Sunday, June 29, 2003

Who's to Blame?

Female Corrections Officer Killed

Darla Kay Lathrem, a 38-year-old rookie corrections officer, was
beaten to death
with a sledgehammer June 11 by escaping inmates while supervising five male inmates as they worked on dormitory renovations at Charlotte Correctional Institution in Florida.

In an example of profound insight, Governor Jeb Bush stated that "If anyone thinks being a correctional officer is easy work, sadly that's not the case." Nope. Dangerous places. Shit happens. Too bad.

The Governor asked the people not to blame the legislature (or its budget cuts), and presumably not to blame the Governor either. But that wasn't good enough for the Gainesville Sun
And don't go pointing fingers at the $45 million in Department of Corrections budget cuts contained in the new, not-yet-signed state budget. After all, those cuts haven't even kicked in yet.

But what about the cuts already made?

Over the past three years, the Bush administration, in the name of efficiency and to help finance politically popular tax cuts, has reportedly eliminated 1,292 correctional positions. State prisons no longer even keep guards posted in the towers because they are deemed superfluous.

Over that same period, while Bush and the Legislature were "getting tough on crime" by ratcheting up penalties, the state's inmate population increased by 2,320 inmates.
Correctional facilites can probably never be termed totally "safe," but there are always measures that can be taken to make conditions safer: better staffing, "man down" alarms, improved emergency procedures. Much of that takes funding. And if the funding isn't there, there is someone to blame.
We do blame Bush and we do blame the Legislature for making the corrections business more dangerous than ever. These days, the rallying cry in Tallahassee ought to be: Billions for tax cuts, but pennies for public safety.