LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Carney passing the buck on prison reform

I see that Gov. John Carney has forwarded the thoughtful letter written by Steve Hampton, Esq., to the fox.  Yes, our esteemed governor has displayed typical lack of courage and leadership by forwarding the letter recounting the horrific abuses by DOC [Department of Correction] to DOC, “the fox guarding the hen house”! A move which Mr. Hampton diplomatically called “futile.” Futile it was, but I’ll go farther and call it cowardly!

Cowardly? Yes. Politicians, concerned primarily – only? – with getting re-elected, avoid the tough calls, the ones which are not “politically popular,” like acknowledging that Delaware DOC is a state agency out of control (I saw its inner workings for five long years!), where inmates are beaten for sport by the “guards,” and DOING something about it.

They are tormented and tortured by sadistic bullies who wear the uniform worn by many fine COs [correctional officers]. Yes, “torture” is not too strong a word for what I have seen, and continue to hear about daily. So, what does Carney do? He doesn’t even admit that the problem exists. I can hear it now: Carney to staff: “OMG, nobody wants to hear this xxxx! Improving this situation won’t get me any votes!”

Staffers: “We have a plan: avoid bold political leadership in doing the right thing, and just basically ignore, it: Send it to DOC, and then, say that because more lawsuits are coming (these lawsuits by inmates, and all the chaos at DOC are costing YOU, dear taxpayer, needless tens of millions of dollars annually!), I have no further comment.”

Steve Hampton is the last person anyone would call any kind of extremist. He is a fine person skilled in the practice of law who is using some of that talent to aid what should be every American’s concern: the “underdog,” in an area where damn near nobody else will.

What could Gov. Carney have done? What should he have done? “I find this letter from Mr. Hampton quite disturbing. We should not be brutalizing gratuitously any individual, in any circumstances. Therefore, I have ordered the Delaware State Police to form a plan to investigate our prisons — under cover — to find out what really is going on, and then, to file charges wherever they have seen crimes committed, as they would in their everyday duties. And I have called on the FBI to aid in this investigation.”

I am not surprised, just disappointed again. It is just like the solution to our failed “war on drugs.” America’s sons and daughters are dying in droves, more than ever before, as we continue with this insane, wasteful and ineffective policy. The solution is more than obvious: legalize, regulate and tax all drugs. And warn of the real dangers with a meaningful advertising program, not an egg in a frying pan, and provide treatment, not prison, for those already hooked.

Is it the perfect solution to end the drug problem? No, but it works. There is no arguing with the results shown in jurisdictions where it has been done: reduced crime, reduced addiction rates, and immense cost savings. This is far, far better, “any way you slice it,” than our “war on drugs”! But such a move would require an extensive effort to educate the public because they have been fed so much dead wrong – can you say “overdose”? – information for 40 years. That, my friends, would be too much work for someone who only wants to get re-elected. It is much easier to throw more money at the problem – as we are doing with DOC – and shout, “Get tough on crime”!

If John Carney has a sign on his desk saying “The Buck Stops Here,” he would be wise to remember Momma’s words: honesty is the best policy!

Folks, I am not trying “to catch bees with honey” here. I am doing what any concerned citizen should do: express concern about a problem to someone with the power to fix it. In this case, however, I am addressing our “heads in the sand,” “Never mind that; it won’t get me votes, except 30 years from now when everyone will see what a great move it was, when I’m long gone!

Politicians, tell it as it is, always.

Ken Abraham
Deputy Attorney General, 1974-1979
Founder of Citizens for Criminal Justice

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