Archive for the ‘Idea’ Category
Yet another snow-covered day. We may have had the ice storm last winter, but I feel like this winter we’re seeing way more total snow.
If you have the chance, snap a photo of a snowy scene near you and e-mail it to me (my address is in the ‘Contact Ben’ box on the right). I’ll post the photos I get up here.
I learned from Judge-Executive John Wilson yesterday about Garrard County’s rising cost of housing its prisoners. This past month it cost about $43,000 instead of the budgeted $33,000. Garrard doesn’t have it’s own jail — which apparently actually saves the county money currently — but it does now house prisoners in Lincoln and Casey counties.
When I was in college I worked on several video productions for the editorial division of the Lexington Herald-Leader, including one about the increasing numbers of Kentuckians being locked away in jail. At the time of the video, 1 in every 100 Kentuckians was in jail.
In 2008, the U.S. as a whole reached the 1 in 100 mark as well. That same year, the number of Kentucky’s inmates went up 600 percent while the crime rate rose just 3 percent. (Taken from this Daily Mail article)
Kentucky’s prison situation — and other states are in the same boat — appears to be dire. There are simply too many prisoners to fit in the jails, and building bigger jails is generally a huge financial problem, as it is in Garrard. John Wilson mentioned to me that he thinks the penal code needs to be revised and updated.
There are people attempting to find solutions. For my Herald-Leader video, we interviewed a social worker in a new program that was aiming to keep minor drug offenders out of jail and rehabilitate them so they didn’t wind up getting arrested again. David Gooch, the jailer in Lincoln County, has programs designed to curb recidivism as well.
But at the end of the day, will programs intended to reform offenders completely reverse the upward trend in percentage of people locked away? Or do we need to rethink who we put in jail and why? If we were able to update the penal code with an eye on reducing prisoner numbers, what would it look like?
Here’s something interesting I read about recently. Support for the legalization of marijuana has been growing for a long time among U.S. residents. And now Gallup has released this interesting poll about marijuana, including this interesting tidbit:
If public support were to continue growing at a rate of 1% to 2% per year, as it has since 2000, the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as little as four years.
This majority would consist largely of people in the west and east. In the western region of the U.S., a majority already support legalization, and in the east, 44 percent are in favor of decriminalizing weed. Support is much weaker in the midwest and south regions. But the fact remains, we could, as a country, be mostly in favor of legalizing marijuana by 2014.
What does this have to do with Garrard County? Well, Garrard County has a lot of farmers, and many of those farmers are in a real struggle to make ends meet. With tobacco on the decline(pdf), if marijuana were legalized, would Garrard County farmers opt to start growing?
Marijuana is already Kentucky’s biggest cash crop(pdf). The total value of all marijuana grown in Kentucky in 2006 was estimated at more than $4.3 billion. Only Tennessee ($4.77 billion) and California ($12.3 billion) had bigger crops.
Legalization could open those billions up to legitimate industry and bring in a lot of tax dollars, but odds are a minority of Kentuckians would actually be in support of decriminalizing the trade.
Would you guys be interested in seeing a story about this in the paper? I could ask farmers whether they think marijuana should be legalized, and what they would do if it was. And I could try to dig up some state officials who could give me an idea of how Kentucky politics might play out if marijuana legalization became a major issue.
Today I’m taking photos of workers going around Lancaster on a curb-side recycling pick-up. After that I’m contacting solid waste coordinators in the Advocate’s other counties for a sidebar about other local recycling efforts, and then polishing off the big story.
Couple things coming down the pipe: I’m trying to find out if any of the 100s of people recently arrested by state police on drug dealing charges are from this area. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Lexington should be releasing some information soon, but they haven’t yet.
Also, I’m beginning to work on a series of stories which I have given the working title, “Faces of Poverty.” I’m examining a recent increase in food stamp usage, looking into the homeless situations in the Advocate’s coverage area and hopefully following around a non-profit or two that are focused on care for the poor. The series will hopefully profile several people — putting a face on poverty — and examine how different efforts are aiming to affect poverty levels in the area.
That’s a lot of serious, heavy stuff. Anyone have a fun, light idea for a story?
P.S. thanks to everyone who commented or e-mailed me with sources and other info for the story about recycling, I was quite surprised and very happy to see such a big response, since this blog is just getting started.
P.P.S. Just for fun, here’s a random video from Volkswagen I saw last night that answers the age-old question, “what if stairs were actually a giant piano?” Enjoy.