Editorial Roundup: Tennessee

Johnson City Press. May 25, 2022.

Editorial: Buckle up and drive safely this long weekend

Friday marks the start of the travel period for this long Memorial Day weekend. Law enforcement officials want to remind you to buckle up before leaving your driveway.

Putting on your seat belt is something drivers and passengers should do whenever they are in a moving vehicle. We remind motorists who routinely violate the state’s seat belt and other highway laws that failing to obey the rules of the road could earn you a ticket.

Federal highway safety officials also say men account for more than half of Americans killed each year. Statistics show young men driving or riding in trucks are the least likely to wear safety belts regularly, which is extremely dangerous since pickups are twice as likely to roll over in a crash.

Over the years, Tennessee has used an aggressive public awareness campaign to reverse those numbers. The “Click It or Ticket” campaign involves checkpoints, patrols and public service announcements to help enforce seat belt laws. Clearly, drivers and passengers in pickup trucks should pay particularly close attention to these admonishments.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies will also be on the lookout this long holiday weekend for drunken drivers.

Driving while intoxicated has many consequences that not only include arrest, court fees and jail time, but serious injury or death — not only for the drunken driver, but for anyone who has the misfortune of meeting him on the highway.

If you are hosting a Memorial Day cookout or picnic that includes alcohol, be sure to offer guests plenty of water and other non-alcoholic beverages, as well as snacks and appetizers.

A good host is watchful of how much alcohol a guest has consumed, and is mindful to cut them off an hour before the party ends.

A good host also knows when to take the keys away from a guest who has had too much to drink.

___

Kingsport Times News. May 25, 2022.

Editorial: Sullivan should let inmates do time on their own dime

Forty-three states allow inmates to be charged “room and board” — the cost of their own imprisonment. Thirty-five states charge inmates for at least some medical expenses. Taken together, 49 states — Tennessee included — authorize at least one of the two.

Sullivan County, let us hope, is about to take advantage of that law so that those, who by their actions put themselves in the county jail, do their time on their own dime. That should not be the case for those awaiting trial who are innocent until proven guilty.

Coming before the Sullivan County Commission in June is a resolution that would bill inmates in the county jail $35 per day for the duration of their incarceration. Commissioner Hershel Glover, primary sponsor, and co-sponsor Commissioner Dwight King introduced the resolution on first reading in April. It reads, in part, “It is in the best interest of Sullivan County to establish a plan to charge inmates for their stay at a rate of $35 per day and pay charges commensurate with appropriate medical costs, dental procedures, eyeglasses, laboratory tests, elective education programs, vocational education programs, and meals” while in the county jail longer than 24 hours.

Elsewhere in its text, the proposal is touted as a way of discouraging people from “seeking incarceration” in order to stick taxpayers with covering the cost of their upkeep and medical bills. It also would allow inmates to work on community service projects to work off their pay-to-stay bills at a rate equal to the federal minimum wage.

Money collected from the program would be deposited in the county’s general fund, with 90% dedicated to paying the county bond debt for the new $96 million jail that’s under construction. Another 6% would be appropriated for pay raises for jail employees, and the final 4% would be dedicated to maintenance of jail facilities.

Those opposed to so-called pay-to-stay say the practice is being “enforced unfairly by using criminal, civil and administrative law,” according to a Rutgers study.

Those laws include civil means such as lawsuits and wage garnishment, seizing employment pensions, tax refunds and public benefits, the same tools used to collect any unpaid debt.

“Every state in the U.S., except Hawaii, charges pay-to-stay fees,” said the study. “These fees and civil recoupment strategies force us to question the purpose and morality of criminal justice.”

That may be true for the author of the study, but we’re not similarly troubled by telling a convict who’s being released, “You’ve served your time, here’s the bill.”

The cost to society of locking up and caring for those who do not function as per society’s rules is becoming an increasingly heavy burden, particularly for medical care, on taxpayers.

It seems to us that leaving a jail with a debt is a pretty good incentive not to return to it.

END