To have and to hold... In sickness and in health... Sometime in the next five to ten...

Hold on just a minute.. I'm still picking my jaw off the floor after reading today's Argus and reading KELOland.com.

Representative Rich Engels, someone I consider a friend of mine (and former co-worker from my days at the Division of Insurance) has always been a person I've enjoyed talking politics with, but politically we're probably at opposite ends of the spectrum. Tonight, as noted in the Argus, I'm seeing how far the ends of that spectrum go as I see he's petitioning the court to allow 2 people about to plead guilty to drugs and theft to be able to marry while they serve out their sentences. :

Two lovebirds became jailbirds several months ago when they were arrested on theft and drug charges.

The co-defendant couple, in their early 20s and engaged to be married, have been in Minnehaha County Jail since their arrests. With both anticipating plea agreements and facing several years at separate prisons, they'd like to get married soon.

and...

"I wouldn't plan on it happening while they're in my custody," Milstead said.

Engels said there is no law requiring inmates be allowed to marry, so he plans on writing one and introducing it next session.

and...

Deputy state's attorney Gordy Swanson first advised Engels that the county is not bound to facilitate jailhouse marriages. He said a Nov. 17 phone conversation with Engels ended with a veiled threat.

"He said something to the effect of, 'If that's the level of cooperation I'm going to get from the county, that's the level of cooperation the county is going to get from me in the Legislature,' " Swanson said. "I was shocked."

The legislator acknowledged he was upset about what he called an "arbitrary" decision.

"I'll admit I was a little bit frustrated in talking to Gordy because I feel I didn't get an adequate explanation," Engels said.

"I probably said something to that effect, but I immediately felt bad about it. Certainly, I'm going to work with the county on their priorities."

Read it all here. You've got to be kidding me! You've really got to be kidding me!

I'll dial the outrage down a couple of notches and just note for the record that that if I were in legal trouble, I'd certainly want my attorney to advocate for me as Rich is for his clients. He's obviously looking out for their interests.

That being said, tonight I care for society's interests. You still have got to be kidding me! Here are two people in custody for theft and drug charges and their crying about getting married. Maybe they should have considered that before they went on their crime spree.

In my view, society doesn't owe them anything at this point. They did the crime, so they need to do the time. And part of that time is a process which society doesn't require be convenient to their marital needs.

It's not like it's forever anyway. When they are in State custody, it appears to be allowable. Maybe they need to get drug and other treatment before they start their married life. Regardless, should we accommodate their requests? I don't think so.

I wouldn't have advised Rich to go all legislative on Minnehaha County either. That was a bad move which took client advocacy to a level where it would bring his re-achieved position into play, making a political hot potato out of what had just been client advocacy.

And as a political hot potato, Argusleader.com is doing some polling on it - and what have they come up with so far (unscientifically):

77% to 22% against. Almost as bad as the South Dakota JAIL Amendment. South Dakotans don't want their inmates (county or otherwise) to enjoy wedded bliss. They want them to serve their debt to society. And there it isn't differentiating between the county (which doesn't allow it) and the state (which does).

What's the biggest danger in this legislation being brought? None as far as I'm concerned, but I think Rich might want to look before he leaps.

Because in bringing up this kind of legislation, the debate will be opened. And given the lack of public support for it, instead of enforcing it at the county prison, Republican legislators may just institute a complete ban - for both county and penitentiary.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I say let them get married. And while we're at it, let them have conjugal visits. That way they can have a kid for the government to support too.
Not.
rich engels said…
PP, I have spent the day speaking with people more wise than myself, and I am convinced that there are some things I just can't change. I won't be bringing a bill.

I still think it should be easier to get married than it is to get divorced. I still think that married inmates do better with rehabilitative programs (though I don't have proof). Are there more important issues? Hundreds.
PP said…
Rich, I'm not saying they should be discarded by society either, but they seem to be asking for a lot when they have yet to make up for their wrongs.
Anonymous said…
What difference is it really going to make if they're married or not? They won't be sharing a home or anything while they're both in jail. It won't hurt them to wait it out, and by then they may actually wise up and not want to marry another low-life like themselves.
Anonymous said…
In 2004, Gerald Lange introduced a bill to "restore the right to vote to paroled felons." Your buddy Rich was one of the three votes in favor of the bill. The committee consisted of 13 members. Nine Republicans were joined by Margaret Gillespie in opposing the Lange "Get Out the Vote" effort.

Engels' desire to enhance the privileges granted to felons is disconcerting. (We won't mention his position on the death penalty.)
Anonymous said…
Rich has always been a level headed guy...so the call as described seem unlikely. HA! Legislators need to be smarter than this. Take a deep breath Rich.

PS-at what point were you representing your criminal client in attempting to facilitate her marriage?
johnnie w. said…
Now, PP, you're referring to argusleader.com polls!?!?!

Where were you in 2005 when the argus online poll had support for medical marijuana at nearly 60%!!!
Anonymous said…
if married they don't have to testify against their spouse
rich engels said…
I see some people are trying to put out false information about me, 3:52.

I was neither a sponsor of the felon bill, nor did I vote for it. In fact nobody voted for it. The only vote was to kill it, and I voted not to kill it.

For those of you not familiar with committee etiquette, it's generally considered bad form - especially for members of a small minority - to kill the bills of our Democratic colleagues. When we know a bill is going down even without our help, do we slap our colleague in the face? We try not to. Voting not to kill a bill is a whole lot different than voting to pass it.

And my position on the death penalty, 3:52? No changes are needed. Is that what you were loath to mention?

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