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Education cure for reducing court dockets

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From Post staff reports

Judge David Durham told members of the Lebanon Morning Rotary yesterday that although our court system in the U.S. is the “best in the world” it still has its problems.

Durham, who was appointed Criminal Court Judge for the 15th Judicial District just over a year ago replacing the late Judge J.O. Bond, said overcrowded dockets are responsible for many of the issues that impact the judicial system.

He said there were more than 4,600 filings in the criminal court circuit he travels last year which includes Wilson, Macon, Trousdale, Jackson and Smith counties. In Wilson County alone there were more than 2,800 filings.

He emphasized that the case load translates into a need for plea bargaining because without plea bargaining the system would come to a “screeching halt.”

He noted that it would be unreasonable to expect a jury trial to be provided for every defendant.

In his court Thursday Durham said there are 74 cases on the docket. He said he had already advised attorneys to plan on staying late and if necessary to be prepared to order pizza for supper in the courtroom.

As the criminal court docket grows, he explained the prison system also becomes overcrowded and there has to be determinations made on what prisoners may be released on parole.

“If I send 10 down there (the state prison) today and Metro sends 50, and Memphis sends 300, that means some are going to have to be freed in order to make room for those coming in.”

Durham said the answer he believes to finding relief for the overcrowding issues is “education.”

“We can’t build ourselves out of the problem,” he said referring to an option of building additional prison space.

He said he could remember an aggressive school program to make high school students aware of the dangers related to tobacco. The program, he said, served to educate students about tobacco products and effects and damage to one’s health they may cause. As a result, he said the use of tobacco products by teens has dropped substantially. He said the same has been true with an awareness campaign against the use of illicit drugs.

“The severity of punishment does not deter crime,” Durham said, adding that criminals don’t think about the punishment when they commit an offense.

In order to reverse the process and reduce the volume of crimes being committed there is going to have to be a greater reliance on education, he said.

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