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Fix criminal justice system

Dear Editor,

The United States Criminal Justice system is severely broken. The current system is morally repugnant — it’s probably beyond repair.

What gives me the right to sound off about crime and punishment? My credentials on this subject are actually substantial.

As Oneida County (NY) Executive for eight years I was the chief budget officer for the county including the Sheriff’s Department and county judges; I taught college courses at the Belmont Correctional Institution for over five years; my brother is a retired Ohio trooper, my dad was a captain at the Franklin County (Ohio) jail, and I rode patrol on several occasions with police officers.

Let’s consider here the two major problems of policing and bail — there are many others such as racist imprisonment, the very harmful use of private (for profit) prisons, etc.

POLICING: There is no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of police live up to their great motto “To Protect and Serve.” I believe, however, the two parts of the motto should be organized separately.

The “Protect” part should be in the minority. The traditional police should be armed to deal with truly violent criminals. But there is no great need for them to be militarized to the point of every community, regardless of size, having their own armored vehicles and SWAT team.

The “Serve” part should be the majority of policing. It is also known as “Community Police.” It is when the community and police work together in collaboration and use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to address the conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as traffic control, social disorder, and fear of crime.

Depending on community size there may be specialized units of K-9, bomb squad, aviation, and similar specialized units.

BAIL: According to Jay Fernandez, of the ACLU, “The U.S. bail system is racist, profitable machine that preys on people of color. … It is an exploitative cash bail system that funnels hundreds of thousands of people into local jails. More than 70 percent of those incarcerated — about a half million people — are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of any crime, and many are there because they couldn’t afford bail …”

Many times the bail that can’t be made is as little as several hundred dollars. So they are left to sit while in the meanwhile they lose their jobs and their families suffer.

Racism, poverty and crime will continue to roll on at way too high a rate as long as we allow the militarization of police and unfair bail to continue in such an uncivilized and harmful manner.

Bill Bryant

St. Clairsville

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