Monday, April 5, 2010

Build it and they won't come

Can you imagine a school district in Oregon building a new high school six years before it was needed?

No, that would be impossible because new high schools aren't built until they're desperately needed for at least 20 years.

But, thanks to anti-crime hysteria in Oregon, we've approved ballot measures in recent years for tougher prison sentences. With those measures come the need for more prisons, the thinking goes.

A $190-million prison called Deer Ridge Correctional Institution opened outside Madras in 2007, but only a third of the prison was needed for minimum-security inmates. The 1,233-bed medium-security portion of the prison for more serious offenders won't be needed now until 2013, the state estimates.

Isn't that wonderful. We've done such a great job in Oregon that crime is not what was anticipated.

Actually, it's another pathetic display of misplaced priorities by Oregonians. Yes, blame the government, but the government is you and me. We'd rather have unfilled prisons than uncrowded schools.

We asked for it and we got it. The teabagging crowd has been silent about this gross waste of taxpayers' money. They must think we're all safer because we have an empty prison in our midst.

Perhaps we should put it on our tourist map. We should give tours of Deer Ridge showing how spotless we can keep an empty prison. Perhaps we could book cells for a night or two. Our tourist slogan is, afterall, "We Love Dreamers."

We sure do. We apparently love people who dream about prisons. That does sound weird. How about, we love people who have nightmares about wasteful prison spending.

Because that is what Deer Ridge represents: a classic nightmare.

Like many other states, we'd rather spend more on empty prisons than our schools, particularly institutes of higher learning.

We just don't get it. If we put more money into prevention, i.e. public schools and universities, we wouldn't need more empty prisons.

Just a thought. Just a dream.

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