REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Unlocking lawlesness

The good news is, Maurice S. Hopkins, accused of firing a gun into a Third Street home was captured without incident Friday in Elyri
Sandusky Register Staff
May 13, 2010

The good news is, Maurice S. Hopkins, accused of firing a gun into a Third Street home was captured without incident Friday in Elyria -- 10 days after he supposedly cut a monitoring bracelet off his ankle and fled.

The bad news is, a man accused of shooting into a home was out of jail with nothing more than an electronic ankle bracelet to keep an eye on him.

What's wrong with this picture? Plenty.

We cannot understand why the local law enforcement community doesn't get it when it comes to who gets out of jail and who should stay behind bars based upon the potential danger an individual is to the community. It seems pretty simple: Nonviolent offenders should get first crack at freedom. Violent offenders -- including men suspected of shooting a weapon into a home where a family lives -- should stay behind bars.

Does that make sense? We better repeat it: Nonviolent offenders should be given first option for release; violent offenders should stay behind bars. That is the very foundation of the ankle-bracelet program.

It's problematic enough that our local leadership has been unable for more than a decade to come up with a solution to jail overcrowding. Police and residents for far too many years have been forced to endure a "catch-and-release" program for criminals thanks to the short-sightedness of long-ago elected county leaders, including commissioner Tom Ferrell.

The added insult presented by the fact the court system seems unable to make wise choices whether or not an inmate poses a threat has the potential for deadly consequences. What seems fundamental -- keeping violent offenders behind bars -- should not become a goal never set and a goal never met by the sheriff's jail staff. The same is true in a community where 300 jail beds are needed and only 100 are provided. The tone that sets for a community is one of lawlessness.

Our leaders in law enforcement -- including from the high command in police departments to judges, jailers and prosecutors -- should be held to a standard. This incident shows an absence of any standard, of any acceptable level of performance. It clearly demonstrates the need for an independent review followed by a plan for corrective action. We hope true leaders steps up and make that happen.