Prisons, prisons are a “no” topic with average voters in Arkansas

Already, I can tell serious readers of this space, I have lost many who simply refuse to read or digest any information about the lack of space in prison, the construction of new prison beds, or expensive rehabilitation programs. for those who commit crimes in our state.

For the average man and woman on the street, those who break the law should expect to find themselves in as sparse a jail or jail cell as the laws and our social conscience allow.

Writing about building new prisons, to increase overcrowding or lack of space in prison is almost a lost cause.

Few, if any, want to read opinions, let alone facts on the subject in Arkansas.

Only a small, and thankfully vocal, minority have maintained a steady pace lately to stop the “building of more human cages”, and in a very academic way, wanting to discuss bail, bonds, treatment and programs for non-violent criminals.

These academic back-and-forth sessions on how to better handle minor offenses to free these non-violent people from imprisonment are worth it.

Most prosecutors, judges, other court officials, and certainly all law enforcement officials would be involved in this discussion and in new laws, if passed in this way. This debate for a non-violent offender, or someone who can’t seem to obey the laws of justice for minor crimes, is almost – well – almost endless.

The general public, in all honesty, thinks that not everyone deserves jail or a prison sentence, but the current laws are hard to circumvent, even socially.

Locally, county jails are overcrowded with state prison inmates waiting to be transferred to state jails. Local jail inmates also fill available jail beds, clutter court books, and are almost universally unable to secure and retain a reasonable bond or sometimes civil-type arrangement, to meet the charges against them – even on non-minors. violent accusations.

If you have ever attended a session of the Municipal Court for minor offenders of justice – shall we say, speeding – which is a misdemeanor, almost two out of three defendants who appear before the local judge have (a) simply missed a set court date, (b) was unable to pay the fine imposed in a previous session of court, or (c) is currently charged with contempt of court for flagrant failure to appear and a warrant was issued to compel appearance out of sheer social ignorance.

And while the third instance of non-appearance warrants the issuance of warrants and subsequent arrest to compel the accused to attend court, in most cases a long, long relationship with the courts and possibly subsequent visits in prison are in reserve for the accused.

Today’s statistics on the number of Arkansans and Americans residing behind bars are staggering.

So is the level of violence in our county, our state, our state capital, and across the country.

Now, it seems, our social conscience of this nation is only hurt and our attention is drawn when a “mass” shooting in public places (like malls or concert halls) or even more tragically “school” shootings in public schools, occur.

The old stories from the past where an angry man was arrested for brandishing a gun at police officers who came to the house to cover up a complaint of domestic violence – seem so tame. Until this man fires his gun at the police, I’m sure we’ll all agree, it should lead to some time away from the public eye.

Yes, unfortunately Arkansas seems in line to build more jail cells, build more jails and many are not happy with this outcome.

Governors hate to announce the need for more cells, legislators hate to pay for this construction, so all, it seems, are looking to rising violent crime rates to say: Here’s the reason.

If one said: “Armed violence is the reason” for these cells, everyone would recoil.

And now a small but vocal group of elected officials would stop complaining about the cost of prisons and start shouting only about the “Second Amendment”.

— Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several publications in northwest Arkansas. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Jessica C. Bell