Prisoners Are People Too

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EDITOR'S NOTE: A copy of the following letter was submitted to the Cannon Courier for publication.

Billy Nichols, Sheriff
Cannon County Jail
Woodbury TN 37190


As you can see, I am addressing this to you as a person not necessarily as the Sheriff. I have worked in public service for 27 years, I do not consider myself an expert on human nature, but I do have a lot of experience in dealing with people when they are at a crisis point in their life. Therefore, I feel comfortable writing you this note commending you and your staff on the handling of ‘people’.

At the Good Old Days, I was very impressed with the mannerisms, caring attitude and willingness to assist that your volunteers provided to the public. I, like you, have observed a lot of people through my job, what were good people, in desperate situations, making the wrong decisions. I admit, it took me a few years of working with the public, and some aging, to learn the lesson of not to judge immediately when becoming involved with a situation and with people.

These young men were absolutely superb. The gentleman at the gate would no less than insist the senior citizens wait for an escort to help them carry their chairs to a shady spot around the stage. Our booth workers, as well as all booths, were checked on at least three times a day to see if anyone needed anything. The young men you provided were irreplaceable at setting up tents, unloading merchandise, helping with lights, etc.

I caught Anna at the fairgrounds and told her how proud you all should be of these young men. They were not just doing a job, they had been given the opportunity to be a part of something, get involved and unknowingly be reminded of the manners that were instilled in them when they were young. I don’t have to tell you Billy, as it apparent you know, sometimes it is a simple project such as this that wakes up a person, reminding them to get their life back on track.

I realize some people we come in contact with cannot be helped, as they will not help themselves. I know you come in contact with individuals who are dangerous. With that said, I want to commend you for not only remembering you are not just a Sheriff but a person; and more so for taking the time to acknowledge that there are individuals you oversee in your jail are not just prisoners, but people.

Cindy Haley
P O Box 414
Woodbury TN 37190
May 21, 2010
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May 25, 2010 at 1:10pm

At what point do we teach lessons to individuals who make the wrong choices? Do we consider everyone who has made wrong choices good people who will change their ways? When do we decide enough is enough? I'll give you a definition of prison. Prison is a place in which people are physically confined and deprived of a range of personal freedoms. If we choose not to deprive them of personal freedoms, then there is no incentive to avoid making the wrong decisions. Also, when the general public witnesses the freedom and lax of correction among prisoners, it not only scares them, it gives individuals an open door to commit crime. I totally agree that prisoners should be allowed to be productive and work, however, this should not grant them full freedom to do as they wish. The judicial system has become more and more lax as the years pass, and crime is at an ever increasing rate. There are many mistakes being made, not only by criminals. These mistakes are also being made by law enforcement and the judicial system. I find it difficult to give Sheriff Nichols credit where I feel it is not due. Our Sheriff is elected to protect and serve. Protecting should mean prosecuting criminals and preventing crime. Serving should mean being there for citizens when needed. I have not witnessed Sheriff Nichols readily available to the public, nor have I seen the crime rate improve. In fact, the crime rate has increased by a substantial amount in the county. This tells me that tactics must be changed. The same status-quo that you seem to be pleased with isn't working as far as criminal prosecution and crime prevention. Also, the Sheriff is expected to employ people who are respectable people. You fail to understand that the public is quick to judge and scrutinize the department and its activities due to the caliber of officers Nichols employs. If the officers Nichols employs are not respected due to their actions, then we see these types of problems. As it has been said before, the department has an image problem. It is difficult for the public to see any good out of what they do because the bad always overshadows. Sheriff Nichols has not addressed with the public the internal problems of his department and how he is correcting them. This leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

May 25, 2010 at 1:12pm
I agree with Cindy in that all the "volunteers" were nice, friendly and courteous. Too often on other venues, that are nothing short of the National Enquirer, people spend all of their time bashing people and not recognizing that people make mistakes and should have a second chance in life.

I appluade Billy Nichols for continuing a policy of allowing the inmates to help with the Cannon County Good Ole Days that has been going on for several years under previous CCSO administrations. I find it a shameful act that too many people want to bash, complain and turn it in to a political statement just to satisfy their need to try and further an opponents agenda.

I guess I am a believer in "Ye who are without sin, cast the first stone". I hope Billy continues to take the high road and let the trash wind up in the dump where it belongs.
May 26, 2010 at 9:42pm
Rich - I am sure there are unanswered concerns in this administration as there are in every administration. My letter is not a political statement or taking one side or the other. My purpose is to address the positive that came from the volunteer work program and to simply imply, when appropriate, it is good to see people who may have made bad choices having opportunity to do good.

One of the local news channels recently had a story on some inmates who volunteered to help those in a flood area. The story noted that prisoners who were not trustworthy of being out in public were given a job inside the jail area of filling sandbags and those who were of a status that could be allowed out in the public to help were sent into the community. I commend that administration as well for allowing inmates to give back. I look at it as the same type situation.

I respect your concerns and point of view and think you offer some food for thought.

Cindy Haley
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