Point: James Hull
As the debate in Lee County continues to simmer just below the surface of massive public outcry and angry protest over whether it should put funds into the Justice Court Drug Court, I propose there is a much larger issue at stake: the convergence of education, incarceration and drug rehabilitation.
With the state’s prison population continuing to escalate, while simultaneously becoming younger and more addicted to drugs, Gov. Phil Bryant recently remarked it’s time to begin focusing more on rehabilitation than incarceration. Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps emphasizes that the majority of those youth offenders entering the state’s prison system have two things in common: a lack of education and a need for drug rehabilitation.
The connections are clear.
Unfortunately, many don’t see it that way.
But what if that drug offender were their high school son or daughter caught with a few tabs of Oxy or Ecstasy. Or if it were their adult child possessing a few rocks of crack or crystal meth?
The questions for me are this: Even though they can conceivably get caught with the same amount of prescription pills or illegal drugs, is it fair or just that one parent who has the means and the connections can send their child to rehab and then back in school, while another parent has to watch their child go to jail and begin getting schooled in the ways of crime?
Or should the second parent have some alternative – like drug court – to give their child a second chance?
Counterpoint: Ed Holliday
James, when the drug court was initiated in Lee County, the supervisors let it be known that its existence would be tied to the availability of grant money to fund it. When elected officials stand by their word such action should be a cause for celebration. In this era of ever-rising federal taxes and mandates I applaud our county supervisors for sticking to their word to the taxpayers.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that one statistic gets very little mention but is more important than the two common links that Commissioner Epps sighted.
We have just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” and this one statistic is devastatingly brutal to society but now we know it is also non-discriminating. African-American columnist Armstrong Williams recently noted when we look at statistics nationally, we find that African-Americans make up 12 percent of the population and yet are 44 percent of prisoners incarcerated. At first glance we wonder how can this be? Is racism involved? Dr. Pat Fagan, a brilliant researcher at the Family Research Council, has found a consistent common denominator within our prisons. Armstrong noted in Fagan’s work, “Statistics show that young black men with married parents go to jail at the same rate as white men with married parents.” The opposite is also true because “young black men without married parents go to jail at the same rate as white men without married parents.” A young person’s risk to drop out of school, go to prison, or be added to poverty statistics increases substantially when there is not both a mother and a father in their home. The most important factor in decreasing our prison population is not skin color, socio-economic conditions, or drug courts, but building more homes for children where both a mother and a father reside.
DR. ED HOLLIDAY is a Tupelo dentist who has written two successful books. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. REV. JAMES HULL is an award-wining journalist and a political consultant. You may contact him at email@example.com.