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Letters: Think twice about hard time for nonviolent offenders

Cook County Jail | Sun-Times file photo

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America’s criminal justice system is a disgrace, failing on multiple levels. One that stands out is incarceration. The United States houses 2.2 million souls, over half a million more than runner-up China, with four times our population. Containing just 4.3 percent of the planet’s population, we house 22 percent of its 10 million detainees. Cross the border to Canada and the imprisonment rate drops from 743 per hundred thousand to 118 per hundred grand. That’s not so grand. America is No. 1, but not in what you should brag about.

Let’s stop using the utterly futile and costly adage “lock em up” when someone commits a nonviolent crime. End incarceration for non-violent offenders, with no criminal history and not likely to become repeat offenders. Allow judges the discretion to suspend any prison sentence for such candidates. Use home confinement, except for going to or from work, restitution and the threat of imposing the suspended sentence for failure to comply.

Use the freed up prison cells to house the truly dangerous, the repetitive and the incorrigible to protect both themselves and society from further murder and mayhem. Let’s replace the stupid pills we feed our juries, jurists and legislators with wisdom, compassion and common sense.

Walt Zlotow, Glen Ellyn

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Make perpetrator pay for damage in Tinley Park

Upon reading the sad news that Tinley Park’s downtown fountain was yet again toppled over deliberately on Labor Day weekend, I thought about how this should be prevented in future and how it should be paid for.

Whatever happened to the concept and practice of “a citizen’s arrest,” and if one is made too late, after the destruction of whatever takes place, the concept of how the person responsible for said destruction should pay monetarily and by doing time in jail for said offense?

Are people so frightened of one another that they cannot or will not say or do something to stop another person’s intentional destruction of public works?

Further, if a person intentionally destroys any property not their own, that person should be totally responsible for the cost of replacing or repairing it. That burden should not be the responsibility of the townspeople at large. It should not be the responsibility of an insurance company, either, as the future premiums will go up as a result for all. Placing the blame and restitution involved on the perpetrator is fair and just and could ultimately make people more civic minded and less destructive in the community at large.

Marie E. Roman, Tinley Park