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Safe and Smart Priorities

Marc Beauchamp suggests in his July 12, 2014 Record Searchlight Editorial, that we need to “make crime the No. 1 issue in the November election,” after quoting excerpts from several vitriolic emails he has received. Homeless persons, transients, drug users, alcoholics, scrawny punks, mentally ill persons and outright criminals are all lumped indiscriminately together as if homelessness or mental illness per se is a crime and law enforcement is the single answer.

Getting tough on crime and harassing individuals in downtown Redding CA may relocate an obvious blight to another part of town and thus lessen a visible source of fear, but will it permanently address the causes? One email writer astutely asks ” How did this happen???”

Low wage jobs, part-time hiring policies, unemployment, deep-seated poverty and the residual of the 2008 recession, AB 109 impact, poor schools, bad parenting, addictions, inadequate mental illness intervention funding, prejudice, intolerance, societal polarization, government gridlock, crowded jails, inadequate police protection and many other factors all contribute to what we now see on the streets. Our priorities are not on prevention, but on solving social problems that could have been averted. It may take a generation to correct some of this.

A more positive and long-term approach might be to focus on improving the “well-being” of ALL people in Redding, CA. I believe we are all interrelated – they are part of us. We may not like what we see in the streets, but it is time we assume responsibility for the results of our public policies and private priorities.

A holistic, positive view looks at: creating meaningful employment opportunities or other productive, purposeful and fulfilling way to spend our days; our social well-being; our financial well-being; our physical well-being; and our community engagement and commitments.

Californians for Safety and Justice advocates that “We need to make sure we have the right priorities to achieve safety. We can’t waste a single taxpayer dollar on old methods that don’t stop the cycle of crime.” They urge us to have “Safe and Smart Priorities” and hope we sign their pledge to support “smart justice strategies”, because safe communities start:

  1. With smart investments. We need to expand investments in early childhood education and schools, health, and violence prevention – programs proven to improve our kids’ life chances and prevent crime.
  2. When we break the cycle of crime. Our justice system should focus on strategies that work to stop repeat cycles of crime and victimization.
  3. When victims get support. Victims deserve to get all of their needs met, including financial, mental and physical health, and wellness so they can get out of harm’s way and get back on their feet…when the punishment fits the crime. Our sentences should emphasize accountability and common sense.
  4. By solving health problems with health solutions. By expanding public health programs, people seeking help with addiction or mental health issues can stop cycling in and out of jails and prisons.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, a Los Angeles based pediatrician says that “Safety is a public health issue. I think correctional facilities are not going to get a person on the way to recovery from a substance use, addiction or mental health issue.”

I abhor any ugly, hateful, vigilante mentality that may be emerging in our community as much as I do the human plight and visible blight that is causing causing such ire.

I would rather live in “a world in which compassion is the driving force, a world in which all people and all living things, everywhere on Earth, will be treated with respect and compassion,” and that Redding becomes a more Compassionate City