Editorial

Our circumstances don’t define us, and where we are at today doesn’t have to be the place we end up later in life.

This past week a young woman attempted to take her own life at the Floyd County Jail.

Luckily, some quick actions by jail deputies saved the woman, and the staff should be commended.

She’s got a hard road ahead. She, and many others, are facing months or years of incarceration ahead, followed by years of likely having to scrape to get by — hopefully followed by progress. This isn’t a call to feel sorry for those in jails or prisons locally or around the country. This is a call for those who are in hard times to realize times aren’t always going to be difficult.

There’s no such thing as a level playing field. Some people have family support, others don’t. Some people have financial support, others do not.

There are many cases where family and friends are the very reason people remain in that cycle of incarceration and reentry into the system.

At any one time nearly 6.9 million people are on probation or parole or are in jail or prison in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Approximately 9 million people are in local jails at any given time and more than 600,000 people are released each year from state and federal prisons.

Two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years of their release and half of those released are put back in prison. This cycle causes family distress, community instability and is a major force in a continuing cycle of poverty.

Bad choices beget worse circumstances — over and over and over. The choices we make as parents and partners affect others and trickle down to our children.

According to the same report, approximately 1 in 28 children has a parent currently incarcerated.

A report cited in the summer 2019 edition of American Educator states parental incarceration can often impede the opportunities of those children and their life outcomes, thus extending cycles of poverty.

Oftentimes it falls on one parent to attempt to take up the slack. In many cases that parent doesn’t have the life skills to fill the void left by a missing parent and the rest is left to school systems as well as family and children services.

This isn’t a problem the system or the government can fix. It’s up to each of us to see if we can be in a better place in the future and, hopefully, there will be assistance available from those of us who have found a better place — a helping hand available for those who are honestly seeking it.

‘Not ideal’

Here’s the problem with any criticism of any political figure or party — many of us have adopted the “all in” approach to politics.

The Republican Party and Democratic Party — or Libertarians, Green Party, etc., for that matter — aren’t sports teams. You can belong to any of those political parties in general and still disagree with specific policies.

One of the current no-middle-ground issues is the continuing result of a “zero tolerance” policy enacted by the current administration and then rolled back after public outcry. That policy — to prosecute anyone crossing the border illegally and to separate families — was enacted specifically to punish parents who attempt to enter our borders illegally with children.

The problem, and the reason for the public outcry, is the result of that policy — masses of children still in ramshackle detention centers receiving substandard care from a system that was never intended to handle it.

Those children are innocent of any crime, they’re innocent of any wrongdoing. In some cases they’re held in similar conditions to how we’d house a prisoner — in many cases they’re fed and have access to medical care and in some cases not — but in all cases they’re not getting the love and attention they need from their family.

From a recent report by The Associated Press:

“The children were housed in an industrial garage filled with bunk beds, or in cells with bunk beds and cots that included a bathroom area separated by a cinder block partition. The doors were left unlocked and the kids were free to move around.”

A Border Patrol agent described adapting a facility in Clint, Texas, as “not ideal, but what we had to do.” The facility, originally meant to house 100 prisoners, at times has had 700 children in its walls.

“The building still doesn’t have a proper kitchen, and the only warm meals were ones that could be cooked in a microwave. Journalists touring the building saw stacks of instant oatmeal and instant noodles. Officials said the children also were being served burritos, and had unlimited access to snacks.”

In other cases, they live in absolute squalor.

“Lawyers said children are being denied soap and showers, and flu is spreading through the facilities. Some haven’t brushed their teeth for days or weeks and are still wearing the same dirty clothes they used to cross the border weeks before.”

Either way, for us to accept that political bickering is causing the continuing suffering of these children is certainly “not ideal,” regardless of your political or party loyalties.