Left Justified: I’m on my way to Cuba

I should be in Cuba now, unless the interrogator at the Miami International Airport thought I was trying to sneak in to have a good time and spend some American currency on the Varadaro Beach. Our fearless president has tightened the screws on that poor little Caribbean isle. So some of the more liberal Christian leaders (yes, there are such people) have organized a tour. They (we) will stand with the Cuban churches, who think the best way to open Cuba is by trade. The Castro regime only grows stronger as the U.S. grows meaner.

And, as a good Christian I feel guilty leaving Rockford just now for balmier skies. So I’d like you to help solve some problems while I am gone:

The jail is the biggest problem

Our Winnebago County jail is the greatest challenge that we face in the coming year. We have to build a facility that is humane but will be a deterrent to crime. It’s a great challenge—and it could be a great boondoggle for area politicians and contractors.

The challenge will be to build a facility large enough to meet the county’s legitimate needs but not so large as to waste those precious tax dollars. And that’s the bright side. The funding is already in place. The voters approved through tax referendum monies that are already being collected.

But now the fight is between programs and cement: whether there will be adequate programs to help keep people out of jail versus pouring more cement and steel to house more and more people with little regard for their welfare or the community’s protection. I’m glad to see that the community has gotten involved. People actively debated what the structure will look like and its placement downtown.

The churches whom I work for through Rockford Urban Ministries are hosting a special program at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 22 at Centennial United Methodist Church, 219 S. Second St. The topic will be “What Are Those Jail Programs?”

Two guest speakers will address the issue. Frank Ware, director of Janet Wattles and the chairman of the Alternative Program Committee of the Winnebago County jail, will share ideas that may help keep people out of prison. Tom Wartowski, supervisor of the Accelerated Disposition Team from the state’s attorney’s office, will talk about ideas that streamline the court process so that prisoners can get their court hearing faster. Hope you can be there.

Meanwhile, I’ll give my report about Cuba on Monday, Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner in Rockford. Hope to get back home without too many interrogations.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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