Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Politicking At It's Worst

March 7
13 year old Esme Kenney left her house to go for a quick jog. She never came home.

Occasionally a tragedy occurs that leaves me reeling a bit even though I am not directly effected by it. When that happens I usually post about it. I had not planned on posting about this one and I will tell show you why:



I think it's the shape of their eyes but that picture of Esme haunts me. I have not been following the story very closely. I've avoided news coverage. I don't want to feel what I suspect I will feel if I really let myself experience this story. So I had not planned to post about Esme.

Then I happened to catch a little bit of a news conference held by Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters. I cannot fathom what would possess a person to take something like this and turn it into a political issue. If you told me that someone was doing just that...well, Deters would make my top five potentials. Here's what he had to say:

"I hope the citizens wake up, because we're heading to catastrophe if they don't deal with violent criminals," he stated.

Calling both cases upsetting and tragic, Deters said citizens need to pay attention when budget woes close prisons and jails.

"The level of violence we're seeing in Cincinnati and Hamilton County comes as no surprise to many of us, and if citizens think these are isolated incidents, when you close prisons and when you shut down jails, you're wrong," Deters stated. (source)

His us-versus-them language is offensive. His assertion that Hamilton County's citizens don't understand the problem of jail overcrowding is offensive. Suggesting that Esme Kenney is dead because we refuse to fund more jails is false and wrong and the worst kind of fear mongering.

I was tempted to spin this post into a rant about the drug war and in fact spent much of my morning reading up on prison population statistics. (Did you know that in 2007 there were
775,137 arrests for possession of marijuana?) But the fact is, the problem with what Deters said has nothing to do with the drug war. It's not even about jail overcrowding. The problem is that he tried to use this tragedy to scare voters into funding a new jail. In doing so he turns Esme into some kind of mascot and he turns the citizens of Ohio into villains.


  1. Especially since we all know Si and Joe threw every possible offender into jail right before the election for said jail, making sure everyone "knew" the jails were overcrowded. Now the jails are fine, but they still want that new jail, and they'll use Esme or whoever else to try and get it.

    It's not like the guy who confessed g out out of jail because there was no room for him. He got out because they let him out.

  2. Interesting article in City Beat. Here's part of it:

    Most of the people held in Hamilton County’s jails are there waiting for trial. On a typical day earlier this month, 756 out of 1,240 county inmates were people waiting for trial. More shockingly, 278 of those had been waiting for more than three months and 81 had been cooling their heels for more than six months.
    Some had been waiting for two years. That’s right, two years.


  3. Prison overcrowding; easy solution: legalize marijuana :)

    It may not be a popular stance (or maybe popular with certain people), but it fits the bill.

  4. Hey didn't you and my dad get arrested in Hamilton County? Maybe if people like you guys would stay out of jails they wouldn't be so overcrowded. ;o)

  5. Touche, Jeremy. Thanks for a good laugh.