Thursday’s roundtable with local leaders would have been a valuable opportunity for Gov. Mike Parson to hear diverse perspectives about violent crime in Columbia.
The violent crime that was the topic of discussion occurs in identifiable parts of Columbia. However, people who live in those areas and want to talk about the needs of their communities did not have the chance to share their ideas.
In short, more people should have been at the table with the governor.
Educators, mental health providers, faith leaders and citizens from within the communities most impacted by violent crime would have enriched the meeting and the governor’s understanding of the complex issues facing Columbia.
These stakeholders could have discussed the experience of living day-after-day and year-after-year in the communities the roundtable was discussing.
They could have talked about schools, housing and access to medical and mental health treatment. Perhaps they could have shared crime victims’ trauma or the despair when a loved one is charged with a violent crime.
Violent crime is the manifestation of a web of issues that impact diverse people and communities in different ways. Crafting meaningful solutions requires examining these issues from inclusive perspectives.
The governor is heading in to a special legislative session to address violent crime across the state. Approaching the problem from a “tough on crime” perspective has been the model for the last 40 years at great psychological, economic, social and human cost and little to no gain.
The U.S. currently has over 2 million people in prisons and jails, 500% growth in the prison/jail population since the 1980s.
Making room for diverse voices and different approaches would allow us to foster positive and effective change.
Sarah Aplin is district defender with the Missouri State Public Defender’s Columbia Trial Office.