“Get Tough On Crime” Does Not Solve Problems


Below is a “Letter to the Editor” or Opinon/Editorial Guest Column that was published on July 19, 2017 on page A 12 of the Albuquerque Journal and written by Albuquerque resident Allen Robnett.

The point made is “lock em up and throw away the key” does not solve the underlying causes of crime which is poverty, drug addiction, lack of education, mental health problems and failed social intervention.

One sentence to keep in mind is “Taxes must not be seen as an obstruction to accumulating wealth but as the patriotic way for devoted citizens to support the costs of building the society that we want”.

In other words, taxes are the dues we pay to live in a civilized society.

We should never be afraid to invest in ourselves with taxation to make our community viable and self-sustaining and to address our problems and the root causes of crime.

As a community, we must address the underlying causes of crime and also be willing to pay for it.

It is a damn shame when people are far more willing to pay and build jails than schools rather than address the root causes of crime.

The same goes for funding our judicial system that protects and preserves our civil rights and freedoms guaranteed under our constitution that include freedom of speech, right to bear arms, freedom of religion, due process of law, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a jury trial.

Following is the guest editorial comment:

‘Get tough on crime’ doesn’t solve problems

By Allen Robnett / Albuquerque Resident
Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 at 12:02am

“Get tough on crime” is a political slogan that may help win elections but is, at best, only an attempt to treat a symptom of a very deep cultural problem. Here are some points to consider:

⋄ What are the root causes? There is no magic bullet that will lead quickly to the necessary cultural change; however, if one believes in cause and effect, then it makes sense to attempt to identify the root causes of the unwanted effects. The things that come to mind are drug addiction, abject poverty, relative poverty and mental health problems. The case can be made that these are all related to a profound dissatisfaction with the conditions of one’s life and a feeling of hopelessness when it comes to the ability to make any meaningful change.

⋄ Escape from meaninglessness. Why in the world would one willingly become addicted to any substance that is clearly going be totally self-destructive? The only answer that makes any sense is escape. If one does not see one’s own life as having value, then escape is seductive. Added to that is the fact that the illegal status of those substances leads to sky-high prices and accompanying incentive for dealers to “push” their wares. It is easy to see a very close parallel between the current prohibition and that of a century ago. In both cases, prohibition opened up big business for organized crime.

⋄ Escape from poverty. The “profit motive” is king of the hill when it comes to providing incentive. But when profit is the only incentive, then everything becomes valued in dollars and cents. It takes money to make money. One cannot share in the returns of the rising stock market if the demands of survival take all available resources, as is the case for those whose weekly pay still leaves them in abject poverty. Karl Marx was not the only economist to observe that unfettered capitalism would lead to the disappearance of the middle class, and with it, the disappearance of the ladder to success. This means a loss of hope, even for those whose sense of poverty is only relative to the wealth that they see all around themselves.

⋄ The only solution lies in education. Thomas Jefferson understood very well that the health of our democracy depends first and foremost on an enlightened and educated citizenry. Now, more than ever, basic education is a requirement for getting and holding a rewarding job. We must somehow arrange to have our best and most talented teachers in the early grades, teachers who, themselves, understand the vast difference between understanding and mere memorization and who can foster the natural instinct of a child to ask “why.” What suffers first when budgets get tight? Education! In the long run, we pay a heavy price for cutting education funding. Raising teachers’ salaries might not make them better teachers, but failing to raise the pay scales will guarantee that the best and brightest will look elsewhere for fulfilling vocations.

⋄ Education depends on healthy minds and bodies. Health insurance for all is not merely a bleeding-heart liberal goal. It is essential for the health of our society that proper nutrition and health care be available, especially from an individual’s start in the womb through their learning years. It costs money, but it is an investment in our society.

⋄ Armed citizenry is not the guarantor of freedom. That guarantor is the citizenry – business people, legislators, military, government leaders, voters – who are devoted to what we cherish as American ideals. Especially (around) the Fourth of July, it is appropriate to observe that patriotism, in addition to waving the flag and sincerely thanking veterans for their service, must also include a deep understanding and devotion to the principles that we accept as representing “Americanism.” Taxes must not be seen as an obstruction to accumulating wealth but as the patriotic way for devoted citizens to support the costs of building the society that we want.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.