Are we ready to think differently?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 29, 2012

A famous scientist is often credited with saying the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If that is the case, Ohio’s criminal justice system has long been, certifiably, off its rocker.

The process goes like this: Spend taxdollars to catch criminals. Spend taxdollars to provide a fair trial. Spend taxdollars to incarcerate them. Spend taxdollars to feed, clothe and take care of their medical needs. Release said criminal and hope they don’t enter the system again. If so, then go back to step one.

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Are you seeing the trend here?

The average law-abiding citizen has to foot the bill for all this with very little in return and no apparent end in sight.

But a group of Lawrence County officials have hit on an idea — with a little inspiration from Greenup County, Ky. — that could somewhat break this cycle.

It is called simply The Farm.

The concept is rather elementary: Teach lawbreakers who are best positioned to turn their lives around some basic skills and put them to work in a way that can cut some of the costs of our local corrections system.

The food grown on the farm will be used to offset costs at the jail and, eventually, lend a helping hand to area food pantries.

It may also instill some of the traits that are pretty much key to being a contributing member of society including hard work, responsibility, teamwork, dedication and selflessness.

This form of alternative criminal sentencing may not be typical in terms of crime and punishment but that doesn’t make it incorrect.

It is clear that our state — and our entire nation — has to start looking at alternatives to simply locking everyone behind bars.

Enough cannot be said about all the individuals and agencies that have worked hard to put this together including the sheriff’s office, the county judges, the solid waste management district and the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization.

State officials recently visited to learn more about the new program, a step that could pave the way for some additional funding that could allow the project to grow.

Hopefully those officials were able to see beyond the status quo that has allowed our state’s prisons and jails to become sardine cans of men and women who are given few options other than to return to the same path that led them to a life of crime in the first place.

Now is time for a change. That means being creative and being open to new ideas.

That guy mentioned before? It was Albert Einstein. He had another saying that applies here, too.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

He was a smart guy. We might want to pay attention and start to think differently.


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.