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May 22, 1984 - Image 6

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1984-05-22

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Page 6 Tuesday, May 22, 1984
Vol. XCIV No. No. 9-S
94 Years of Editorial Freedom
Managed and Edited by Students at
The University of Michigan
Editorials represent a majority opinion of theDi o
Doily E ditorial Board

The Michigan Daily


but no thanks
BAD IDEAS have a way of coming back
from the dead, and the mandatory seat-
belt idea is no exception. This week, the state
senate will begin deliberations on the safety
lobby's latest attempt to protect the state's
drivers from themselves.
With a persistence approaching fanaticism,
supporters of the cause of mandatory seat
belts have come up with a compromise bill
designed to allay the fears of recall-wary
legislators. The latest incarnation of the bill
would require everyone riding in the front seat
of a car to buckle up starting in 1986 for a
period of three years. Violators of the statute
would be subject to a $10 fine during that
period; after the three years are over, the
voters would decide whether to keep the law
on the books.
The three-year sunset provision, the
referendum provision, and the low fine are
designed, of course, to weaken the arguments
of those who oppose the bill on the ground that
it is an unaccpetable infringement on the per-
sonal liberty of Michigan drivers. But the
compromise is unacceptable. If the bill was
rejected before as an unacceptable intrusion
into the lives of citizens, how can making that
intrusion temporary or less apparent make
the proposal valid?
Indeed this bill suffers from the same infir-
mities that afflicted its three predecessors: It
ignores the fact that every person who is in-
jured through the non-use of seatbelts has
voluntarily assumed the risk of injury. This
risk does not present a sufficiently compelling
harm to society to justify any intrusion into
citizens' lives.
If a person wishes to take the risk of doing
violence to himself and no other, he should be
free to do so. His life-his liberty-belongs to
himself, not to the state of Michigan, the state
legislature, or safety enthusiasts.
The carnage on the highways is horrible and
tragic, and deaths and injuries which result
from the failure of drivers and passengers to
fasten seat belts are doubly so. But turning
stupidity into a low-grade criminal offense is
not the solution to this problem. Rather, it is
an irksome and unnecessary interference in
the personal affairs of the people of the state.

By MichaelKroll
Our nation's corrections
system now inspires a grim
litany of statistics. Despite a con-
tinuing drop in crime rates, a
greater percentage of Americans
are behind bars today than at any
other time in our history. In 39
states, courts have ruled that at
least some of those in prison suf-
fer cruel and unusual punish-
ment. And 1,300 people, the
largest number ever, are under
sentence of death. But there is at
least one ray of light in the
otherwise gloomy picture, and it
is in an unlikely place-the state
of Utah.
UTAH IS in its sixth year of ex-
perimenting with a program
designed to remove as many
juveniles as possible from
"secure detention," and to
promote individualized plans for
the few who do require such det-
ention in small, community-
based facilities.
Six years ago, there were 400
kids locked up in Utah's Youth
Development Center in
Ogden-the former Territorial
Reform School. Russel VanVleet,
now state director of Youth
Corrections, says, "Abuse and
institutional evil" were the norm
at YDC. The rate of youngsters
confined, and the conditions of
their confinement, were similar
to those found in the rest of the
Today, the picture is totally dif-
ferent. The old center has been
converted into an area oc-
cupational center, and across the
state only 44 young people are in
secure detention, and those 44 are
being housed rather than
warehoused, helped rather than
THIS transformation, still in
progress, began with the
inauguration of Gov. Scott
Matheson in 1977. A Democrat
willing to take chances, he ap-
pointed Tony Mitchell executive
director of the Utah Department
of Social Service which controlled
juvenile corrections. Mitchell
was 36 and "very willing to take

kids out of prison
risks." able to establish a variety of
As an employee of DSS, Mit- programs.
chell had once toured the state's Youths first spend from one to
juvenile facilities-and came 13 weeks in an Observation and
away dismayed. Now he wanted Assessment Unit, to match them
to do something about it. to appropriate programs. These
Soon after he became DDD include group homes with a
director, Mitchell heard a speech "Mom and Pop," as well as home
by Jerome Milles, one-time head with round-the-clock therapeutic
of the Massachusetts juvenile staff. There also are "proctor"
justice system. Miller outlined programs in which a child lives
his work there, which included with a single young adult trained
moving kids from locked to act as supporter, advocate,
facilities into the community. and provider.
HIS SUCCESS showed on the CORRECTIONS chief Van-
state's books. When Milles took Vleet believes the system works
over in 1969, about 95 percent of simply "because it reduces the
his budget was allocated for in- harm done to residents of large,
stitutions, mostly for staff impersonal institutions."
salaries, while only 5 percent Tony Mitchell, now a school
went to community-based superintendent, says the effort is
programs. When he left in 1974, no longer experimental.
those figures were exactly rever- It may be too early to measure
sed. the lasting benefits of dein-
Mitchell, impressed, in- stituionalization in Utah, but
troduced Miller to Matheson, who there is reason for optimism.
then appointed a task force on Although it's been 10 years sin-
criminal justice and later, one on ce Jerry Miller left Massachuset-
the juvenile justice system. ts, fewer than 70 juveniles are
At the same time, a separate locked up there-a smaller num-
Youth Correctional Services unit ber than in many cities. If
was formed within DSS and Mit- Massachusetts' rate of juvenile
chell began taling about closing detention were applied nation-
the center and moving youths in- wide, there would be only some
to the community. The state's 3,000 held-about the number
family judges opposed both the now locked up in Ohio alone.
closing and the new division, until PERHAPS MOST telling of all,
Matheson jawboned them into the proportion of adult inmates
grudging accepfance. who are alumni of the juvenile
THE JUVENILE Justice Task justice system has declined
Force issued a comprehensive dramatically, from 46 percent
report which, rather than in- when Miller took over to 19 per-
spiring the inaction which usually cent today.
greets such efforts, resulted in "Massachusetts (is) very dif-
the systematic implementation of ferent from Utah," says Van-
its recommendations-including Vleet, but the issue of dein-
the closing of the 300- to 400-unit stitutionalization is a relative
Youth Center, opening of two 30- one.
bed "secure" facilities, and the "Each state can dein-
creation of alternatives that stitutionalize. It's only a question
provide continuing, in- of commitment-commitment
dividualized plans. that is philosophical and
As in Massachusetts, funds for political."
the new system came directly out Kroll wrote this article for
of the institutional budget. With Pacific News Service. His
normal staff attrition, retraining PacifichNwsuSere i
and some "reduction in force" research was supported by
among those least able to adapt grants from the Fund for In-
to the dismantling of the old vestigative Journalism and the
system, the new division has been Playboy Foundation.


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