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Thursday, May 5, 2016

OPINION: Uniformity? Not in this case

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jail inmates wear uniforms. It's a form of instant identification as to their status -- and a constant reminder to them, and others, of loss of freedom.

If some officials have their way Bedford County students, the vast majority of whom will never commit a crime, will come close to experiencing undeserved loss of personal style -- one freedom we, unlike many in other countries, may cherish.

One reason given for implementing "standardized school attire" is to keep gang colors from being worn.

The result, unintended but real, is to restrict the innocent along with the guilty.

Offenders deserve discipline -- not the innocent, who are punished when their actions are undeservedly restricted.

Decent people shouldn't have control of their personal 'style' taken away because of the actions of a few.

The real answer may be much stiffer punishment for repeat youth offenders -- those whose offenses are far more than "youthful indescretions."

Punishments could include incarceration earlier in criminal "careers" than is now occurring, extreme limits on activities -- and public disclosure.

I've felt for years that young offenders whose offenses reach a certain level of violence or are repeated over and over despite intervention should be identified, underage or not, and police reports released as if they are adults.

Disclosure may not be a deterrent, since many offenders are beyond concern for what others think about them except a desire to project a "tough" image. But it does let fellow students, neighbors and the public at large know who to avoid -- or who in their neighborhoods could be/already is a thief or troublemaker.

Punishment and forced, strict adherence belong to, and should be limited to, wrongdoers.

*A comment was made on my T-G blog wondering why I suggested surveillance cameras in high-crime residential areas yet am against regimented school clothing.

I realize those living in public housing often don't have a choice of where to live and may feel a loss of privacy. The public loses and criminals win, though, if lack of security hinders freedom of movement -- as in not being able to leave your home for fear of being robbed. If cameras help identify criminals, the public wins.

And those cameras don't necessarily have to be aimed directly at someone's front door or driveway. Ideally, those cameras would only be checked in the event of trouble actually occurring, not monitored 24/7.

Cameras, though, don't hinder individuals' ability to express themselves.

But loss of ability to determine your own clothing style because of what MIGHT happen takes away personal choice and personal freedom. And, when rights are taken away from the innocents, criminals win again.

David Melson is a Times-Gazette staff writer. Comments welcome: dmelson@t-g.com.

David Melson
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