City: ‘And don’t come out until I say so’

Note: This column appears in the 5/19 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/20 issue of the Peoria Times

I’ve got bad news for local criminals. Thought jail was rough? Try living at home.

Peoria City Council, following the lead of other like-minded cities such as Glendale and Surprise, granted approval to local law enforcement last week to draft an ordinance for a one-year trial run of home detention as an alternative to the clink.

But don’t fret, decent society. This doesn’t apply to murderers and arsonists. They still get to go to jail and become an active member of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s strenuous rehabilitation program, which includes lifting weights, sweating in tents, and the massive task of rehabilitating Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s image. But “minor” criminals such as shoplifters may have the option to stay home, which would be a real wake-up call to most shoplifters, who are notorious for always being at work.

The purpose of this plan, as always, is to save money. Who do you think pays when someone steals from Kohl’s? Technically no one, at first. Then Kohl’s, I guess, for the merchandise? I’m not sure. But ultimately it’s you and me, Jack and Jill Taxpayer, so that Stealy McStealerson can live comfortably in some local jail cell. Well, no more. Sort of.

The program begins in Peoria on July 1—better get your crimes in now, petty thieves—and although city attorney Steve Kemp estimates it will save the city $100-200,000 annually, it’s the program’s trial nature that helped initiate its approval. In fact, some in council, like Vice Mayor Cathy Carlat, wouldn’t have been on board were it not for it being a test run.

The major criticism, of course, is: how does house arrest deter criminals from being criminals again? To that I say, have you ever been at home for an extended period of time? It’s worse than jail. For one thing, there’s nothing on TV during the day. Nothing! Only judge shows, which are too painful for criminals to watch, lest they be reminded how they ended up at home in the first place.

Besides saving money, this new initiative also prevents overcrowding in jails, a major problem in the Valley as Sheriff Arpaio continues his quest to arrest everyone. By essentially “grounding” minor criminals, local cities are enacting the most effective form of punishment—public disappointment. Criminals will now have plenty of time to think about what they’ve done. Or, make a sandwich.

There have been hiccups in the home detention process, as to be expected. Recently, as covered in this very publication, Glendale’s William Willis, serving home detention with a monitoring device while awaiting trial on charges of burglary and child pornography, went missing, but was thankfully apprehended by U.S. Marshalls the next day. I’m not sure how alleged child pornography (!!!) warrants house arrest, especially when the house in question contained a massive and mysterious backyard tunnel, and the whole ordeal probably cost taxpayers $12 million in U.S. Marshalls fees, but hey—don’t blame the system. Blame … something else.

I, for one, will have my fingers crossed that this trial run takes to permanence. I don’t want to sound too harsh here, but we need to get criminals off the streets, and back into their homes where they belong.