Thursday, September 3, 2009

Letter to Editor, Durango Telegraph: jailing

To the Editor: Freedom from Fear in Durango,
My wife and I spent last weekend in Durango with our children and 18-month-old granddaughter. There I encountered a controversy over whether the La Plata district attorney’s office is excessively moving to dismiss offenses described in Durango police arrest reports.
I retired this year after 39 years as a criminal justice professor. My son-in-law is with the La Plata prosecutorial team, which he tells me has consciously moved toward what I call “peacemaking.” (Google “hal pepinsky” for starters to see what I mean by that.)
I am told that the new county jail space is about empty. Wow! Normally if you build it you will fill it. I’ll be spreading the word among criminologists that La Plata is one county where criminal justice change really is something new and better.
In the classroom, on the streets, in everyday life, I have spent well over half my life among law enforcement professionals. I know the dedication of criminal justice professionals across the system. There is no reason that the people of La Plata County can’t continue to support and celebrate the countless quiet ways criminal justice professionals serve public safety besides locking people up.
As I understand recently published comments by the Durango police chief, he figures his officers have been disrespected by prosecutors’ moves to dismiss arrest charges marginally more often than under the previous prosecutor.
I also find credible reports that line police officers tell prosecutors that they see no greater community danger under a newly elected reform district attorney, and even feel relieved of making nuisance arrests.
Congratulations to the folks of La Plata County for having elected a reform district attorney who truly promotes community safety over jailing excess expense and nonsense. Here’s to supporting unsung ways criminal justice professionals serve without requiring them to bust people to demonstrate their worth.
Thanks to all that makes my family’s community in and around Durango safer and saner—Hal Pepinsky,, 614-433-7386

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