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Message from Sheriff

May 2011 will mark my 20th year as a law enforcement officer, and I have been the Pratt County Sheriff for more than half of those years. And I have to tell you that the longer I am involved in the criminal justice system, the more I see that it is , for the most part, broken and ineffective.

Many of the trends I see make me angry. But, this one claims the top spot:

Over the years, I have seen the rights of criminals increase while we seem to increasingly ignore our senior citizens. Inmates in the prisons of this great nation seem to get more and more while our seniors get less and less. It seems that prison inmates have gone from three square meals and a cot to now expecting and getting free cable TV, free internet, free medical care, free legal counsel, free clothing, free mental health counseling, on and on.

Do you notice the one common dominator in these services? FREE.

When I address this situation with legislators, I often ask, “How did America get to the point that our inmates have better care than our senior citizens?” I am often told, “Inmates don’t want to be in prison; they are forced to be there.”

Excuse me, Senator, but I have never met one senior citizen who wanted to leave their home and exchange their freedom for a severely constrained existence! Yes, I understand that health issues force our society into the nursing home response. But, that is my point. Seniors, like inmates, are not free to go where they choose. Just like an inmate, if a senior citizen tries to leave, an alarm sounds and they are put back in their rooms.

So explain to me the logic of providing hotel-quality amenities for one group – prisoners – and ignoring the other “incarcerated” citizens, our seniors.

As I watched my father descend into Alzheimer’s and cross the point where his family could not care for him, I saw his illness force him into institutional care. That was an eye-opener for me and started my campaign to educate our public and legislators. Each night I left dad’s room, I realized that the inmates in my jail were better cared for than my father. And, they received that level of care FREE! Dad served his country in World War II, married his sweetheart, raised three sons, worked hard at his career, paid his taxes, retired, and never asked the government for a dime. That story was repeated by the majority of “the greatest generation.”

So, why do we provide such extensive creature comforts FREE for those who violated the laws of our country, while insisting that we just CANNOT help those who served their county and made great contributions to society?

What if we reversed this situation? What if we stopped the FREE internet, cable, legal services, clothing, phone, prescriptions, medical, stationary, exercise rooms, courtyards, etc.? In this age of deficits and debt, how much could we save if we stopped the FREE hotel-quality service to prisoners?

How much better would it be to give some level of free service to seniors?

Of course, I would never advocate abuse or inhumane treatment of prisoners. We are a civilized and compassionate people. But I have been told numerous times by legislators that directors of prisons could not control prisoners if they took the freebies away.

“So, Senator, help me understand, just how did the prisoners get control of our prisons?”

If you are outraged about this as I am, then perhaps you can start your own campaign. I believe together we can turn this around.