Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Asking the Right Questions About the "Getaway"

I shouldn't say much without having all the answers, but the least we can do is ask good questions.

An on-line Enquirer story states that an illegal immigrant (Rogelio Santana) who was under armed guard in a nursing home (following a failed armed robbery where he was shot) did not show up for court today, and suggests that budget cuts and miscommunication are the reasons why he has temporarily gotten away.

No doubt, I hope he is found promptly, and we should study exactly what happened.

But to me, the story before the getaway is stunning in and of itself. Rather than merely concluding that budget problems are the reason he didn't show up in court and moving on, I would reverse the statement: it's cases like this that are exacerbating our budget problems in the first place!

Something isn't right if you're spending $200,000 to guard one prisoner (that's right out of our general fund). Something isn't right if you're paying that much, or more, (I've asked for the exact cost), on medical costs for that one prisoner (that's out of our indigent care levy). Something is definitely not right if, with the high bill running up every day on these and other associated costs, eight months and seven continuances later* we still have not tried this felony case (which would ship this defendant to the state prison and out of our hands). Finally, something is clearly not right that this is all happening with someone who is in this country illegally in the first place.

Even as judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement work hard and effectively every day to secure public safety, it only takes a case like this to make many citizens lose faith in our criminal justice system, and particularly frustrated by its cost to taxpayers. And it is no wonder that the near universal response I have gotten from citizens about our budget crisis has been--"make the cuts, we know there's a lot of waste there."

I have asked for all the costs associated with this case. And I will look into why it has been delayed for eight months as the taxpayer bill has been running up. Were there/are there any deportation options available that could also ensure that justice is served for the crimes in question?

On a related note, I have also begun pursuing ways to reduce the cost of the most seriously injured inmates, who ultimately require enormous and disproportionate medical costs (right out of our indigent care levy dollars). We are required by law to pay for these costs, but other counties are pursuing innovative insurance strategies that greatly reduce the taxpayer expense for these high-cost cases.

More to come on this case, and on these issues. In the meantime, let's find him ASAP, and let's learn from this over-the-top example how to better manage costs in our criminal justice system.

* There were seven continuances in this case between February and August.


Anonymous said...

What's even the point of prosecuting this guy? Do we even want to house him for decades for his crime in the condition he is in? He's not going to be crossing the Rio Grande in a wheelchair to come back here and victimize another person. Just send him back to his country on a one way ticket and it should've been done as soon as he was stabilized not after we provided him all this medical care. Stupid choices.

Anonymous said...


It is about time someone stood up to the right-leaning local 'fishwRap' press, thus; revealing the underlining truth !

Great job David !


Anonymous said...

Commisioner Pepper, I am a little concerned about your statement that everyone tells you to cut because there is a lot of waste. How would people know if there was waste? Unless they have inside knowledge, do they really know? They say that the closing of floors at the jail is proof that a new jail was not needed. Will they still say that if some of the criminals who are released end up murdering people? These same people telling you to cut are the same people who will cry that you did not do your job if crime goes up because of a lack of jail space, if roads go unpaved and potholes grow or if kids die or poor people end up on the streets. If you cut irresponsibly, all of this can happen. Be responsible. You have an Ivy league education. Use that, not comments from the peanut gallery, to help you make that decision. If you listen to the vocal majority who spends much time whining, you will be told that govt. is all fat and politicians are all paid too much. Of course, the first time something goes wrong for them and they don't get the services they think they should get, they will want your head on a platter.

Free Blog CounterEnglish German Translation