Jail has to be a real option

Here's an interesting story from L.A. on the homeless/addiction/crime crisis. They have one there, much like the one we have here in Portland, only with better weather in the winter.

Down there, some of the tent people who have committed crimes are offered diversion into mental health and addiction services, but hardly any of them take that option, because they won't do any jail time even if they don't. And so they give the social workers the finger and head back to their tents and shacks and needles. The program is a failure.

It sort of reminds me of Oregon's ├╝ber-stupid Measure 110, where we've decriminalized hard drugs, and give junkies a 1-800 number to call for help rather than force them into a jail cell. They take the card with the 1-800 number on it and throw it away. Back to their tent they go to await their next hit. They'd probably do that even if we had adequate treatment options, which of course we don't.

No matter what you do, you're not going to get many hard-core addicts straightened out – particularly if you don't crack down on drug dealers, but even if you do. Using meaningful jail avoidance as an incentive might help a few. And so it's a choice between saving a few and saving no one – terribly sad, but maybe it's time we got real about it.

The other thing jail does is clean up a lot of the streets, highways, and parks by warehousing the people who are otherwise determined to commit crimes, shoot up, nod out, and generally stink it up in public spaces. As far as I can tell, the majority of the residents of our city, and others, would like very much to see them get inside somewhere, anywhere, and stay there.

Along with many more shelter beds, managed camps, and treatment beds – and some apartments for families with small children and people with disabilities – there are going to have to be more jail cells, open and ready to be occupied by the uncooperative. Yes, it's ugly, but it's a fact that becomes more obvious by the day.


  1. Bleeding hearts will never solve this crisis, even if the bleeding heart is from a knife wound.


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