As a guy who looks over every court docket that comes from Warren County Courthouse, it's very easy to notice that criminals only have to serve a fraction of their sentence in jail.
Someone might be given an eight-year sentence for running from the law, fighting with officers when they're finally pulled over, and then getting caught with meth in their pocket as they are getting patted down. But the person will only have to serve 180 days in jail and can serve the rest on probation.
It's not a terrible system because the person gets a healthy taste of jail, then they can be monitored through probation the rest of the time, which amounts to more than seven years. If something is done to violate that probation, the person can be given more jail time.
It should be stressed this system is very common. Anyone who serves state prison time, for example, only has to serve 30% of the sentence as a Range 1 offender. So someone who gets a 10-year state prison sentence only has to serve about three years before they get out.
The topic comes to mind after the Southern Standard and WCPI held a political forum Monday night and the two candidates for Warren County Sheriff discussed sentences, which are not determined by the sheriff but rather by the judges.
I've found two things tend to be true when it comes to jail time.
No. 1 -- If it's your son, daughter or uncle who gets arrested, they are really a good person at heart who has just made a mistake and should get an extremely lenient sentence.
No. 2 -- If it's someone else's son, daughter or uncle who gets arrested, they deserve to be tossed in jail and throw away the key because they have always been a rotten person who has never learned from past mistakes.
In truth, most people who have to serve jail time are simply drug addicts who can't seem to shake the cycle of addiction.
There are certainly some bad people in this world, some very bad people who will probably always break the law and never live right, but I'd estimate that's a small percentage of the overall jail population, based on what I've been told over the years.
When considering jail sentences it's also crucial to remember that many local residents don't want to use their tax dollars to pay for someone to sit in jail. It was four years ago when the Warren County Commission was poised to spend $6.5 million to expand our jail, a plan which I heard a number of people complain about openly.
For my 2 cents, I think criminals generally deserve more jail time than they receive. I've been surprised at how many people get 30 days for what I consider significant offenses, but that seems to be the general tone all over America.
If we're going to lock 'em up, somebody has to pay for it and I don't know too many people waiting in line for a tax increase. I know I'm not.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.