Hitting druggies where they live
It may be time to re-think the engineering of Marion County Jail. Instead of a sally port, perhaps it needs a revolving door.
In the past 10 weeks, the county has jailed alleged law breakers 73 times. For nearly 60% of those jailings, including all but one of eight this week, the trip to incarceration was a return visit.
“Frequent flyers” dominate jail rosters to the point that Marion County is in danger of developing a permanent criminal underclass.
Nearly all the offenses involve alcohol or, especially, drugs, along with assorted thefts, traffic offenses, and violence often associated with them.
Equally troubling, a great number of alleged repeat offenders appear to have relocated to the county relatively recently, often to join relatives, boyfriends, or girlfriends who already have had their own “frequent flyer” tickets punched.
Add to this the children these “frequent flyers” might be raising, and it’s easy to see a permanent, generational class of criminals plaguing the county for years to come.
Forget needing a wall on the Mexican border. We may need a wall surrounding Marion County’s often all-too-inexpensive housing. Unlike the Mexican border wall, the people it might keep out won’t belong to any minority group other than the minority who seem to be constantly in trouble with the law.
Despite millions in taxpayer money, both the criminal justice system and the mental health system, which needs to take a much more aggressive role, have failed to make headway against this scourge.
Part of the problem is attitude. We’re not naïve enough to call for a return to prohibition, but we need to start adopting a widespread public attitude that getting high is only for lowlifes.
Constantly serving mind-altering substances, legal or otherwise, and regarding as funny stories about chemically impaired behavior should be no more acceptable than having parties at which spouses are slapped around or telling jokes about sexual assaults.
Some people can responsibly deal with alcohol. Some can even do so with drugs, though by definition, that’s actually not so since most if not all of them are breaking the law.
For others, responsibility is a foreign concept they ignore because of self-centered, sociopathic tendencies or a concept too difficult to implement because of unusual ways in which their brains are wired.
Accepting the notion that only lowlifes get high might help, but it won’t address “frequent flyers” who proudly belong to the lowlife community.
Keeping them at bay is a responsibility others must take up. That especially includes landlords renting cheap, substandard housing to cheap, substandard people.
If you track the addresses from which the 73 jailings in the county occurred in the past 10 weeks, you’ll see definite patterns emerging — the same or similar addresses, the same or similar landlords.
Perhaps what’s needed is a licensing of those who choose to make their living renting out properties that, for the most part, could not be sold to upstanding families seeking honest housing.
Renting one or two places might be something an amateur could do without registering, but whenever someone sets himself or herself up in the business of becoming the equivalent of a Marion County slumlord, licensing and training could be required.
Not only would licensing ensure proper education to deal legally with reputable tenants. It also would include training on how to identify — and reject — lowlifes seeking only to find cheap quarters for their nickel-and-dime drug-abusing, drug-making, and drug-selling lifestyles.
There’s a subtle difference between nobly providing affordable housing to a community that needs it and ignobly enabling a drug culture to thrive. Landlords need to learn that difference.
Communities see the value in requiring professional plumbers to be licensed. Why not professional landlords, too? Both often have to deal with the same type of human waste.
— ERIC MEYER