The projected closing of the Naselle Youth Camp is indeed a crisis, not only for its employees' but also for all of us in Pacific County and our entire state. Like the first sign of a visible skin discoloration, it suggests a far more serious unseen situation yet undisclosed to the eye. A hollowness within, unpleasant to contemplate. Just as with the human body, ignoring warning signs within a society can have disastrous affects. We're paying that price now for years of ignoring those symptoms nationally and locally.

Now that the crisis is recognized in the rush to cut here, cut there and bail out certain industries, we must exercise extreme caution. Band-aids are but a temporary fix to an arterial bleed and don't truly address the problem.

I watched the governor's proposed budget like a hawk and was encouraged by what law enforcement areas were supported. Continued state funding supporting locally tracking sex offenders and the rural drug task forces were greatly appreciated. The disturbing part was realizing that inmate sentences and corrections were being cut to balance a budget.

Money, not concepts of effectiveness, currently drives the system. Concentration on what's the best way to solve the problem, including starting from scratch with realigned priorities is critical at this moment in time.

Our corrections system, just like credit, banking and the auto industries, is in shambles. The state tries to keep offenders and their costs local and the locals push just as hard the other way. Throw in the legislature and sentencing guidelines committee and the last thing that usually happens is accountability for your actions.

Our nation, states and local cities and counties are facing a gut check in the next few years. We can continue to let the system deteriorate, accept the dole; continue to look the other way while our way of life erodes. It's very frustrating to work within a failed system. I keep hoping that enough citizens will open their eyes and take a stand for what America once was - a country where success was earned through hard work, not taking advantage of others.

We, if all of us that care about decency and common sense, will make a stand, can still alter our course. It's not complicated, it's very similar to raising a family. If you break a rule, you're punished, immediately. It's a matter of priorities. If raising good kids is important to you, you make sacrifices. If having a safer society is important to you, you make priorities on what you're willing to sacrifice.

The proposed closing of our Naselle Youth Camp will save money. It will also take away a medium level of consequence (the camp houses medium level juvenile offenders) and house all levels of offenders in the remaining camps. Maybe what we should be thinking about is a way to combine local and state correctional systems under one agency, adult and juvenile, and fund it adequately. Offer immediate consequences for illegal behavior the first time it's tried and programs on the front end, not after adult release from prison, to change behavior. It should be a graduated system that rewards good behavior and punishes bad by isolation from potential victims - us. It may sound cruel and uncaring however there are people who habitually prey on others irregardless of the rehabilitation offered them that deserve to be in prison. It's their choice, dictated by their actions.

We need to base our decisions in the next few years on a focus of what kind of life we want for our kids. First of all, we need to make sure that they'll be safe. Closing the Naselle Youth Camp is a misguided step the wrong way from that goal.

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