Jail, or jail diversion?

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2016

To the editor:

While I deeply respect Sheriff Hill’s need for a new and expanded jail, I wonder as a county how much time we have also spent on devising jail diversion programs?

I have lived and worked in communities around this nation and found our local county sheriff and his officers to be amongst the best I have ever worked with. Still, I wonder how much support we are giving them to help our citizens who may be jailed to be otherwise diverted to programs that could help them toward rehabilitation and successful lives. I also wonder what the racial mix is of our jailed community members?

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Think for a moment of our broader context. Since 1980 in the United States our jailed and imprisoned population has gone from 500,000 to 2.5 million. Today, one out of every 128 of us in this nation of the free is in jail or prison, more than any other nation in the world. Many are there because of offenses involving illegal drugs and over 600,000 are there because of their mental illness. Our society has no other place for them. A disproportionate number of those jailed are African American.

Should this broader context affect us on a local level? Again, I wonder what are we doing to promote jail diversion programs that help people lead successful lives? We should be paying as much attention to this as we do to creating a more humane jail.

If a local group of citizens might have interest in forming to look at this question, I would be happy to be in the dialogue.

~ Virgil Stucker

Tryon, N.C.