BY ERIN K. DOERING
For a long time I have been told that I should write about my work as an attorney. I have been told I am something of a good storyteller. I will leave you, the reader, to decide at to whether I am able to weave a good yarn or my words are more appropriately associated with ‘yawn’.
One thing this blog will not be is organized. I plan on writing here as I think – many tabs open at the same time and random thoughts abounding.
Any ways –
An attorney’s stock and trade is in language. Our use of language – spoken or written – is why we are paid. We are looked at by non-attorneys as ‘smarty pants’. But are we worthy of this praise? The answer to that question depends on who you ask (and whether or not you are answering the question while behind jail bars). I have found that opinions on attorneys become far more favorable the when one’s liberty is at stake than when one is sitting in the comfort of their own home, surfing the internet. Is this unfair? To my way of thinking the change of opinion depending on the circumstances is not unfair or unreasonable. People don’t go to the doctor (generally) unless something is wrong – the same may be said of attorneys.
So what is the point of the random statements above? They are my observations. This blog is not going to tell you how to get out of a parking ticket or how to write a land contract. The purpose of this blog is and will be to make the reader think. This blog will consist of my musings and observations along with the occasional bit of story time. Sure, I’ll also throw in general advice here and there but this will not be a solely educational blog.
As to the name of this blog – Warehousing the Problem –
I picked this name because it reflects what I see all too often as a criminal defense attorney – we warehouse problems in jail and prison. We are forever kicking the proverbial can down the road when all we do is react to bad things happening – in this case, criminal behavior. What if we invested time on the front end and educated young people about what happens when they get pulled over or get caught drinking underage or get caught smoking pot? Or what if we decided that once people are in the system for whatever criminal offense you want to think of we try to figure out the best way to keep that person from coming back to the system?
Problem-solving courts in Michigan are steps in the right direction but I believe we can and should do more. Most people who have criminal records are not bad people – they just made bad choices. What good do we do when we saddle a young person with a criminal record for a minor offense and they become unemployable? A criminal conviction slams a lot of doors in the face of a lot of people. When a person cannot see a light and only ever hears ‘no’ then they get desperate. Desperate people do desperate things including more criminal behavior and more criminal behavior equals more crime victims.
At the end of the day we are still warehousing people in jail and prison because we don’t ask why those people are in jail or prison to begin with. Sometimes the first time someone gets connected with proper physical and mental healthcare is when they enter the criminal justice system. We have to do something with that. Most inmates will eventually get out of jail or prison. The convicted do not go away forever – most of them will eventually be back in our communities and we need to figure out how we are going to keep them from further criminal behavior once they are free.
We cannot continue to think that incarceration is the way to prevent criminal behavior. We must punish bad behavior but then we must also make attempts to rehabilitate. If we continue as we have in the past – just putting people in jail or prison and leaving the problem of their release for another day or generation – we will merely be warehousing the problem instead of solving the problem.