Commentary: Let’s get serious in addressing recidivism

We’re through another legislative session, and besides making it easier for adults to get their criminal record sealed; what did we accomplish toward addressing recidivism?

To quote the main sponsor, “this legislation helps to create a fair criminal justice system for all and much more— this is a jobs bill that will create safer communities by replacing barriers to economic opportunity with access to upward mobility and it’s an act of compassion that will remove the stigma of people’s worst mistakes and recognize the humanity of those negatively impacted by the limited restorative Justice’s policies that have hampered economic opportunity for far too long.”

Now if I had a college degree, maybe I could understand and appreciate this speech for the Senate, but I just have a good old backwoods country education and we call this hog wash. Out of the 11 bills that the General Assembly passed, and Governor Carey signed, nothing immediately addressed our recidivism, which was the new AG’s main focus when she started.

Most of them have long-term beneficial consequences or effect major crimes; i.e., manslaughter, home invasion, arson, etc. Crimes that don’t statistically affect our recidivism rate. Few of them are short term and some of them are just juvenile to create more money for the state and more burden for parents, ie, making underage possession of alcohol a civil offense or decriminalizing juvenile possession of marijuana with assessment of fines.

However, even though it is a step forward, nothing will affect recidivism, frivolous VOPs (violation of probation charges) or suggest any alternatives to helping and keeping our future youth from criminal activities. Far too often I’m reading about crimes committed by addicts, about juveniles selling drugs, bearing guns with affiliation to gangs or about adults supplementing their income, which makes me think of something I read: society prepares the crime the criminal only commits it.”

Does anyone care that opioid drugs and the related violence in our inner city areas, Dover and Wilmington and our lower suburban areas of Millsboro and Georgetown are becoming the mostly neglectful social programs addressed politically, legally, and sadly neighborly? Do we just close our doors and pray that the problems will take care of themselves?

I myself believe it’s time to wake up to the things that matter — the future of our children. Drugs are being dealt right out in the open throughout the state, people overdose and guns are being shot at random and we fear walking in our own neighborhoods. The police cannot keep up with all the criminal activities, so we distract ourselves and divert our attention from it all and cover up the truth behind the struggles of our brief and worried days, looking for an answer.

The way I see it, we cannot look for political answers. They seem to always need to pay some analytic group or individual with taxpayers’ money for an answer that doesn’t work. We cannot look to the police because they’re doing the best they can with limited resources and we cannot look for legal backing because none of us can afford it; so that leaves only ourselves and what little pride we have in our city in neighborhoods.

I recently read an article on the opioid epidemic in our capital. A senior consultant, Christian McIntosh with a New York-based health management, gives overwhelming statistics in support of the concept of forming a community response team (CRT) to fight the opioid epidemic, which brings to mind the neighborhood watch program. Whatever happened to that? Miss McIntosh believes that if we can get these CRTs, the opioid-related deaths might finally start to decline. After reading the CRT objectives I believe that there are similarities to the NWP (neighborhood watch program) in that they both want to save lives and improve communities.

Therefore I would like to propose that community response team — the neighborhood, the community police and the state police work together to address not only opioids but also the dealers and crimes associated with it with the overall goal of taking back our neighborhoods and reducing both opioid deaths and recidivism by giving our children better choices than staying on the corner selling drugs or sitting in prison.

Anyone interested in making better neighborhoods or just interested in a community-minded team should contact your local neighborhood watch program or for the community response team in Kent County or Dover. Please contact Miss McIntosh who is the Kent County leader for the CRTs at 646-590-0238.

David Downer is an inmate housed at Sussex Correctional Institution.

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