Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Building Jails Is Only a Band-Aid; Rebuilding Lives Is the Real Answer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Building Jails Is Only a Band-Aid; Rebuilding Lives Is the Real Answer

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

Believe it or not, somebody actually saw this coming.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, scores of cities and states were battling the drug trade by building bigger jails instead of building economically stable communities.

Jacksonville was one of those cities.

In 1989, it opened the Montgomery Correctional Institute, where inmates facing just shy of prison-length terms pay for their crimes on a farm. That same year, it opened the Community Corrections Division for inmates struggling with drug problems and the like.

Then, two years later, the crown jewel in the local incarceration system opened - the John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Center, commonly known as the Duval County jail, downtown.

Combined, the facilities were supposed to relieve overcrowding - as well as clear space for others who were landing there for transgressions elevated to the level of criminality by law-and-order opportunists.

But here it is, nearly two decades later, and all of the city's jails are from 9 to 15 percent over capacity. Again. Much of the overcrowding comes from pressure to rein in Duval County's high murder rate, and has likely resulted in more arrests for illegal activities that could lead to violence, such as drug dealing and the like.

At the same time that Jacksonville was building its jails, the National Academy of Science warned that building jails isn't the answer to crime; that it would only be a matter of time before all the new jail space would be filled again.

Now we're at the end of the long run.

In 1989, the Academy's Panel on Understanding and Preventing Violent Crime estimated that increased use of incarceration may have prevented 10 to 15 percent of potential violent crimes between 1975 to 1989, but the number of violent crimes committed in America was the same in 1989 as it was in 1979 - 2. …

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