Creative spark needed

Published 5:13 am Wednesday, July 5, 2006

By By Kerry Whipple-Bean
John Tyson said he wants Montgomery officials to get creative when it comes to law enforcement and crime prevention.
"We're in good shape across the state as far as prosecution teams are concerned," the attorney general nominee told fellow Democrats in Escambia County Thursday. "But every jail is full. We need someone in Montgomery who is going to do a little outside-the-box thinking."
Tyson faces incumbent Republican Troy King in the November general election.
Tyson said one of the state's greatest problems is prison overcrowding – and he said it can best be solved by slowing the flow of prisoners into the system, not by releasing them earlier.
The Mobile County district attorney said he wants to spread programs similar to the ones he initiated in Mobile statewide.
Tyson advocates a multidisciplinary approach – involving law enforcement, court officials and Department of Human Resources officials – to try to curb youth crime.
Mobile's Healthy Families Initiative, which uses that team approach to reach out to students who have been suspended from school for criminal reasons, has had an 82 percent success rate.
If not for the intervention program, Tyson said, about 45 percent of the students suspended would likely go on to greater criminal activity.
The multidisciplinary approach of Health Families could be used inside the system as well, Tyson said.
"(These programs) can dramatically slow the flow pf people into our prisons," he said. "The only thing being talked about in Montgomery is a second pardon and parole board to get them out quicker."
Mobile County also introduced the "Secret Safe Place for Babies" program in 1998, which allows mothers to give up their babies at hospitals, no questions asked, in an effort to prevent infant murders.
The program was inspired by TV reporter Jodi Brooks, who convinced Tyson and other local leaders not to prosecute the mothers in such situations.
Tyson said 12 babies have been abandoned in that way since the program began.
Similar programs are now in place in 48 states.
"I can't promise if you vote for me for attorney general everything's suddenly going to be better," Tyson said, but he pledged if elected his office would help support local crime-fighting and crime prevention efforts.

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