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May 21, 2013

NEWS AND TRIBUNE LETTERS — For May 21

Two crime bills raise concerns

 

There are two alarming developments in our state legislature involving suggested changes to the criminal code, i.e., House Bills (HB) 1006 and 1022.

The News and Tribune article on HB 1006 (May 6) contains quotes from several politicians on the potential impact of the bill, which would shift the financial burden from the state to the counties to house the expected increase in prisoners.

The scariest comment was not about the monetary cost but, rather, the implicit admission by Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart that our criminal justice system is corrupt. Corruption isn’t just about money; it’s also about the failure to follow constitutional mandates and the erosion of our rights. In disputing the financial impact feared by the local county sheriffs, who administer the jails and their budgets, Stewart stated that he and his colleagues would decide who gets jail and who does not. According to Mr. Stewart, “Any participant in the criminal justice system has to be aware of the current population of our jail and that means that everybody we’d like to see in jail can’t be in jail, and there will be some decisions made about bail for pretrial detainees and some misdemeanor offenses, anyway.” Some hard decisions will have to be made, short of putting them in the local jail.

Translation: Whether a person is jailed will be determined by available space, political connections, financial status, race/ethnicity and other improper factors to an even greater degree than it is already. That is unacceptable. The only other alternative is to build more prisons, but the Assembly’s GOP majority has already ruled that out because it would require spending the necessary funds.

It’s bad enough that our system already favors the wealthy and well-connected. Does anyone reading this actually believe that they would receive the same legal courtesies shown recently to certain city and county officials who landed in trouble for alleged DUIs or “financial irregularities?”

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