You might be wondering what the new emphasis on crime stories is about. Several readers have asked. Three have UNSUBSCRIBED to The Daily JOLT newsletter -- and griped, too.
[If you read to the bottom of this editorial, I have a gift for you.]
Here’s why we’ve been covering the various and multiple attacks on bus drivers, late-night break-ins, shopliftings, adult-child-on-parent attacks, failed-brake-light stops, home thefts and even a pants-down shoot-up.
These "crime" stories are important.
They are a mirror of what's going on outside of our tidy, clean, warm homes. [Don't worry, we're planning to continue the other work we've done for the past 11 months, reporting on school districts, city and county councils, non-profits, etc., too.]
But there’s a bigger story here. It’s the connection between about two-thirds of these crimes and the situations of those accused of committing them. The situation is generally drug abuse. Alcohol, methamphetamine and heroin, mostly. Sometimes it’s mental illness. Sometimes it’s both – with the a big chunk of the mental illnesses caused by abuse of street drugs.
It’s the other epidemic going on here.
Often the people accused of crimes are experiencing homelessness, too – but not always. Compared with the general (housed) population, homeless people seem to be committing a higher percentage of the various crimes being reported. But these people represent a minority of the approximately 1,000 known homeless people in Thurston County.
Why so many junkies? Why so many homeless people?
The short answer: It’s because the United States, the State of Washington and our cities have, since 1963, systematically dismantled our psychiatric hospitals and long-term care facilities that treated people with mental illnesses and drug problems. The relative number is staggering: Down 94 percent in Washington.
The longer answer? Some answers:
The JOLT’s position – my position – is that the reporting we’re doing isn’t about criminal behavior only. We’re exposing the epidemic of drug addiction and mental illness among more than two thirds of these accused people.
Our communities offer too few places for people to get help. The jails and prisons are poor substitutes for mental hospitals, assisted living homes, group homes, therapy and recovery services. We are ALL victims of the upside down structure of our social services programs.
If I were to simply publish the paragraph above, it would get ignored. By publishing dozens of stories that share some common elements, maybe we can have an impact on the way our legislators and city governments decide to spend our money.
Don’t believe it? Don’t take my word for it.
Here’s that gift I promised:
“The Invisible Asylum” is a story that explains this more fully. First published a month ago by City Journal, a national publication that calls itself “the nation’s premier urban-policy magazine,” it’s a profile of one small west-coast city – OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON.
In “The Invisible Asylum” you’ll likely recognize some of the names, if not of Olympia Police officers mentioned but the hospitals in our area. This is no abstract essay. It’s not an opinion piece, either.
“The Invisible Asylum” is a gift to our cities, our neighborhoods. Will we accept it? Will you read it?
Danny Stusser is publisher of The Journal of Olympia, Lacey & Tumwater