Looking at things the wrong way

The Courant has this article today, seeking to make much of the under-utilized persistent felony statutes in Connecticut. All it does, instead, is underline the need for more rehabilitation programs.

Meet Richard D. Halapin Jr., a small-time career burglar and thief who earlier this year broke into his sister’s home and stole the family’s jewelry – including a wedding ring and her three children’s golden baptism crucifixes. The cherished items were sold to get money for a drug fix.

The perfect lead in, you’d think, to an article examining the rehabilitation programs in prison that help inmates like Halapin kick their habit and go on to lead productive lives upon release. Of course, the Courant, which is going the politician’s course and trying to look “tough on crime”, doesn’t walk through the open door. Instead they give us this: “[H]e may be the best living proof that an entire category of Connecticut laws – designed to increase punishment for “persistent offenders” – is under-used, at best, and at worst, useless.”

What a novel idea for a story! I’d imagine the pitch went something like this:

Journalist: “Boss, I found this woman in Naugatuck whose brother stole from her.”

Editor: “HOME INVASION! OMG! HEADLINES FOR ANOTHER MONTH!”

Journalist: “He’s a druggie and spent most of his life in jail.”

Editor: “OMFG! VIOLENT CRIMINAL! STATE LAW IS TEH SUCK!”

Okay, so not quite like that. But I’ve always wanted to use “teh suck” in a post.

Halapin’s sister and the state’s victim advocate say that he’s a symbol of failings in the state justice system.

Yeah, the failing being that the root of the problem is almost never addressed. Drug dependent inmates plead to non-drug dependent crimes, drug rehab programs in prisons are scarce and spaces are limited and it is left to the inmates to seek treatment upon release. Not to mention that they get jacksquat upon release.

It’s sad that the Courant missed this opportunity to examine the real problem leading to re-offending and instead chose to focus on the worn drum.

Previous posts on the topic of rehabilitation while incarcerated:

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