- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Isn't it strange how much news we received about Texas during the election? It hasn't ended yet. The latest bad news (the media would have us believe) are the conditions found in the Texas prison system. They presently incarcerate and execute more prisoners than any other state. Personally, I don't think this is bad news, particularly if you are living there. I live in a state where there are probably more people on the street that belong in prison than any other state.

I suppose the media is looking at comments of the seven escapees who claim they only broke out to make a statement about the intolerable conditions they were living under. To make sure we understand how they feel, they shot a policeman along the way. Instead of press coverage about the victim and his family, we get an in-depth analysis of prison life in Texas. Prisons in Texas seem to be administering punishment to inmates. This does not sit well with the bleeding hearts.

The felons' rights people tell us that only about a quarter of inmates eligible for parole are released. I can't understand why we should have parole at all. Early release for good behavior is nonsense. You are not sent to prison because of good behavior. A sentence for a crime should be served until completion. Parole is like buying a car and making payments and if you make enough in a row, they waive the remaining few because you behaved well. Parole should be abolished.

All states have a dismal record when it comes to rehabilitation. If we have hundreds of thousands of prisoners throughout the land, I can't image that we have enough money to rehabilitate even a fraction of those who will be released. Imagine living with a group of rapists, murderers, thieves and sex offenders on a 24 hour-a-day basis and being rehabilitated because you attended some mandatory class or therapy group. It's not going to happen.

Some states have prisons that are more like resorts, and inmates are living better inside than out. Punishment should fit the crime. You have to believe that the severity of punishment should have some bearing on how much crime occurs. And, judging by how overcrowded our prisons are, serving time doesn't seem to be a deterrent. As a result we are running an “in again — out again” justice system. It would be nice to know if Texas has a lower rate of repeat offenders.

When seven men break out of a prison, shoot a policemen 11 times and then run over him to boot, it's hard to have any sympathy for such behavior. Even so, Deborah Grohs, a court-appointed attorney for the ring leader of the group, is concerned that he is going back to a state that has an insatiable appetite for the death penalty. You have to wonder how Deborah would feel if she was married to the policeman. We should show the convicted felon all the compassion he deserves, which is what Texas is doing.


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