The Unseen Wreckage

by William Skink

I took my boys to Silverwood this weekend because they earned free tickets during the school year. After a long, hot day we were ready to get to my Grandma’s house in Spokane, but when we got to I-90 the traffic was at a stand-still.

When we finally got to the scene a cop was placing a giant bottle of booze on the hood of a smashed truck. A few hundred feet away we saw the gnarled wreckage of a car somehow pushed onto a concrete barrier.

We arrived safely at Grandma’s and within minutes the local news she was watching showed the accident. The man in the truck was suspected of intentionally causing several accidents in a drug/alcohol fueled trail of destruction that went from Washington State into Idaho.

Seeing a wreck like this the damage is obvious and tangible. Seeing the wreckage of our criminal justice system is much more difficult–that is, until it starts spilling onto the pages of newspapers.

Starting in Missoula we have Justice of the Peace Marie Andersen presiding over her fiefdom in ways unbecoming of a judge, like telling staff to drop-off court payments on her back porch, walk her dog, and aggressively recycle. Oh, and not showing up for court. The absenteeism is perhaps the most troubling because what court isn’t drowning in cases to clear?

Marie Andersen is up for reelection, so vote accordingly.

No one needs to vote out Hill County Attorney Jessica Cole-Hodgkinson because she resigned. Showing up to work was also a problem for Cole-Hodgkinson, apparently, among other serious deficiencies in competency.

It’s hard to measure what negative impacts just these two poor examples of public servants have had on already over-crowded jails and over-burdened courts. Considering what rampant drug and alcohol abuse is doing to communities across Montana, I’d say it borders on criminal negligence.

Up in Great Falls last week Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards took a drastic step to deal with jail over crowding by sending a letter detailing who would be accepted to jail, and who wouldn’t:

Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards sent a letter Monday afternoon announcing that he’d no longer accept offenders for non-violent misdemeanor warrants or non-violent misdemeanors due to overcrowding.

On Monday, the jail population was 531 in a facility built to house 360. On Tuesday morning the number had dropped to 511.

People being held at the jail, whether awaiting trial or having been sentenced, are sleeping on floors, sharing bathrooms and tensions are high, Edwards told The Electric Tuesday morning.

“You get a situation like that, it gets very volatile,” he said. “We have to do something.”

Then, over the weekend, there was a 4 hour riot in one of the pods that caused upwards of $10,000 worth of damage.

Our criminal justice system is broken.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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