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KATIE ZERR: How many second chances are too many?

Is it time to again get tough on those who continually abuse their legal “second chances” and leave victims of their crimes in their wake?
Mobridge Police officers deal with substance abuse situations where children are involved sometimes several times a week. The department works hand-in-hand with the Department of Social Services to remove children from dangerous situations in order to keep them safe.
These officials also work with the legal system to help those who want and appreciate the help in gaining back custody of their children. There are multiple programs that aid individuals in their battle against substance abuse and help to reunite families.
Many have followed the rules of these programs, learned from their previous mistakes and gone on to create solid family situations. Other have not. One only has to read the names in the court news to realize there are individuals here that don’t learn from their mistakes, who are constantly involved in illegal activity in the community and leave more victims of their disregard of law as they enjoy their multiple chances to straighten out their lives.
When will we say enough is enough?
We have tried going easy on certain individuals under legislation passed on the state level. Because of changes in laws under the Criminal Justice Initiative, some offenders who abuse controlled substances have avoided prison time. These individuals have been allowed work within a system that helps them straighten out their lives.
There are multiple success stories of people who otherwise might have never learned their lesson, who have come out on the other side a better person, a better parent and better citizen of our state.
Then there are those no matter how many chances they get to take advantage of these programs, continue to abuse, disregard the law, and perpetrate crime in our communities. Just this week there were several examples of individuals that have had multiple chances to take advantage of the system and change their lives but have not, and were again arrested by Mobridge Police.
And again, there are children involved. Some will be impacted by these crimes for the rest of their lives.
Recently Mobridge Police removed children from a situation in which the mother has been the subject of multiple calls and contacts with police. Controlled substances are the culprit with this individual.
These are not anomalies in our community but are examples of regular happenings here.
Another individual, arrested on a felony, has had many run-ins with the law over a 15-year period. Not just a dozen or so, but nearly 80 calls where this individual was either involved or was arrested for breaking the law.
Granted, many of these arrests were for misdemeanor charges, but there are others that resulted in this individual being charged with felonies. Not just once or twice, but multiple times. Yet, that individual continued to take advantage of the breaks received through the legal system.
Failing to learn a lesson or grasping the concept of life without substance abuse would be a better life, this individual created more victims
Recently there was a death in Mobridge. Substance abuse is suspected of taking a life of a young woman. This is not the first time abuse of alcohol or illegal substances has played a role in the death of a resident. There is a history of this in Mobridge.
The emergence of meth use in this area is alarming. Several individuals have been arrested driving under the influence of illegal substances other than alcohol.
We have dodged the bullet of these individuals causing an accident that resulted in multiple deaths.
But for how long?
We need to let our legislators and law enforcement officials know that we are growing tired of the same individuals in our communities victimizing our residents and our children without having to pay a price.
We need to take a stand before any more children are harmed because these individuals refuse to comply with the rules set by the court that allows them to avoid prison sentences for their crimes.
If previous records, unless the person has been sentenced on a felony, are not taken into consideration during sentencing, how can prosecutors use that record to show a continual pattern of disregard for the law? One would think if a judge saw the same individual in his courtroom more than 20 times, he would recognize the pattern.
An individual who gets continual chances to plead down from felonies to misdemeanors, avoids the record of being charged and sentenced for those felonies. That does not necessarily mean they didn’t commit a felony.
In order to cause change, one must voice their displeasure with the status quo.
It is time the residents realized what is happening. It is time to let those in charge know we are tired of people, especially children, becoming victims of repeat offenders who have received multiple breaks under the law.
There are no breaks for children who must live with the results of another “second chance.”
– Katie Zerr –