Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Saving Money In Our Bankrupt State

In a State like South Carolina that can no longer afford to repay the unemployment insurance to the premium payers it has joyfully taken it from, it is time for a little serious reckoning.

And before the responsible lawmakers who have abused this public trust began to whimper about their proposed absolution on the grounds that it is not their fault because ‘the economy took the money’, and we have a figurative lynching in the kangaroo court of our local media, I would suggest these buffoons first take a reality check.

Always the first to demand the highest of standards, the slightest infraction in the current law and order environment these Pharisees have been proud to cultivate now boasts an average 40 hour stay in our notorious local County Detention Center with not yet proven guilty people casually tossed in this gulag for any police officers or judges contrived whim. The net effect is a prison sentence greater than the combined stays of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and the newly redefined 42nd President of the United States who perjured himself on camera before the complete nation making a complete mockery of the word Justice – redefining it in their cases to be “Just-Us”.

It is apparent at any level of review that America has lost the ability to understand the abandoned concepts of Christianity that are an essential part of a black and white justice system – namely mercy and grace that require the discernment of thinking people who recognize their own fallen state as sinners, and do not casually assume the role of arbiters of justice through the tyranny of excuses in a system overdeveloped inordinately.

So it is time these lawmakers began to push the pendulum in another direction before they too are mistakenly placed in the gulag for a casually presumed failing of their own.

They can begin with stopping the waste of money used to build up the ultimate bastion of State work – the South Carolina Highway Patrol. This enormously bloated agency is so full of $ 50,000. cars ridden in by $ 100,000. per year “officers” – the largest group of which can’t pass a donut shop or miss a second chicken dinner. The primary taxpayer funded rolls – er’ roles – of these people is to 1) corral traffic at major public events like football games and funerals and the fair, and 2) stop speeders on well built highways and extract money from them for driving at unsafe speeds.

Now these highways aren’t the streets in your neighborhoods – these are the four lane highways with passing lanes, and speed limits that were designed for 1950’s built cars – back when a rack and pinion steering system and disc brakes were still a novelty on European racing tracks. Now that the average car is built with every capability (except the driver) of successfully navigating speeds in excess of 100 mph, speed limits are only for the benefit of these publicly paid wallet rapists who collect the money – only to give It to their local counties – a fact of which they are proud. So the first thing the bankrupt State of South Carolina should do to begin pushing the pendulum back to center is to begin dismantling the states “Public Safety” department through a careful review of the success of this goofy waste of money. There is not a thing this group does that the elected (therefore accountable) county Sherriff’s office couldn’t take over, and manage more effectively.

Secondly, they should change the terms of funding the regional pet jail of J. Alton Cannon - duly elected Sheriff of Charleston County – working to ingratiate support from an adoring public for being a “law and order man” – perhaps in the vein of the notorious idiot Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona. It turns out now the jail has outgrown ol’ Sheriff Al’s responsibility limits, and likely he no longer wanted to be associated with the nightmare because after all – he has to stand for election!

Clearly the State of South Carolina’s imbalanced funding formula is a major impediment to the Sheriff’s originally implied goal of exercising true justice, and is due for an objective review.

While I’ll be the first to suggest that legitimate incarceration of proven guilty parties is a worthwhile and necessary part of any rehabilitation process, a major percentage of the people at any given time in the Charleston county gulag – more affectionately referred to by it’s growing alumni as the “Leeds Avenue Motel” are awaiting first hearings.

And these average 40 hour incarcerations are to simply hold first hearings for matters as trivial as having taken a bag of potato chips, failing to cover a check for $ 32.00 to a local grocery store five years ago, or driving with a revoked license in the wake of failing to turn in a license plate in years past, casually turned into a bench warrant by flippant judges and prosecuting officers of no distinction – who simply do their routine jobs as defined by foolish lawmakers. These elected politicians who proudly introduce laws they have not done the work of beginning to think through the implications of – all in a society that has lost its justice equilibrium so badly that the system now demands that you prove your innocence and are treated as guilty until you do.

The heart of the problem is much greater than funding. But the short term resolution by a bankrupt state is a quick and objective review by an honest arbiter of fairness, and the proposal of a revised interim funding process that forces a dismantling of such tools of abuse.

Regional jailing does not work for real justice. In fact, the net result has become a system that rewards disparate policing organizations for sending people to the central gulag, and consequently lacks justice at every level. The problem is the State of South Carolina’s funding formula that pays the jails for time they hold the inmates – only encouraging this travesty of justice. Evidently in a large gulag like Sheriff Al’s the funding is actually profitable at the County level – the first major mistake, and the opportunity for change when the State decides to make the funding more fair and hence cut.

Instead, we should demand that every local policing organization go back to taking responsibility on their own for those they arrest until justice can be determined in a fair and practical fashion by the courts. This must include the respect for the public that is demanded of a system that is supposed to demonstrate that people are innocent of every charge until they are PROVEN guilty – in a full legal process – not at the whim of a fool rewarded to arrest and cuff the public, or a judge that has not yet made themselves aware of the facts. Instead of jailing for minor infractions, bonding should be able to be posted within an hour at every local police station.

A major excuse for holding people in the gulag for an average of more than a day, is their need to complete a national criminal background check. But frankly any country that can process a credit card payment in less than a minute should be able to complete a national check of criminal backgrounds within 20 minutes with a reasonable file of information. Their inability to do so is no excuse to abuse the innocents, and they do not have the right at this level to determine who is yet innocent.

The State should immediately appoint a diverse review committee who are given the responsibility to interview people that have experienced the system as well as those that run it to come up with a more effective system for determining how to mete out true justice. But any system the State is responsible for that is generating incentive money at the County level is well worth consideration of cutting funds to in a time of belt tightening and restraint.

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