Law And Disorder In America

As a journalist I spend a great deal of time talking to people, they may be Law Enforcement professionals, victims, Lawyers, or even just ‘the man in the street’. Over the past several months I have heard many stories about problems within our Judicial System and so have decided to run a series of articles examining the problem.

Happenstance is a wonderful thing, and often it leads you in directions that you would not expect. In fact this series came about by pure chance. I reviewed a book written by a gentleman who had received a heart transplant, Alan Kalmanoff. I enjoyed Second Ticket To The Dance a great deal, it cut to the chase. I interviewed Alan and have continued to talk with him. Somehow the conversation strayed into the subject of the Criminal Justice system. On what seems to be a daily basis I hear stories about jail overcrowding and the need for more and larger facilities. Of course these new and larger facilities are financed through our tax dollars.

In Alan Kalmanoff I found not just a kindred spirit that shared my concerns, but an expert on the problem. It transpires that in between taking his 50 (yes 50) pills per day to keep his new heart beating he finds time to be the Executive Director of the ILPP. This Institute is a think tank and consulting group on the criminal justice system. In their thirty years of existence they have worked with over 300 counties to help cost control and lower prison populations.

I decided to play ‘devils advocate’ with him recently. “so you must be soft on crime”, boy did I get an earful for that comment!

In no uncertain terms did he let me know that he was not an advocate of being soft, rather he views the issue as one of bottle necks in the system. The jail overcrowding is not from people serving life sentiences for being a serial killer, it is caused by the system being too slow to process people from arrest date to court appearance.

The vast majority of people arrested do not need to be in jail until they are sentenced. However in many places they must wait until a court appearance before being eligible to post a bond.

This puts a huge burden on the law enforcement agencies. Alan Kalmanoff runs the Institute for Law and Policy Planning, a think tank that specializes in taking a fresh look at an old problem for many places that are facing the problem of too many people behind bars, and not enough money and other resources to deal with them.

Of course Alan Kalmanoff makes few friends in this quest. Bringing Alan into the picture is rather akin to an external audit, but sometimes it is important to have those external eyes. His results are outstanding.

Alan has agreed to collaborate on a series of articles, I suspect that this will be a very eye opening adventure.

Simon Barrett

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