David L. Smoot: Inmate death raises questions

December 13, 2013 

We all should be distressed to hear the details of a violent encounter that led to the death of an inmate in our county jail (“Wake jailer found guilty of inmate’s death,” Dec. 13 news article).

We should recognize our own responsibility as a society. Why is it that a man with drug- and alcohol-related offenses is in a jail cell rather than in a drug and alcohol treatment center? Why does a man living on the street or in shelters have an easier time getting a roof over his head in jail than he does being able to find affordable housing? Why are individuals with serious mental illness more likely to be incarcerated than to be treated in appropriate psychiatric facilities? Why do so few of our Raleigh police officers and correction officers receive Crisis Intervention Training?

We have to realize that mental health and substance abuse problems require professional treatment, not incarceration. We have to realize that people without homes and jobs want to work but often lack education and skills that would help them sustain jobs. Unless we recognize our responsibility as a society and adopt cost-effective solutions, we will see future tragedies like the Shon McClain case.

David L. Smoot

Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness


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