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Letter: Building more prisons won’t address the core problems

Regarding the March 16 editorial “Why jails need cells”:
The editorial explains that we should increase the capacity to lock up people due to the actions of the most violent in our society, i.e. murder defendant Laurence A. Lovette Jr. Using this type of logic, I would also have to infer that we need to distrust, investigate and suspect all of our government leaders. Why? The pages before and after this editorial are rife with government scandals.
I don’t believe this kind of logic will help our government leaders to be more honest, nor do I think that making more jail/prison space will deter criminals or make our citizens feel safer in an increasingly divided and violent society.
For decades, North Carolina has been building bigger jails and more prisons, trying to stem the tide while throwing token efforts at solutions to what causes crime and gang activity. We empower our leaders to think for us, and to this date, none of them seem to have humbled their egos to get real with the human beings who commit crimes and are then dehumanized and warehoused in boxes.
We need solutions to our collective illness. While I admit that we cannot ignore offenders, we must tackle crime, violence and gangs as a “whole” society. A “war on crime” turns into “us against them” attitudes. A new attitude needs to be taken where our legislators and administrators work together with those who have previously offended and even those who are currently incarcerated to come up with real and viable solutions to cure our problems. Crime and recidivism are but symptoms.
Maybe it sounds crazy to look to criminals for solutions to crime. Remember, though, that alcoholics came up with Alcoholics Anonymous. Imagine with me what real unity could do for this great state.
ó W. Kenneth Handy
Piedmont Correctional Institution

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