Catch and release – repeat offenders and the criminal justice system

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SOUTHWEST MISSOURI — Catch and release–when you hear that you more than likely think about fishing.

Well for law enforcement agencies in the Four States and across the United States, they think about the people they keep arresting and sending to jail over and over again.

I sat down with a former repeat offender to figure out why committing a crime isn’t a big deal to these career criminals.

Doug Clark, Former Repeat Offender, said, “Ex convict, drug addict, ex drug dealer.”

Doug Clark started down a dark road 20 years ago.

“I graduated in May of 2000, I got busted with 3 pounds of weed in June.”

He continued down that road for 15 years.

“The money, the power, the lifestyle kind of thing.”

Getting arrested for drug crimes, stealing and theft.

“I would get caught, go to jail for a little while, anywhere from 3 to 8 months and I would get out, and get on some kind of plea case or some drug court and I would do good for a little bit and I couldn’t experience any kind of long-term successful.”

Sheriff Chris Jennings Newton County, said, “It’s not scary to these people that are committing crimes, length of time is the only thing they’re concerned with, it’s not the going to prison, it’s the how long they have to be there.”

Law enforcement agencies everywhere are working to get rid of crime in their cities.

“A lot of people don’t realize how long someone who’s sentenced to prison actually stays.”

But they say the system is almost working against them.

“Average is one to three months for every year they’re sentenced, we recently had a man who was sentenced to seven years, he served nine months, and within a week of being out, we’ve got him back in jail for robbery.”

“It’s just time, you do the time and you get out, all your demons are still goin to be waiting on you and all of your friends are still goin to be doing the same things,” said Clark.

“This is a nationwide problem, I’m not saying this is the states fault, or probation/parole’s fault, It’s a nationwide problem, there’s never enough money, never enough people, I’m just saying, I don’t think letting them out early is solving anything,” said Jennings.

Which proved to be true for Clark.

“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever done,” said Clark.

His lowest point.

“It was embarrassing, I was ashamed of the person I’d become, all of it stems from, I just needed to get high.”

Was robbing his grandparents friends house–and getting caught.

“You know that ring that you stole, that was their grandma’s and you couldn’t put a value on it and you traded it for $50 dollars of drugs, ‘But that never stopped you?’ No, that never stopped me.”

For Clark, it took wanting to see his son, wanting out of the cycle, a heart change.

“You can take a coyote and you can put it in a cage, feed it and water it every day and give it treats and pet it, and give it treats, and all kinds of things but you let it go a year later, it’s still going to go out and kill stuff, because it’s a coyote that’s what they do, because you can’t change it’s heart, and when that heart changes, that’s when the outside changes.

Clark now works at Teen Challenge of the Four States.

The same agency that ended his cycle, that changed his heart.

“In one word how would describe the life you’re living now, it’s amazing, unbelievable, I mean I don’t know, I’m blown away, Never go back?, Oh never!”

Clark went to drug court and got caught with meth in his pocket, the officer who arrested him took him to jail and told him he’d sit there until he got tired of looking at him.

That’s when Clark realized the life he was living and knew it was time to change.

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