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IN THE MAIL: Prison expansion won't help fight crime

FARGO -- What's a little lie -- or a huge lie, when it comes to trying to tarnish someone's political record or instill fear in people who have no way to know the truth of a situation? That is exactly what a writer to newspapers around the state ...

FARGO -- What's a little lie -- or a huge lie, when it comes to trying to tarnish someone's political record or instill fear in people who have no way to know the truth of a situation? That is exactly what a writer to newspapers around the state did when she wrote that I want to free state prisoners ("Mathern opposed key criminal-justice bills," Page A4, July 11).

This person has no idea of what I promote with my votes.

If a person is convicted of a crime with a sentence of imprisonment, that person should go to jail or prison. Period.

That said, there's much more we can do to prevent crime and improve the corrections system, while saving the taxpayers money. And no, my plan does not involve freeing anyone who is sentenced for a crime. It involves using resources wisely so we don't have repeat offenders cycling through the system.

The fact is that 80 percent of the people sitting behind bars are there for crimes related to drug addiction, alcohol addiction, mental health problems or some combination of the three. When many of these prisoners are released, they commit more crimes and end up back in prison at a cost of about $30,000 per prisoner per year.

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We need to do two things. First, we need to treat people with drug, alcohol and mental health problems early -- before any crimes are committed. Second, we need to fund job training, drug and mental health treatment programs within the jails and prisons so people won't return to crime when they are released. I also realize some need to stay in prison.

Gov. John Hoeven's plan for expanding the state prison shows how little he understands why people are in prison and what is needed to reduce the crime rate in our state. My plan reduces crime by investing in the right place up front to save much more money in the long term. All it takes is the necessary leadership.

Tim Mathern

State Sen. Mathern, D-Fargo, is the Democratic candidate for governor of North Dakota.

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