continue to swell.

And so will our Medicaid and welfare rolls.

This issue has to be addressed.

It's time for Frankfort to stop fighting and solve a few of our problems.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D