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Letter: Children are falling through the cracks

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor
Deseret News

Last week there was an article in the Deseret News about Jeremy Richards' request for parole. Richards has served 19 years for killing a man in 1999. Most of the comments were in favor of keeping him in prison because he should get the same chance (i.e. zero) that his victim got.

There's certainly an appeal to the lock-him-up-and-toss-the-key policy. People in prison aren't usually able to commit murder again. But if the goal is to keep citizens safe, we have to ask if the $31,000 that it costs every year to keep Richards locked up would be better spent on programs that are proven to keep people from becoming criminals in the first place.

Talk to any first grade teacher and they will tell you about children they've taught who they worry about. They're usually boys who, even at 6, are showing antisocial behavior. She'd love to refer them and their parents to Social Services, but there's a huge waiting list.

These are not cracks that children are falling through — they are chasms. We could quadruple the number of elementary school counselors and it wouldn't meet the needs. Child Protective Services workers are reluctant to pull children from all but the most blatantly dangerous situations because they know full well how few foster homes have available beds.

We know what programs work to keep children from becoming criminals. We know which prison services work to reintegrate prisoners into society and keep them from committing crimes again.

We just don't have the will to pay for them.

Laura Billington

Maple Valley, Washington