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Are you aware of the aging problem of our educational facilities in this
country and in our own community?
Local school officials are struggling with the possibility of combining
campuses to cut down expense of operation as well as maintaining older
I'm not sure of the age of the buildings but many are well past their
The same is true throughout the country. While older buildings are
sometimes very stately, especially on some college campuses, churches,
etc., many were built for now with no thought for later. And it's
expensive to maintain any old building.
Many weren't built to meet today's building standards, even the stately
ones. Their wiring is suspect as well as not having adequate plumbing
and air conditioning and heating.
In the United States, according to a report in U.S. News & World Report
from information on the database from the U.S. Department of Education,
59,000 school buildings are 25 years old or older, 74 percent of school
facilities in our nation.
The number of children attending schools that need extensive repairs is
14 million, acccording to the Associated General Contractors of America.
According to the news magazine, the average length of school in the
United States is 180 days while in Canada it is 186 days, 192 in England
and 243 days in Japan.
There are 1.8 million students who attend year-round schools in the
United States. The number of year-round schools has increased from 408
in 1986 to 2,368 in 1996.
Another interesting tidbit in the magazine
report is that the average amount parents plan to spend per child for
back to school items is $363 with clothing accounting for 52 percent of
One of the most popular back to school items involves "Goosebumps" which
is pretty obvious if you have checked the aisles of back to school items
in any store.
Incidentally, one report has the number of school children in Texas
increasing by almost 8 percent by 2006. On top of that many teachers now
serving students will be retiring before that time. I've forgotten the
exact number but it was big, indicating a need for many new teachers in
the next 10 years.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mac McKinnon is editor and publisher of the Pecos
Enterprise. His column appears every Friday.
Innovative jail system
not used as intended
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The Texas state jail system sounds great in theory. State jails are a
new system designed to impose swift sanctions on property offenders. By
diverting these offenders from traditional state prisons more expensive,
higher security cells are available for violent and habitual criminals.
The new system effectively expands the state's prison capacity and
provides a stiffer alternative to probation. State jails also provide
drug treatment and education. Community service can also be imposed upon
state jail felons so offenders can give something back to the
neighborhoods they have violated.
The State Legislature created the state jail system in 1993, and today
12 of these facilities are open for business across Texas. State jails
are built to house 600 to 2,200 offenders and are designed to operate
for about one- third of the cost of the traditional prisons.
Unfortunately, this state jail theory has had little testing in
There problem is, no one is being sentenced to serve time in a state
jail. State jails already in operation have beds for 18,373 state jail
felons, but only 3,322 inmates are serving time for state jail offenses.
Yes, there are an additional 11,229 inmates being housed in state jails,
but these are inmates from county jails awaiting transfer to state
prison. The purpose of date jails - to punish and rehabilitate the
property offender - is being largely ignored.
Property crime, the crime state jails are designed to address, is big
business in Texas. According to the Department of Public Safety, the
value of stolen property topped $1.2 billion in 1994. A car was stolen
every four minutes. A theft was committed every 50 seconds. Entire
industries have been built upon making it more difficult for burglars
and thieves to make a living. But keeping criminals at bay remains
frustrating. Also frustrating is the knowledge that property offenders
continue to return to the streets after being convicted again and again
for similar crimes.
That's where state jails are supposed to help. Judges have the
authority to place these offenders - now called state jail felons - in
the nearest state jail. State jail felonies include crimes such as
burglary, theft, car theft, and credit card abuse. Probation or prison -
the two extremes - are no longer the only options. In fact, the state
jail legislation provides judges with enormous flexibility. Judges can
even sentence criminals to a stint in a state jail as a condition of
In spite of this newfound flexibility, Texas judges are ignoring this
option. Although there were 105,000 car thefts in 1995, so few offenders
were sentenced to state jail that six new facilities will be opened
later than planned.
The state jail system is a good idea. Offenders can be incarcerated
near the community where they committed the crime. Judges can order a
mix of punishment and rehabilitation tailored toward specific offenders.
Some inmates in the Hutchins State Jail near Dallas, for example, are
building low cost housing in poor neighborhoods. State jails can give
burglars and thieves the chance to go straight without simply returning
them to streets.
State jails are open for business and Texans are paying for them. It is
criminal not to use the system as intended.
-- Richard H. Collins
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Copyright 1996 by Pecos Enterprise
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