Archive for March 31st, 2010

by jhwygirl

…in this post, I’d have to head to the first paragraph in this comment – and I’d take it as a cynical assessment of the problem: We can’t afford to jail them all, and the suspended sentences are a joke.

And so therein I agree with Carol Missoulapolis.

And maybe I’m stretching it, but I’m not doing it to intentionally misinterpret.

Whether she agrees with this, I don’t know – but the problem doesn’t start with the arrest, it starts with the culture that thinks it’s OK to get behind the wheel after having a few. I’ve found it to be ingrained in rural culture, and goes back to ranchers driving for hours across dirt roads on hot summer days and never seeing a thing. It’s the mentality that comes with that, which is the same mentality that fought the need to buckle in their kids or have a cold one in one hand and the steering wheel in the other.

The problem comes in when these people are killing other people. There’s no excuse for a government that allows that. The tragedies are frequent. It’s March 31st. How many DUI deaths to date?

Point is, no amount of penalty is going to get at the growing heart of the matter – there are more and more people all the time and therefore there are more and more people on the road that continue to think that drinking and driving is OK.

The best thing jail does is keeps someone off the road for a while – the worse it does is it jails them for what was more likely a non-violent arrest (non-accident also), exposes them to violent offenders, loss of job, disruption and then subsequent downfall. Not productive.

Focus has to be made on changing behavior. Should be starting that stuff in high school. Back in my day they’d drag that twisted truck out there to the front lawn of the high school on the busiest front street and leave it there for 4 or 5 weeks for everyone to see every day on their way to school. And for all the other visiting kids to see on a couple of Friday nights with football or basketball or wrestling. I didn’t get through my high school years without seeing (including “away” events) probably a dozen examples.

Makes it hard to romanticize a life lost when it happened in a big hunk of twisted metal. Flowers and teddy bears and tv cameras might seem all sad, but they don’t stick around as long as those vehicles did out there on the lawn.

A couple weeks back I wrote about AG Steve Bullock’s program to reduce multiple DUI’s that he is kicking off in Lewis & Clark County. That’s one way to get tough on actual offenders….clearly, jail isn’t working and it’s expensive It’s expensive for the state…it’s expensive for the person jailed. If having 1 or 2 full-time people around to take the twice-daily bac and administer the program is more effective and cheaper than therapy and jail, let’s get after it.

Next month, in fact, the Law and Justice Interim Committee is meeting to discuss Bullock’s initiative along with the model program in South Dakota. There’s attachments at that link that the legislators will be discussing.

Has the legislature…has the state… ever seriously tried to address the issue? Well….it’s 2010, and when I read stories like this I can’t help but shake my head to realize just how very little we’ve come from the days of the Anaconda Copper Kings and their influence in Helena.

In this case (if you clicked that last link), we’ve got state government writing legislation for the benefit of the body corporate….

But such is the state of Montana. For now. But unlike the cynics that inspired this post, this cynic thinks that the legislature is not going to get away with skulking out some pro-alcohol vote on the floor. Not in 2011.

The entire state will be watching.

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