The Missing Word Is WORK!
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
August 28, 2008
As many of you know, the County does principally two things: health and justice.
So, as you might imagine, the justice category takes up a huge amount of our budget. The main culprit in the justice system is the jail. Yes, we still need and will always need a substantial jail.
But merely being hard on crime is not so challenging as being smart on crime. With every 400 inmates kept annually, Bexar County taxpayers pay $8 million and we regularly have around 4,200 inmates in our jail costing us about $82 million annually!
What's worse is that 81% of the inmates in our jail have already been there before. That means that offenders in our jail aren't learning anything good from having been incarcerated. What we allow some of them to do while incarcerated contributes to the problem.
Instead of allowing nonviolent or lesser offenders to sit in an air-conditioned setting watching color, cable TV, lifting weights and swapping stories with thugs so that when they get out, they have found better ways to beat us up or rip us off, why not put them to work? Community service and work release must have a higher priority among our judges. Otherwise the 97% of those going in that at some point return to society will come out angry, unemployed and sharper about how to commit more crimes on you and me.
That's why a neighborhood cleanup incorporating the element of community service which I attended last Saturday was so rewarding. Bexar County Juvenile Probation and the City of San Antonio's Department of Community Initiatives provided the partnership. Juvenile probationers did some seriously hard work. I know because I did too! And yes, I was delighted to see that the sidewalks on a major thoroughfare were cleaned of unsightly weeds growing on them.
What I was more pleased to see is the kind of positive attitude being displayed by the City and the County working in a partnership for the advancement of the community. However, I was most pleased to see the constructive engagement of youthful offenders in this process. Some came from dysfunctional homes while others simply "jumped the track".
I can't help but believe that all offenders of this category of youth and adults profit immensely from active participation in something that is good for the community they owe a debt to for having broken the law. In this instance a neighborhood association sponsored the cleanup. But this should not stop any organization from similarly cleaning up their neighborhood too. The community benefits from a cleaner look and the probationers benefit from doing something that brings them a measure of redemption for their conduct. The principal leadership in this area comes from sheriffs, judges, county commissioners' courts and their County agencies as well as the city council representatives and their agencies, the Department of Community Initiatives and the Police Department.
Let's make "WORK" a pillar of our corrections process!