Government, Politics, and Criminal Justice

The word “politics” often is connected with the behavior and personalities of individuals. Yet, “politics” can also be seen as “policy.” In the newly-adopted platform of the Polk County Libertarians, under Crime and Justice, there is a plank calling for enforcement of laws to focus on those that, when violated, endanger life and/or property. This is a policy statement.

Advocacy of focusing on certain crimes over other crimes means prioritizing use of resources. Sure, property and sales taxes can be used to fund enforcement of a wide range of laws. We can build more jails and increase the county budget to cover routine operating costs and maintenance. Or, we can have a policy that individuals should be able to do as they please as long as they are not endangering others. As such, we can limit the size of government, e.g., the number of people needed to be hired, the costs of construction and operation, the amount of revenue that needs to be raised, and control over individuals.

Government is the implementation of policy. This includes the laws that are passed, as well as the bureaucracy that puts the laws into practice. The second plank under Crime and Justice of the Polk County Libertarians’ platform calls for equality of treatment of accused and convicted criminal violators. For example, based on socio-economic options, one person should not be able to pay a fine and avoid jail while another person must go to jail because there is no money available to pay the fine instead. Similarly, racial profiling can unfairly influence all aspects of crime prevention, investigations, arrests, and jail inmates.

In Polk County, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) was established in June 2008. It includes the chair of the County’s Board of Supervisors, another supervisor, the County Attorney, representatives of police departments, and others in government. The CJCC meetings include presentations of reports, such as those on the number of jail inmates. The purpose of the CJCC is to enhance cooperation and collaboration among all areas of the system. We could ask if the coordinating council is for the benefit of the people or a way to grow the government.

The Polk County Libertarians’ platform calls for government accountability and transparency. For the CJCC, we ask if the information on socio-economic, racial, and other statistics is available and easily accessible. We further ask how the CJCC impacts conditions throughout the criminal justice system for the general population and the jail population. The topic of our September Let’s Talk Liberty is planned to be crime and justice in the county. We invite you to join with us.

A meeting of the CJCC is scheduled for today, July 23, 2020.

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