To The Daily Sun,
My buddies and I had the good fortune to meet with Rep. Herb Vadney and two of his associates at George's Diner on Plymouth Street over coffee. George's is where you feel the state’s political heart beat. We did not talk about the serenity of a waterfront retreat on the lake but the negative position that Mr. Vadney and his Republican cohorts have taken on the horrible conditions in the county jail.
Mr. Vadney wants the jail officials to find money to staff the new $8-million addition from the jail’s existing budget. The haunting conditions at the prison were conveyed by Mr Vadney and his partners in beaming and enthralling financial terms. These men are now complicit in the protracted emerging garish horrors at the jail. They are tinkering at the edges rather than addressing the unspeakable miseries and numbing array of cultural thuggery in the prison.
Vadney and his Republican team appear oblivious to the living conditions in the ancient jail and are acting as a thuggish casino boss. Few of the members have visited the beastly facility recently and are not aware of the inhumane living conditions. They certainly do not believe in the age of Aquarius. They believe in program budget cuts and taking money away from career and technical education. They have no rehabilitative vocational technical educational priorities for the prisoners.
They are not aware that they are in violation of the Eight Amendment to the United States Constitution which prohibits the federal government from imposing “excessive .... cruel and unusual punishment.” This amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the United States Bill of Rights.
Mr Vadney and his team are focused on the money issues, not injustice, unfairness inequality and the prisoners who are experiencing profound suffering from primitive conditions. Put a human face on the budget and not make savage cuts to spending on public services.
A navy buddy said the living conditions are not much worse than those on a United States Man of War. I told my buddy the biggest difference is sailors have access to a toilet and fresh air by going topside. He says, “We are financing their lavish lifestyles,” I say, unlike a sailor, the prisoners have suffered the forfeiture of their freedom.
The Cruel and Unusual Clause applies to the states. I think the treatment to the female prisoners is extravagant, barbaric, excessive and bizarre.
Let’s avoid litigation.
Members of Mr. Vadney’s team feel they should keep the prison closed for an additional 8-10 months to save $500,000 in operating costs. Keeping the prisoners in the attic and 1898 mini gym is certainly ridiculously exorbitant in pain and discomfort qualifying as “severe cruel and unusual punishment.” Our ancestors would not admit to tortures, or “cruel and barbarous punishment“ for those in detention. The gravity of any particular criminal offense does not warrant the excessive severe and arbitrary punishments that the inmates must undergo.
Mr. Vadney and his cohorts have a sacred duty to care for inmates regardless of the crime. It is true that the inmates are not shackled but many are incarnated with certain permanent civil disabilities. Some are addicted to the use of narcotics and we are punishing people based on the state of this illness rather than for any specific act. For many trying to live in the harshness of local jail is unusual punishment and disproportionate to the offense and violates the “gross disproportionality principle.” We are faced with a potential federal charge and may have a liability on our hands.
It would take $275,000 to hire four required additional prison guards to open the new jail addition. Mr. Vadney is balking on this for political reasons. Suggestion: Give the prison $150,000 and let the budget administrator use the miscellaneous fund and transfer funds from other business lines to fund the personnel business line.
Moreover, what is the mark of our humanity, our cosmic spirituality? Who owns their lives? We are contesting their living conditions. Certainly they have some human rights. Don’t let them suffer. Give the public good information. The prisoners lost their treasured freedom and independence and are now trapped. Some are frightened. This is a matter of principle and compassion otherwise there is no justice in the justice system.
Mr. Vadney forgets he was elected to support and serve.
If there is a ‘slush fund,’ as some claim, why not check the latest audit report and launch an internal evaluation and separate review to find intentional wrongdoing. Put the financial people under investigation. It‘s hard to fathom why a seemingly simple review of the budget line items will not resolve the issue of finding the funds to hire four guards. It may come as a surprise but there are no budget complexities. Take all steps to gain compliance with acceptable public accounting standards. Mr. Vadney and his "dream team" are underperforming in their financial responsibilities and attracting too much criticism. My buddies at George’s Diner seek a human touch. This prison “expense” budget is not tricky or algorithm created. Use good old fashioned common sense without use of a supercomputer. Crack the code and explore your heart and recognize like a school district, running a prison is labor intensive. Stay focused on your core job. Prioritize and care for the helpless. These prisoners are victims without assets, life savings and many have been denied basic justice while not having wealthy benefactors. Nor do they deal with Wall Street are members of investment funds or hold hedge funds. The Justice Department should be looking into this matter. Hire four additional guards.
Richard Gunnar Juve
- Written by Mike Mortensen
- Category: Letters
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