Today's JS article about a complaint by a jailed Peorian with a long rap sheet is the prologue to the following sad state of affairs in our jails and prison systems. I quote from an article titled "When Courts Meddle in Prison Operations" written by Dave Morris, a semi-retired criminologist who worked for the IDC and currently serves on the adjunct faculty at Southwestern College in Bellevile.
Mr. Morris writes, "One hundred years ago prisoners were regarded as slaves of the state. In 1964, the Supreme Court in Cooper vs. Pate ruled that prisoners in state prisons could sue to force authorities to address complaints arising from the Civil Rights Act of 1871. The court said convicted felons remain citizens with rights protected by the Constitution. Imprisoned felons went from slaves to inconvenienced citizens.
Each year since state prisoner have filed more and more lawsuits. Think that doesn't affect you? Well, think again. The government hires attorneys to represent prison employees. You pay for the attorneys. Trials, depositions, witnesses, court costs - your money. Since most prisoners can't afford attorneys, attorneys are appointed to represent them. You pay their fees.
Remember that one of the reasons for the hands-off approach by courts was to avoid disrupting prison discipline. Since courts have become more hand-on, discipline has been disrupted in many institutions.
Some prisons now operate under legal consent decrees establishing numerous mandatory rules, some of which makes prisons unsafe for both inmates and staff alike. In addition, many prison administrators and employees are concerned that they may be hauled into court for just doing their jobs.
The result? The emotional costs that litigation inflicts on staff and inmates tend to increase tension, increasing violence, more management problems and in the long run, higher cost to the taxpayer's".
So you could expect the lawsuit/complaint issues of jails to increase all across the country. Now a complaint about unsanitary spoons at our County Jail. On Dec 4, 2008, a nine member Peoria County Grand Jury found the Peoria County Jail had no obvious problems with conditions and treatment of prisoner. The County Health Department also found no unsanitary conditions at the jail in a recent inspections.
Prisoners are so saavy now that they can file numerous lawsuits and complaints against guards and administrators. In the case of the plastic spoons, 60 other inmates signed on. They probably see the possibility of a lawsuit and would probably want to be called as witnesses to get them out of jail for some testimony time. (Maybe even possible damages? or harrassment at the least)
Thousands of frivolous lawsuits are filled by prisoners all across the U.S. every year. It is my opinion that the judges should be able to separate the charges that have merit from claims that reused plastic spoons are negatively affecting prisoners health.
A few pathetic people are further ruining this country. If the health department can show that the prisoners can't properly wash their spoons, then the sheriff and our competent Jail Superintendent Steve Smith will provide them with the proper soap.
The best advice I can give to the complaining inmates - stay out of trouble and you won't wind up eating with a plastic spoon along with other lawbreakers who get caught.
To all citizens of this county, stop the prevalent permissiveness that leads from a "broken window" to a smashed windshield and a pistol shot. Either support discipline in the school systems, home or public places or be prepared to eventually build another addition onto the County Jail, hire more safety officers more judges and probation officers. Stop helping create a less desirable community to move to or live in.
As I've warned before, offer love and if that doesn't work, offer tough love but always expect responsibility in return. As the song goes, "you can't have one without the other".
Not hard to figure what results in lower taxes.