Editorial for February 10-13, 2017

Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof.   In less than two weeks, Paul Jose will 
be released from the Arizona State Prison in Florence and Iíll be 
curious as to how long heíll stay out of prison this time.   In April 
Paul will turn 52.  Iíve known him since he was sixteen, so Iím in a 
good position to tell his story.

Paul is an American Indian.   Heís a little guy, only about five foot 
five and perhaps 135 pounds.  Not your typical picture of a dangerous 
criminal and he really isnít a dangerous criminal though heís spent most 
of his adult life in either the Arizona state prison system or the Pima 
County Jail.
Paul was born and raised near Sells which is on the Tohono Oíodham 
reservation, maybe 50 miles west of downtown Tucson.   His mother died 
when he was a small child and he and his father didnít get along well.   
So one day Paul packed up what few belongings he had and he bummed a 
ride into downtown Tucson.   He had no job skills and he also hated work 
so Paul got the necessities of life any way he could and his bed was 
often a sidewalk.

Before long, Paul found out that the pain of sleeping on a sidewalk on a 
cold winter night could be eased if he ingested a quart or two of 
beer.   He became a hardcore alcoholic.    Paul has had many run-ins 
with the law and nearly all of them have been alcohol related.    His 
present legal problems stem from a combination of homelessness and 
drinking too much beer.   Many years ago Paul got drunk as a skunk and 
was confronted with the laws of physics.   All that beer that heíd 
consumed absolutely had to come out.   Paul walked into a store and 
asked to use the restroom.   The clerk told him that the restroom was 
only for customers.   Paul wasnít interested in the storeís rules and he 
relieved himself.   Instead of being charged with the minor offense of 
urinating in public, Paul got charged with indecent exposure.   The same 
thing happened two more times.  What Paul didnít know was that Arizona 
has a three strikes law on indecent exposure.   Get convicted three 
times and you become a sex offender even if sex had nothing to do with 
the indecency.    And in this case sex had nothing to do with it but 
that didnít matter.  Under the law, Paul must register as a sex offender 
for the rest of his life and he must also carry a special sex offender 
ID card everywhere he goes.   If heís caught without the card, heís 
committed a felony.  And thatís just what happened.  Paul never bothered 
to get the sex offender card and he got arrested and ended up in prison 
for just over a year.   When he got out he did the same thing.  This 
time he got a longer sentence.   The most recent time he got three years 
for not having his card.

But before continuing, itís important to understand the mentality of a 
homeless person who is allergic to work.   The system is geared to 
inflict punishment on offenders and the punishment is to lock them up.  
But when you are homeless and hate work, incarceration isnít all that 
much of a punishment.   You get a free place to live, you get free 
medical and dental service and free food even if it isnít gourmet.   
Best of all, you donít have to do much  work.   Perhaps Paul purposely 
doesnít get his sex offender ID card.   He just might be running a 
racket with the taxpayers of Arizona footing the bill.

Letís ask some questions: Why do we have a law that makes a person a sex 
offender if he really isnít a sex offender?  Why do we have mandatory 
sentencing laws so that even if the judge knows whatís going on he canít 
do anything except hand down the mandatory sentence regardless of the 
circumstances in the case?     Why do our laws prescribe terrible 
penalties for any crime that has even a hint of sex?  For example, why 
do we have a law that prescribes life in prison for people who download 
certain dirty pictures on their computers?

The answer is that for many years Arizonaís criminal laws have been 
written and passed by the most extreme element of the Republican 
Party.   Their mindset is to get rid of crime by locking up lawbreakers 
and throwing away the key no matter what the cost.   Accordingly, there 
are about 42,000 people in our state prison system and another 11,000 in 
county jails.    The department of corrections has an annual budget of 
about a billion dollars.

To be sure, our prisons have some very dangerous people who need to be 
kept out of circulation.  But we also have thousands of other people 
whose only crime was possession of small quantities of drugs and 
thousands more whose main problem is being destitute and unable to pay a 
competent attorney.   Some are mentally ill.    Meanwhile, our state 
ranks nearly last in per pupil spending for education while our 
lawmakers tell us that they canít afford to pay better salaries to 
teachers what with all that money going to the prison system.    A high  
priority is to lock up people like  homeless Indians who donít have 
their special ID cards.

Is there anything we can do to make our criminal justice system more 
just and more cost effective?   My answer to that would be yes.   When 
there is an election, instead of having blind faith that the Republican 
Party can do no wrong we can consider other candidates who might have 
more moderate positions on crime than building new prisons and tossing 
more and more people into them.     But our love for the Republican 
Party is strong and this suggestion is probably unrealistic.   Meanwhile 
I hope that in a couple more weeks Paul will get his sex offender card 
and save all of us a lot of money.

Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions youíve just heard are mine 
and not necessarily anyone elseís.  If youíd like a copy of this 
editorial or youíd like to express your opinion go to the CAVE web 
site.   Weíre at CAVEFM. Com.   Thatís CAVEFM.com.