- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

Sept. 19

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on crime problem:

Tennessee has a criminal justice problem. We lock up more people than most states; but in 2012, we still had the nation’s highest rate of violent crime.

“It is not enough to spend money on a continuing basis just to build prisons so you can say you are tough on crime,” an official of the conservative Heritage Foundation told the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

An official of another conservative group, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, pointed out that 90 percent of Tennessee’s corrections budget goes to operating prisons - not to probation or drug courts or supervision or other programs that seek alternatives to prison bars.

A wide range of interest groups came together in Nashville to meet with the committee and agreed on many of the solutions. They pointed out that as many as 20 other states have reduced prison populations, recidivism and corrections budgets.

Drugs in particular have proved to be an expensive problem for states that would be better served by specialized drug courts with an emphasis on treatment, one speaker said.

The Tennessean in Nashville quoted him as saying, “We can’t lock ourselves up to get out of the prescription drug abuse problem.”

Tennessee has not enough treatment options and too many obstacles for inmates released from prison, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee said.

Other states have succeeded in reducing the problem. It’s time Tennessee took some serious action.




Sept. 24

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on binge drinking:

A five-year effort to reduce the number of preteenagers and teenagers in Tennessee who binge drink is paying off.

That is good news for parents, and high school and postsecondary school administrators who have to deal with the consequences, some tragic, of young people who binge drink.

The state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said that between 2009 and 2013, binge drinking rates for teens 14-17 dropped nearly 16 percent. Among young adults 18-25, the drop was 5 percent.

Binge drinking is consuming five or more drinks on one occasion, or drinking continuously over a number of days or weeks.

It is a high-risk activity that can lead to death or injury through falls or drunken driving. It also can lead to unsafe sexual activity, date rape and death from alcohol poisoning.

High schoolers are more likely to binge drink at parties. Young college students, free of adult supervision, tend to binge.

The state’s effort also has had other positive effects.

Alcohol-related arrests among young people dropped 25 percent. Juvenile drunken driving arrests dropped 24 percent. Alcohol-related traffic fatalities dipped 14 percent.

Those significant reductions should be a cause of relief for parents, most of whom worry about their children in dangerous activities when out with friends. Young people, also should take note because within those drops are young people who could have died or suffered serious injury because they binged.



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