Monday, May 4, 2009

Jailhouse rots

David Simon, the creator of the HBO TV show The Wire recently appeared on Bill Moyers Journal on PBS and gave the best reason I ever heard for making drugs legal. Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter painted a bleak picture of modern-day society when Moyers asked him what he would do to solve today's problems. ``I would decriminalize drugs in a heartbeat. I would put all the interdiction money, all the pretrial, all the prep, all of that cash. I would hurl it, as fast as I could into drug treatment and job training and jobs programs.'' If I could paraphrase Mr. Simon, deal with problems at the start and not at the end.
That makes me think of an initiative I'm involved with in Seattle, I-100. Basically, the initiative states that instead of the city (i.e. Mayor Greg Nickels) deciding to spend $226 million on a new jail it would go to a public vote. If we get enough signatures by the end of the month, I-100 will go on the ballot for the next election. The initiative also talks about analyzing ways to decrease incarceration rates; analyzing whether investments in social services will lower crime and arrest rates; and develop a strategy to address racial disparity in arrest and incarceration rates.
There are some who might say this will lead to just more committees as opposed to decisive action, AKA the Seattle way. Not true, according to Lisa Fitzhugh, the Chair of I-100. ``Twenty-five years ago we made the choice to invest in recycling over building a new waste incinerator. Today we have a world class recycling system. Ten years ago, we made the choice to invest in treatment and prevention programs for juvenile offenders over building a new juvenile detention facility. It required King County to re-evaluate every aspect of its system. We averted millions in construction costs and increased public safety.''
I don't know if Simon and McHugh have ever met but they have the same concerns- programs for the mentally ill being reduced to fragments; pre-arrest diversion programs to treat non-violent drug offenses going by the wayside; but here in Seattle, we're building a new jail, screw the budget crisis.
The complete name of I-100 is, A Citizen's Initiative To Promote Efficiency and Fairness in Public Safety. Who can be against public safety? I urge anyone who stumbles on this blog and is a registered Seattle voter to sign the petition.
And for more info contact the Committee for Efficience and Fairness in Public Safety, 2129 2nd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 (206) 441-3247 X206.

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