Public still expects justice

Published 10:57 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In Lawrence County, like many other counties, a debate sprouted up recently about the expanded use of electronic monitoring devices for persons who would ordinarily be jailed.

Many public officials and law enforcement officials like the idea of the devices because it reduces jail populations and the associated costs. Judges on the other hand, who are elected, don’t like the idea of the public believing a criminal gets to spend his time watching television in his house.

This debate will intensify as the state and county budgets continue to get squeezed. Hamilton County closed one of its four jails earlier this week, the first time one has closed there without another ready to absorb the inmate population.

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“This is the most frustrating time I’ve ever seen in my entire career,” Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s a frustrating, dangerous situation. We’re going to get to a point where we’re not going to be able to provide the necessary services.”

Some may dismiss society’s criminals and to them the less money spent, the better. But counties have a responsibility and a liability when it comes to the care of inmates. And a quick fix by not putting dangerous people in jail is not an acceptable solution.

The expanded use of electronic devices is a slippery slope. But governments on the state and county levels cannot send the message that it is devaluing the severity of certain crimes.

The public still expects justice and that should be at the forefront of any decisions made in regard to balancing the books.