Essay by Jerry Mosier
Prison politics – December 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine
Uncle Mose devastated by jail election outcome
by J. T. Mosier
CHICO FLATS, SAN LUIS VALLEY, COLORADO — Uncle Mose has been shaking his head and mumbling into his coffee since the 32 drubbing on election day of a proposed 100-bed jail for Chaffee County, and the consequent shattering of his hopes for a new career as a for-profit prison consultant.
“Commissioner Frank McMurry almost hit the nail on the head…weren’t any ORGANIZED opposition that killed our chances for the new jail; it was all that UNorganized opposition we didn’t count on…”
“But, Pa, Sheriff Bergmann explained it in his radio interview; the voters were just `confused’,” his beloved Kate tried to console him.
“That dog won’t hunt, Katie Dear, us PROponents of the jail was the only faction that did any organized informing of the voters. If they were `confused,’ we can’t point that finger without having three more fingers pointing right back at us. Nope, I think this may be the real thing in Chaffee County; the time they closed the polls for election day and the voters Just Said No to the fear tactics us experts have always been able to count on in the past. Our future looks dim in the prison consulting business if the people start bein’ their own experts.”
LET US HOPE, indeed, that one of the messages contained in the voters’ message is that fear, even of crime, just won’t fly on election day. The people have exercised their constitutional right and responsibility to be their own experts. Rather than being “confused,” I believe the voters of Chaffee County clearly do not want to become part of an incarceration economy which, as Colorado Central so graphically pointed out in the November issue, would see the entire U.S. population behind bars by year 2070 or so.
Fear of crime, particularly drug-related crime, has been a driving force behind the present incarceration economy; and it is a fear easily dispelled, or confirmed, by citizens themselves, based on three common-sense questions:
1. What is the liquid dollar value of stolen property in your community?
2. How many drug arrests are made incidental to an unrelated arrest; as in how often are hard drugs found on a suspect being pressed into jail on an unrelated charge?
3. How many accidental drug overdose cases are treated in your local hospital’s emergency room?
If your local news media are meeting their responsibility to inform you of such facts, it takes no police/press bureaucrat to tell you what they mean.
Nearly 10 years ago, in Torrington, Wyo., parents were arming themselves with intent to kill drug dealers and the police chief drove a DAREmobile that would have blown Salida’s DAREmobile off the track. As news director of Torrington radio KGOS, I applied these guidelines to police blotter statistics.
During a two-month period, the only stolen property reported was a short block for a Chevy pickup motor and a pile of firebrick. A hard-core addict must spend S100-$300 per day to support a drug habit. This need translates into a rash of armed robberies (the short way to quick cash) or thefts of $1,000-$3,000 of items easy to fence: guns, cameras, jewelry, videos, computers, which, in a thief’s market bring 10 cents on the dollar of their actual value.
Firebrick and engine blocks are not easily fenced items. These were stolen by somebody who had a use for them. Likewise there were no incidental drug arrests when each weekend’s harvest of drunks and brawlers were booked into jail and searched.
The third guideline, accidental overdoses, is harder to track through official records; but anecdotal evidence abounds because of the large number of citizens who work in hospitals.
Congratulations to the people of Chaffee County for becoming their own experts. Now, if we can just figure out how to get our polls reopened for election days.
“And I want to know what happened to my share of that $400,000 in tax money us jail proponents got to play with before the elections,” Mose mumbled.
That’s all from Chico Flats.
J.T. Mosier, a former Salidan among other things, is now building a home in the San Luis Valley near Center.