Dangers of ‘restorative justice’

Thirty years ago I was assistant District Attorney responsible for Piscataquis County. At that time, we had a process known as “filing” a case. This meant a case was postponed for a period of time on a promise of good behavior. It worked well with petty crimes, but we never “filed” an operating under the influence (OUI) charge. It would have been wrong then and it is now.

For low-level OUIs it is now called “restorative justice,” but it really just gives a pass to someone who was only a little drunk — i.e. a low test.

The net effect of such a promise is to minimize the impact of drunk driving.

For years, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have tried to emphasize the dangers and costs of an OUI to both the individual and society, but this newer touchy-feely approach to OUIs is weak and naive.

I fear District Attorney Natasha Irving of Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc Counties will learn that shortly, if and when a “restorative justice” defendant kills someone.

James R. Austin
Judge of Probate

Hobby Lobby ad is paid propaganda

I realize it’s difficult for news outlets to turn away advertising dollars, but I am disappointed that the Bangor Daily News agreed to run a full-page ad from Hobby Lobby on July 4 that essentially advocates against the separation of church and state in American politics. Undermining this key provision of our democracy only furthers the interests of the Christian Right by eroding equal representation and dampening freedom of speech. The BDN should not be in the business of selling space for such divisive propaganda.

Meg Haskell
Stockton Springs

How to talk about student debt

Messaging is everything. The call for free college and college debt forgiveness isn’t playing out well. It feels like a program to help individuals, individuals that may be doing better than average. It’s another campaign speech removed from the daily grind of getting by, trying to stay afloat, one paycheck from financial ruin.

But it need not be. Other countries support education, not for individuals but to benefit the whole. Let’s put the discussion about college tuition where it belongs: As part of a discussion to change our economy.

Let’s start with a more progressive angle. What skills are missing? What sector of the population is left out and how can government help? Is it apprenticeships? Is it community college? What college degrees does the economy need? How do we address income inequality so even those without a college degree thrive? What industries can survive in rural areas so opportunities flow out to more vulnerable populations?

Student debt impacts the economy. But let’s be honest, graduates making more than $200,000 per year are probably okay. They own cars, houses and medical insurance. Teachers starting at under $40,000 not so much.

Many graduates during the Great Recession have been underemployed or unemployed for a decade. Who should pay, and what is fair?

The U.S. economy is plagued with income inequality and families who cannot secure a sustainable wage. We don’t have the luxury of benefiting college graduates without addressing the economy as a whole. The message that voters hear should include everyone.

Nadine Bangerter