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In Our Opinion
May 20, 2004 12:00 am
The travails and suffering of former Wilson County Jail inmate Paul Armes should chill the average citizen to the bone.
Armes was stopped for DUI on April 30, 2002, after being spotted in traffic by a Wilson County Sheriffs deputy. He was arrested by the Mt. Juliet Police and booked in the county jail.
There, federal authorities claim, Armes was beaten until bones in his face were broken, requiring a steel plate in his head.
Driving under the influence is one of our society's most problematic crimes. It is a selfish offense and a selfish act. Our society is replete with repeat DUI offenders and their victims.
Armes was allegedly driving under the influence. He should have been put in the jail.
However, according to the federal government investigating the Wilson County Jail, Armes was beaten by the very people at the Wilson County Sheriffs Department that we as taxpayers pay to serve and protect our community.
Certainly, jailers have possibly the least appreciated job in our society. They handle the members of our communities no citizen wants to come into contact with under any circumstance. What's more, they manage the lives of criminals for very little pay and long hours.
Jail is not suppose to be a pleasant place. Imagine going there voluntarily each day to earn a living.
Yet, jails and the conduct of their employees are part of what give our governments the moral standing in addition to legal authority to uphold the law.
Jailing a citizen means depriving them at least partially of his or her rights. It means restricting a person's right to free association and movement. It means denying a person the very pursuit of happiness.
If laws are broken by authority figures in the process of denying the accused and convicted of his or her rights, then all is lost in our society. If those helping to enforce the law become no better than those they protect society from, then the essential morality inherent to a community ruled by laws is lost.
Many in reading our newspaper's coverage of the 15-month U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation into the county jail will simply dismiss the probe as coddling criminals.
Many will turn away from what the DOJ alleges has taken place on our taxpayer dime as another example of a society bent on creating more victims and taking less responsibility.
The only problem with that approach is that there is no law that meets out beatings for driving under the influence. Paul Armes was someone's son. He possibly was someone's father or grandfather. Many in our community have someone in their lives who has or will end up on the wrong side of the law.
We must ask ourselves, are we our brother's keeper?
As a community, we must come to accept responsibility for the cases like that of Paul Armes. We fund this facility. We must demand at all costs that this kind of offense never happens again.