Caged: How Kentucky dangerously overcrowds its county jails with state prisoners
Pot crimes add to jail woes
Reading Herald-Leader reporter John Cheves’ excellent investigative series, “Caged”, I couldn’t help but think of how Kentucky’s continued criminalization of marijuana (or cannabis) has unnecessarily exacerbated our inmate crisis. Earlier this year the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that more than 11,000 Kentuckians were convicted on marijuana charges in 2018. The Cato Institute, meanwhile, has reported that Kentucky spent $56.8 million in 2016 enforcing marijuana laws; roughly 20 percent of the state’s total drug enforcement expenditures. The Cato report also estimates that Kentucky could bring in $55.4 million in revenue annually by legalizing cannabis. Colorado has brought in over $1 billion in tax revenue since that state fully legalized marijuana five years ago. So far 11 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis, with many more having either decriminalized possession or categorized it as a misdemeanor with no jail time. Thirty-three states have legalized it for medical use.
It’s past time for Kentucky to move forward with a rational drug policy so that we can stop wasting our limited tax revenue throwing people in jail for pot, and instead put our resources toward more important issues affecting the commonwealth.
Jim Scheff, Berea
The editorial cartoon implying county jail conditions are worse than immigrant detention camps is an insult to all of the counties that have spent 40 years eradicating those kinds of conditions. I suggest the cartoonist make a visit to his own Fayette County jail to see what conditions are really like.
Charles Hanson, Indianapolis
Kudos to H-L
Thank you to the Herald-Leader for its coverage of jail overcrowding. God help those currently in those overcrowded facilities. It is work like this that fulfills the Herald-Leader’s sacred trust to the rest of us.
David Volk, Lexington
Schools only one factor
In the recent Herald-Leader opinion piece about local schools, University of Kentucky College of Education Dean Julian Vasquez Heilig equates the success of schools in the Beaumont neighborhood with Finland and Singapore. The benefits from Beaumont’s neighborhood are broad-based and carry on into adulthood. Data from the Opportunity Atlas (produced in collaboration between researchers at the Census Bureau, Harvard University, and Brown University) show increased opportunity across the entire income distribution. For children of low-income parents in the Beaumont area, their household income in adulthood (averaging $52,000 per year) is in the 97th percentile compared to other households who faced similar childhood circumstances. Indeed, the neighborhood’s upward mobility is among the highest in all of Kentucky.
I would emphasize that quality schools are only one component of the neighborhood that lead to this broad-based success. The per-pupil expenditure in the Beaumont area (approximately $7,500 per pupil at Rosa Parks Elementary) is in the bottom quintile for elementary schools in Fayette County. Other neighborhood characteristics (such as social capital and parental involvement) are likely critical in the long-run success as well. Recent work on neighborhood mobility shows long-lived effects from neighborhood improvement, but does not isolate the various mechanisms.
Aaron Yelowitz, Lexington, UK professor of economics
EKU plan a money grab
Eastern Kentucky University’s requirement that all students enrolled in five credit hours or more on campus, many of them already cash-strapped and struggling, purchase a $300 meal plan is tantamount to extortion.The reasons an EKU leader gave for forcing students to purchase the meal plan was so bogus it’s hard to believe that it actually came out of his mouth: It will lead to greater student engagement and “food unites us all.”
Yolanda Averette, Lexington
Values, not birthplace
This past week marked 28 years since I arrived in the United States. As an immigrant, I am acutely aware of how politics mirrors culture and has the power to shape it. Every election season holds a particular fascination as candidates vie to capture the zeitgeist and tailor campaign messaging to their political base.
Kentucky’s gubernatorial election has a Democrat candidate who routinely points out that Gov. Matt Bevin is not from Kentucky. Whether it’s reminding people he was “raised better” because he was “raised right here in Kentucky” or whether his surrogates show up with a moving truck to send the governor “back”, Andy Beshear is pushing a message that appeals to narrow-mindedness and bigotry. When he tells people they ought to vote for him based on their place of birth instead of their values, Beshear is effectively telling those of us who weren’t born in Kentucky that we have no meaningful place in the political process. Nothing could be more un-American and anachronistic than telling fellow Americans where they do and don’t belong based on happenstance of birth.
I suspect if Bevin were born in Somalia, Beshear would not use that appeal. He ought to maintain the same standard for an American, especially one who has lived in Kentucky longer than our youngest voters.
Peter D’Souza, Nicholasville
Anger yes, bigotry no
As a white male, great-grandchild of immigrants who fled persecution in Europe, as a minority myself who has experienced the pain of prejudice, I call on all like-minded Americans to speak up to let Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, Africans, Asians or Native Americans among us who feel unwanted and unwelcome, that we do stand together.
We can disagree. We can be angry. But there is no place in America for racism or hatred or xenophobia or bigotry. It is our duty to be visible and vocal in condemning hateful and destructive language and behavior.
Dan Rosenberg, Versailles
Look it up
I had to respond to a recent letter writer who praised President Donald Trump for making good on his promises. Trump keeps his promises? What about all the promises he has failed to keep (space does not allow a list). He has literally gotten away with anything imaginable because he has money. The writer said Trump displayed integrity. I suggest the writer look that word up.
Donnie Hagy Frankfort, KY
Vote. Just vote.
As a Vietnam veteran, I found it despicable that the president of the United States said in a speech that he was considering given himself the Medal of Honor when in fact he avoided the draft by claiming “bone spurs” and did not serve in the military.
It seems to me, like a five-year-old, Donald Trump says whatever is in his head at the time and reacts accordingly, no matter if it is a lie or something he exaggerates.
My hope is that everyone votes no matter their party preference, even though the majority does not rule in presidential elections.
Danny Kazee, Lexington