This Saturday morning, September 26, 2020, starting at 11 a.m., the City of Hallsville will hold an event designed to be a fundraiser for the Hallsville Police Department Foundation. The method chosen for the fundraiser is to put several candidates for office—for state representative and for county commissioner—into a mock jail until they raise enough money to “bail” themselves out.
While it is hoped that the day’s event provides much needed funding for the Foundation, the event actually highlights TWO aspects of the criminal justice system for which lack of resources is hugely problematic. The first is the cash bail system and the second is law enforcement itself.
For the fortunate many, the cash bail system is not a personal experience and usually is something only read or heard about—in the news, on a tv program, in a movie. But, for those brought to a county jail upon arrest, the question of bail is of primary importance since, if you can’t pay, you will stay in jail.
The event in Hallsville demonstrates this problem in stark relief. In advance of the event, I asked how much the Foundation hoped to raise from each candidate—the “bail.” I had the resources available and also recognized the Foundation’s needs, so I wrote a private check for $500. But, in the “real world,” what happens to those who lack those resources? What happens to those who have them? The difference is part of the problem.
For many people, it may seem logical and right that if a person is arrested because law enforcement believes that person has violated some statute, that person will be detained in the county jail. But, think about it: Susie and Joey both engage in the same conduct. They are arrested and taken to the county jail. Susie (or maybe Susie’s parents) has the ability to pay. Joey and Joey’s parents do not. Susie goes home pending resolution of her case. Joey sits in jail. As Joey sits in jail, he may lose his job; he and his family may lose their home; if he is in jail longer than 30 days, any federal benefits to which he is entitled, including Veteran’s and SNAP benefits, are suspended. And, remember, Susie and Joey are only detained—the constitutional presumption of innocence still applies to them both. Yet, because of Joey’s lack of financial resources, his situation is much worse than Susie’s.
It was in part because of that disparity that here in Boone County, a group of dedicated people created a Community Bail Fund project. Modeled on efforts begun and having success in other parts of the country, this group provides bail funding for individuals who, like Joey, simply lack the ability to pay.
Much work and discussion is ongoing in Boone County about when and why people should be detained in jail and when alternatives to detention should be considered. For many years, we have been leaders in the state through our use of Adult Court Services, which is intended to investigate and help the court determine that very question. A risk assessment—considering essentially whether the individual poses a risk of harm to the community and whether the individual is likely to show up for court—is done to help the court in making that decision.
Across the country, as well as locally, we are seeing the intersection of these two, interrelated aspects of the detention question. Judges, lawyers, community members and other policy makers are considering where and if a cash bail system is necessary, appropriate and philosophically sound. If the risk assessment process gives judges a data-driven basis for decisions on alternatives to detention, why then, some ask, is cash bail part of the discussion since, by and large, it doesn’t impact either risk of harm or risk of non-appearance. Others note that, in jurisdictions that have abolished the cash bail system, individuals are spending more and more days in jail. The conversation continues, as it should. And, the Hallsville event gives us the opportunity to add to that conversation.
The second issue highlighted by the Hallsville event, and the more readily apparent, is the lack of funding for law enforcement. This is an issue affecting practically every law enforcement agency in the country.
We count on these dedicated men and women to protect us—to serve and defend. We expect them to be available 24/7 every day of the year. Because we haven’t adequately funded social services FOR DECADES, we require law enforcement (and their brothers and sisters in Fire and EMS) to act as mental health professionals, even asking them to save those who might be attempting suicide. Yet, we fail them miserably when it comes to providing them adequate resources. And, I’m not just talking about guns. I’m talking about getting them ALL of the resources they need to do the tasks we pile on their collective plates.
If, for example, we will continue to ask that they respond alone to those in mental health crisis, we must give them access to Crisis Intervention Team training, a 40 hour interactive course that provides them with at least a modicum of skills to de-escalate confrontations and connect individuals with appropriate resources. Access to CIT training doesn’t just mean funding for the training. It means ensuring that, in a one, or two or three-person office, they have the personnel required to allow each member of that office to be out of the rotation for that week-long training.
We MUST support law enforcement. We MUST give them the tools, including training, that will allow them to make the best decisions, that will allow them to protect and defend.
We called her "The Notorious RBG." Despite the public, widespread knowledge that she had metastatic pancreatic cancer, I suspect that we hoped she was, in fact, "The Invincible RBG," that her body wouldn't fail her––or us. But, on September 18, 2020, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, despite our hopes, what we knew would happen some day, and what her family had been preparing for, it happened.
Justice Ginsburg, while tiny in physical stature, was a force to be reckoned with––as a student, as a professor, as a jurist. Her work, with its well-known focus on equality issues, especially involving gender equality, helped to change the way in which we view and address those issues. The depth and breadth of her work is too important to try to glibly gloss over it with a few sentences. Instead, I'd like to focus on the answer Justice Ginsburg gave when asked how many women on the Supreme Court would be enough. She famously responded, "when there are nine."
That, to me, is the essence of Justice Ginsburg's work. Think back just a few years. Until 1981 (the year I entered law school), when Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court, only men had ever served on the Court. Until 1967, when Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court, no person of color had ever served on the Court. Now, only one person of color is currently sitting Supreme Court Justice, and, until this weekend, the most women to serve at the same time has been three.
"When there are nine" means that, for Justice Ginsburg's work to reach fruition, to be complete, we will find it normal, not odd, not unusual…
• for all members of the Board of Directors of a major corporation to be people of color
• for all members of the MU Board of Curators to be women
• for leadership in corporate America and local, state and national government to truly reflect the makeup––race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability and disability status––of the people.
At that point, the work of Justice Ginsburg, and the promise of those first words of the United States Constitution, "We, the People," will be fulfilled. Then, every person will be judged and rewarded, not based on the color of her skin, her gender, or any other factor, but rather on the content of her character.
It is fitting that, if we must lose Justice Ginsburg, she leaves us as Rosh Hashanah began since it is said that a person who dies on the eve of or during Rosh Hashanah is a "tzaddik," a person of great righteousness.
Farewell and shalom, Justice Ginsburg.
This week I had a birthday. Like Karen Miller, my former colleague on the County Commission (who so generously asked her Facebook friends for birthday contributions to my campaign), I love to cook and to bake! So, to celebrate my birthday week, I’d like to share two of my favorite recipes as a thank you in advance for considering a contribution to my re-election campaign for Northern District Commissioner.
A successful baking product is virtually guaranteed, even for the culinarily challenged. Don’t count the calories and ignore the carbs, at least for the time it takes to enjoy. Then, get outside and walk, or run, or bike, or just sit and count your blessings!!
Birthdays are meant to be shared, just like campaigns!
You can donate to my re-election here.
Texas Sheet Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond) extract
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit). In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. In a microwaveable container––I use a 4-cup glass measuring cup––microwave the water, butter and chocolate for two minutes. (I do it in one-minute increments until the chocolate is melted).
Stir after each minute and stir to blend at the end. Add buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla or almond extract to chocolate mixture and stir to blend. The mixture will seem thinner than most cake batter—don’t worry!!
Pour into a greased (or Pammed!) 15x10x1-inch baking pan and bake 18-20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. About half-way through the baking, start on the frosting….
6 tablespoons butter
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
6 tablespoons milk
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond) extract
Microwave the butter, baking chocolate and milk in a microwaveable container for two minutes. (Again, do this in one-minute increments and stir after each minute or until the chocolate is melted.) Add remaining ingredients and stir––I do it by hand––until well-mixed.
Remove cake from oven and, while still warm, pour frosting over the cake, spreading to cover. Let cake cool completely before cutting. You can microwave individual pieces 30 seconds or so to maximize the amazing taste. Serve solo or with ice cream, whipped cream, or with any other addition you desire.
Alternatives: If your audience enjoys nuts, you can add nuts—your choice of variety—to the cake and/or the frosting.
If adding to the cake, distribute on top of the cake once it’s poured into the pan. Toasting the nuts before adding to cake or frosting enhances the nutty flavor.
P.S. We aren’t even talking about calories.
2 cups flour (all purpose)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter—frozen
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg
Sparkling sugar for tops
*Optional: For a sweet scone, add ½ cup raisins or other dried fruit
(blueberries or cherries are awesome). For a savory scone, add ½ cup
grated hard cheese.
Adjust oven rack to a lower-middle position and pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a box or straight grater, and the side with the larger holes, grate the butter into the flour mixture. (This will produce “pea sized” pieces of butter that will spread throughout your dough).
If desired, add dried fruit or grated cheese and blend into the flour mixture. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg together, until smooth. Then add the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture, stirring (or better yet, using your hands to mix) until just blended. Do NOT overmix as this will make your scones tougher.
Divide the dough in half and, on a lightly floured area, form each half into a disk eight to ten inches across. Cut each disk into eight pieces (divide the disk in half and then divide each half in half and then each quarter in half).
Place on a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet about an inch apart. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar, if making sweet scones. Bake until golden brown, about 15-17 minutes. Can be served hot or cool.
We could talk calories, but why?
As an attorney and former Assistant Public Defender, one way in which I believe I can enhance the role of Boone County Commissioner is to bring my experience to bear on our local criminal justice system and to link local government efforts with private and public non-profit entities to yield a far greater impact than any one entity can achieve on its own.
It’s frustrating for citizens—and governmental officials alike—to see what appears to be revolving prison and jail doors, as the same individuals show up again and again within the criminal justice system. Each year, more than 450 prior offenders released from Missouri prisons return to Boone County and, of those, nearly half cycle back into prison within two years. The toll this takes on our community, on taxpayers, on the safety of our citizens—not to mention the impact on the lives of so many family members of repeat offenders—is huge.
But, as Dan Hanneken, Executive Director of Columbia’s In2Action program, likes to say, the old way of thinking about how to keep those released from incarceration from further contact with the criminal justice system just doesn’t work. The solutions we so often hear—“if they don’t have a job, nothing else matters,” “if they don’t have a place to live, nothing else matters,” “if they can’t get off of drugs, nothing else matters”––come
from the unique perspectives of the employment experts, the housing experts, the addiction experts. The crux of the matter is that those needs require rapid and often simultaneous attention.
Last week, I spent some time with Dan Hanneken, whose In2Action program provides a hands-on re-entry approach for men returning from prison to Boone County, providing housing and supportive services. In2Action recently purchased another house to be used for these men as they develop the skills necessary for effective, and hopefully, lasting, re-entry into the community. As Dan can attest, housing is a critical component of any re-entry program. By investing in this additional house, In2Action has invested in the lives of more individuals who are returning to our community.
Earlier this summer, a woman called me. I could hear the panic in her voice. Her daughter, who had been scheduled to be released from the Boone County Jail later that day, had been released early. This meant that a young woman with mental health and related substance use challenges had returned to the streets of Boone County, without the resources she needed to cope with those challenges. It also meant that it was significantly more likely that she would wind up back in jail. Fortunately, the woman was able to find her daughter, and, with the assistance of local resources, her daughter is far more likely to resolve her legal issues without further justice involvement.
A couple of weeks ago, a visitor to the Boone County Government Center approached several offices with limited access (in the midst of the pandemic) and tried to enter, but couldn’t articulate what he needed from those offices. The next day, he returned, indicating that he knew radio and TV transmissions were coming into his head and asked for help in getting the transmissions turned off. Again, I received a call. The Department Director asked for help.
Fortunately, I am aware of the mental health resources available in the community, so I reached out to Sgt. Tracey Cleeton, who directs the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for the Sheriff’s Department and is part of the CIT leadership in Missouri. Sgt. Cleeton, in turn, connected the individual with those acutely needed services.
One of the resources that Sgt. Cleeton could access was a Community Mental Health Liaison (CMHL), designated by the Missouri Department of Mental Health and working through a local mental health care provider to help individuals with behavioral health challenges. From its inception, this critical resource position was assigned to a ten-county-wide area in Mid-Missouri. As the needs became ever more obvious, it became clear that I had to become an advocate—or perhaps a one-woman band—for a CMHL devoted to Boone County. I am pleased that diligence paid off.
In 2019, Burrell Behavioral Health, which manages the program at the local level, set aside funding for 2020 and beyond for a CMHL dedicated to serve Boone and Randolph Counties. So, now, in Boone County, when someone like Sgt. Cleeton calls for the assistance of a CMHL, he doesn’t have to wait his turn behind nine other counties. That resource is and remains focused on the people of Boone County.
These are but three of the pieces of quilt that provide solutions for those struggling to find their way out of the revolving door of the criminal justice system. The quilt is comprised of not-for-profit organizations, health care systems, government, and, yes, people. Does it have gaps? Indeed, it does. The work is far from complete. But now it is stronger, more widely accepted, and more pervasive because we are working together, collaborating, sharing resources and investing in best practices.
There is much to be thankful for in Boone County. For me, this type of collaboration is among our greatest assets and speaks to the important role of county government in making it happen.
As the November election draws near, I wanted to share a new campaign resource I’ve put together to help you navigate the many important issues currently impacting Boone County.
I have launched a new website, www.ThompsonForBoone.com, where I have compiled the typical information you expect to see on a candidate’s site, plus an Issues section and an archive of my online newsletter that will give you a more in-depth understanding of who I am, along with detailed explanations of my stance on the important issues facing Boone County.
It's more than simply an “About Me” kind of web presence. It’s an easy way for you to see the kinds of decisions that I face as Northern District Commissioner and how I weigh the human, legal, and economic impact of those decisions made on behalf of the county’s citizens. Rather than tell you that I’ll work hard and transparently, it’s my way of SHOWING you!
So please check out my website, then come back often to see frequent updates and new information both about the campaign, but more importantly, to help you stay informed about Boone County issues.
PS: And I’d appreciate your vote on November 3!
A few years ago, as I was finishing up with barn chores, a neighbor hollered at me, saying how much he liked my newest little dog. Puzzled, I asked him, “What new little dog?” He turned and pointed to the scruffy tan dog behind him.
As I approached, the little dog wagged her tail and tried to walk toward me. Tried, but failed. It turned out she had a badly broken hip, probably, the vet said, from being thrown from a vehicle. She was the latest dog to be “dumped,” this time literally, at my property on a rural gravel road here in Boone County. She went to the vet in Hallsville that very morning and, after surgery, spent the next month or so cooped up in a kennel while her bones knitted together. Scout Finch, as she came to be called, was a Border Terrier, who joined the family about a month before Linus James, a miniature Schnauzer, died during an interminable night.
After another interminable night, Scout died last week. And, oddly enough, about a month earlier, another dog arrived in a similar fashion. Late one night, the barking chorus led me outside, flashlight in hand, to see if a varmint was trying to destroy yet another bird feeder. It wasn’t a varmint. It was a dog—or at least it might have been a dog. It looked more like a pelt over a skeleton, so skinny was this little thing. I put out some kibble, hoping that in the morning, I could persuade the poor scrap to come in and get more food.
In the morning, the dog was gone but a couple of days later, I saw movement around my machine shed. I began to leave kibble, drenched in milk, twice each day. It disappeared like clockwork. The dog, which began to look more and more like a dog, refused to approach but would slink up to the overhang of the shed after I moved away, to wolf down the food. After three weeks, the dog, who seemed to fit the name “Paco,” and was now plump and fit, wagged his tail one day. Three days later, after tail-wagging each day, he approached and licked my hand. That day, he decided he could live at the house and has been there ever since. Paco, who was approved by Scout––but still has to gain the approval of Xochi, a probable Golden Doodle, dumped on the road several years after Scout’s arrival––appears to be part bassett hound and part pit bull.
I’m sure Paco will have his own story one day, but it will be stiff competition to live up to one episode in Scout’s life…
In our house, Thanksgiving has always been an opportunity to invite others to celebrate over good food and good conversation. One Thanksgiving several years ago, although the guest list was small, it was going to be filled with laughter and conversation. Those invited included two professors at MU, a friend and colleague from the Public Defender System, my Mom, me, and of course the dogs—at that time Scout, Montie (a part German shepherd and part something else) and Xochi.
My Mom was a brilliant woman but, to be blunt, she couldn’t cook. She was unclear exactly why that room called the kitchen existed. But as I was trying to get everything ready for our guests’ arrival, she helpfully asked several times, “What can I do?” But when I responded “nothing,” she didn’t give up. Finally, she announced that she would put the cranberry sauce on the table. Still, a bit later came another, “What can I do?” This time she announced she would put the butter on the table. And the rest of the story, as they say, is chronicled in family history.
You see, for a little dog, Scout was incredibly athletic. She could get on any table and could remove any item she wanted with surgical precision. You guessed it. Soon after Mom had put the butter on the table, I saw Scout, with a stick of butter between her clenched jaws, high-tailing it out of the dining room, through the kitchen, into the family room and out the doggie door—with the boys—Montie and Xochi—in hot pursuit.
I chased the group, screaming “No, No, Bad Dogs!! DROP IT!!! DROP IT!!” with absolutely no effect. I finally cornered Scout in the yard, and pried her jaws open to pull the rest of the stick of butter out of her mouth. (No, I didn’t use the butter in the meal, since it didn’t meet the 15-second test.)
As the guests arrived, the naughty dogs were still in the proverbial doghouse and, despite pleas that they be allowed in the house, they spent Thanksgiving dinner in the yard––the dogs, not the guests.
After dinner was over and the food placed out of harm’s way, the herd was allowed to return. To my horror, when I looked down at Scout, I saw what looked to be partially dried blood on her side. I thought, “Great! One of the boys smelled the butter and bit her. Now I’m going to have to call the vet and ask who is willing to come in to tend a puncture wound on Thanksgiving Day.” Before I made that phone call, I figured I should at least clean up the wound to see how bad it was. So, I wet a paper towel and picked her up to assess the damage. As I dabbed at the “blood,” I realized, and, unfortunately, said aloud, “This isn’t blood. This is CRANBERRY SAUCE!!”
And, yes, I realized, as did our guests, that in the process of stealing the butter, Scout had checked out the cranberry sauce too. She had done what any self-respecting dog does when it meets up with something smelly, but inedible––she rolled in it. You could see everyone in the room—except for one guest who didn’t like cranberry sauce—turn a little green and utter a collective “bleah.”
So, the newest addition to the family––Paco––in creating his own legacy, will have to live up to “The Great Butter Caper.” Because he is so short-legged, and even now does a “Tigger Bounce” to see over tall grass, I suspect he won’t be hopping on tables like Scout did. But, undoubtedly, he will find his own way into family lore.
While I wish that people who don’t have a use for an animal wouldn’t use a county road as a dumping ground and suggest that instead, they take these animals to the Central Missouri Humane Society, my life has been the richer for the additions of those who have been dumped: Scout Finch, Montie, Xochi, Holly, Max, Houdini, just to name a few.
Spay. Neuter. Protect.