There has been much crowing and back-slapping north of the San Marcos Pass over the state funding for a North County Jail that has been lobbied for by Sheriff Bill Brown and others.
Yet, I cannot celebrate the idea of a jail as some kind of victory. Sure, some money may be saved in transporting prisoners, and sheriff’s deputies will no longer be needed on the South Coast as much.
A fundamental problem remains, however, which must be addressed. In Santa Maria, Lompoc, and even Santa Barbara there are problems of gang violence, drug abuse, and drug dealing by disaffected young persons. Not to mention spousal abuse, battery, and murders.
Building another jail only keeps criminals off the streets until they serve their terms, or are transferred to state or federal correctional facilities. Here, local young people often become parts of violent, often racist prison gangs. These same prison gangs have links to the methamphetamine and other drug trades. They also have ties to street gangs.
Getting tough on gangs and crime has always been a popular election year approach. Yet what I would like to know is: What do those seeking office plan to do to address the systemic culture of poverty and despair that affects young men and women in our county?
Until more creative solutions are sought, gangs, murders, and crime will continue to be a part of our local landscape. And innocent bystanders sometimes get caught in the crossfire.