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Obvious Often Means Overlooked

Libertarian Writers' Bureau
1-812-372-1663

My favorite childhood story was about a herd of hippos that played hide n'seek. The baby hippo's best hiding place was on a ledge just above thoughin plain view of the herd's elders, who never found the baby because theynever looked up. Obvious often means overlooked.

And so it is with jail overcrowding in the Circle City. County jails lack space for everyone who's been arrested. Last year there were almost 2,000 emergency releases to free space.

Led by a group of mostly Republicans, including Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and Superior Court judges Cale Bradford and William Young, there 's a move to greatly expand the county's criminal justice budget, build another jail facility, expand or build a new juvenile center, elect more judges, and if they get their way build a brand new criminal-justice
center with even more capacity to turn suspects into government prospects.

The more prospects they can harness and herd, the more money taxpayers will give them.

Anyone who has watched Brizzi, Bradford or Young recently on Indianapolis television knows how callous they are toward the accused. Young, who presides over the county's drug court, says the defendants are from 'a sludge pool." By his own count, he has personally released at least six people who have then murdered others.

Presiding Superior Court Judge Bradford chairs the Marion County Criminal Justice Planning Council, which also includes Brizzi and Mayor Bart Peterson. The Council is preparing an expensive criminal justice wish list to present to the City-County Council. At its January meeting, Bradford noted that the county's newest jail facility, built in 1997 to handle the
main jail's overcrowding, was itself overcrowded.

This latest situation shows the obvious, which again won't be discussed at the next planning council meeting that a new jail is not the solution to the latest bout of jail overcrowding. As experience shows us, a new jail will only be a standing invitation for politicians and judges to fill it.

Money is not the solution, either. Since 2001, the county's criminal justice budget has almost single-handedly been responsible for the county's whopping 40 percent budget increase, from $126 million to $176 million.

The folks in charge are overlooking the obvious answer to jail overcrowding and the legal backlog: Quit arresting so many people!

Go back to doing government's fundamental job of protecting us from real criminals people who steal our cars, break into our homes, defraud us, or are violent not just our immoral neighbors who offend us with their petty
needs and vices.

And quit herding people who aren't real criminals through our criminal justice system which is for real criminals. Then, these people who have not harmed others can keep their jobs, support their families, contribute to the economy and pay taxes instead of forcing taxpayers to pay for their unneeded food, lodging and supervision in jail.

This will leave space to segregate violent and dishonest people who can't live socially with the rest of us. Isn't that the point of our criminal justice system?

If Indianapolis is true to national statistics, we spend nearly half of our criminal-justice resources fighting vice instead of crime. The distinction between vice and crimes is fundamental. As legal scholar Sir William Blackstone wrote, 'In all cases, the crime includes an injury."

The Indiana Constitution grants jurisdiction to Indiana courts based on such harm or injury. 'All courts shall be open, and every person, for injury done to him in his person, property, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law." (Article 1, Section 12)

This does not grant courts authority to punish those who merely offend us. Article 1, Section 37 of the Constitution prohibits government from depriving people of liberty "otherwise than for the punishment of crimes." (See also Article 1, Section 13 and 19.) If Brizzi, Bradford and Young enforced this simple covenant, jail overcrowding would likely vanishovernight.

Every time we waste our resources policing, prosecuting and imprisoning potheads and prostitutes, then car thieves, burglars or murderers go free. Plus, we lie about being true to the constitution.

Why is this so hard to understand or discuss? Why are the elders of our herd overlooking this practical, moral and constitutional consideration that is so utterly obvious?

Submitted by:

by Kurt St. Angelo

Attorney, screen writer and former chair of the Libertarian Party of Marion County.




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