Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Last night I had a situation that I found to be quite disappointing. Just after seven o’clock in the evening, I thought I would have dinner at a restaurant on the other side of town and drove over there to dine out. Along the way, I needed to merge onto a major interstate freeway in the metro area having four lanes and busy traffic. As I drove along in the outside lane, it was after dark at the time, I saw a man walking along the hard shoulder of the roadway. I worried that a drunk might veer off the travelled portion and hit him so I pulled over to offer him a ride. Thus began a conversation that really shows how we can often allow people to be put at risk because the county does not want to offer them a modicum of accommodation.
After I picked him up, the gentleman walking around the roadway told me that he had just been released from the county jail after serving time for driving while license suspended. He did not have someone to pick him up from jail so he had no other option but to walk back home. He lived twenty five miles from the jail. The only way he could get home, since he had no money with him, was to walk along a busy interstate freeway.
We previously wrote about the virtual debt peonage and endless circle of jail and further increases of fines with suspended drivers in an article HERE.
It would have taken him until after six in the morning to walk that far. So rather than drive him to the next exit to find another ride I just drove him home.
He was 57 years old, unemployed and had no family available to drive him. He had no other choice than to walk. I asked him if the jail offered him a bus ticket or some other accommodation to allow him to return home after release. He said the jail used to give bus tickets to people in his situation but stopped doing that several years ago.
We had a good visit with each other, but the entire time we were together I could not help but wonder why the county has a system as such that a person of little means is forced to walk twenty five miles home because no effort was made to arrange for his journey. The risk this man faced from being hit by a drunk driver, stopped by the state patrol for being a pedestrian on a limited access freeway, or simply collapsing from exhaustion is certainly not something that we should accept nor something a person released from custody should endure.
I recognize that the sheriff’s office is not a taxi service and has no obligation to provide transport for released inmates after their term has expired, but couldn’t the county at least take a few more steps to ensure that someone can either pick up the inmate or try to prevent a situation where a fifty seven year old does not have to walk twenty five miles to get home?
Is this too much to ask?
By Darren Smith
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