Pubdate: Sat, 08 Mar 2008
Source: Ledger, The (Lakeland, FL)
Copyright: 2008 The Ledger
Author: Katy Maginn


Apparently, this country is now incarcerating one out of every 100 
people. This is the highest rate of any other country and, 
undoubtedly, Polk County ranks among the highest per capita.

Polk County plans on easing the incarceration crunch by adding a few 
thousand beds to the South County Jail. At about this time last year, 
the courts in various counties were questioning the state, and 
independently run mental health agencies and facilities, for the 
alarming number of mentally ill people who were left in county jails 
across the state because mental health facilities did not have room for them.

In essence, mentally ill people were left in jail because there was 
nowhere else to put them. The problem still exists. It is estimated 
that 20 percent of Polk's inmates are waiting on transfers or in need 
of a psychiatric facility.

The chances of lowering the recidivism rate in jails and prisons are 
much stronger if the problems are treated properly. County-run jails, 
in particular, do not have the resources for adequate treatment and 
counseling for people who are mentally ill or addicted to drugs.

However, a large portion of those who are incarcerated are there for 
drug charges or drug-related charges. Unfortunately, the jails become 
revolving doors for them. They, along with the taxpayers, would be 
better served if money were invested in treatment centers.

I am sure that many would argue that the individual should be 
responsible for treatment, and taxpayer money should not be wasted on 
such an individual. Unfortunately, that is the attitude the officials 
have taken.

As a result, money will continue to be spent on jails and prisons, 
and the same people will continue to occupy the cells time and time 
again. Incarceration will continue to rise, as will taxes to build more jails.

Evidently incarceration is not working. Perhaps a logical practice 
should be instituted.

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