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Jerry Davich: Early release irks crime victims

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Updated: November 21, 2013 6:17AM



Newspapers do a solid job of informing the public when criminals enter the correctional system, but not so much when they are released back into society.

We typically forget about criminals after they’re put away, even as they merge back into the general public years later. Except, that is, for the victims of these crimes, who tell a different story.

They usually know full well when their perpetrator gets released from prison and they loathe it, first in theory and then in reality. They bristle when hearing the phrase “release date.” They can’t believe the perp’s sentence has already been served, regardless of length of time behind bars or from a work-release program.

Some victims are fearful of being criminalized again by the same rapist, thief or murderer. Other victims fear for society as a whole, concerned that what happened to them will happen to another innocent person.

This is the concern for victims of Dan Swift who, if you recall, swindled a dozen Indiana and Illinois residents out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, collectively, leaving them broke and, in many ways, broken.

On Aug. 6, the 67-year-old region businessman and convicted flim-flam man was quietly released from a work release program after serving four years for defrauding his clients through the sale of unregistered securities. Some victims coughed up $3,000 into his scheme while others choked on $250,000 in phantom investments.

Swift was sentenced for his crime with a judge accepting a plea agreement to serve eight years at the Kimbrough Work Release facility, followed by eight years suspended. He also was ordered to pay $423,264 in restitution to his victims, who are still receiving their meager monthly checks.

“I’m used to being disappointed in the Lake County criminal justice system, considering that Dan Swift was charged with 58 felonies and didn’t spend one second in prison, but citizens should know that he is back on the streets,” said Tim Roeske of Hebron, by far the most outspoken victim in this case.

Roeske is still bitter about being victimized, first by Swift and then by the justice system, he believes. Understandably so. Anyone else would feel the same way under these circumstances.

I’ve interviewed too many victims of various crimes who feel justice was simply not served in their case. The last thing they want to hear is that the person who stole from them or violated them has snaked through the penal system, as Swift has done. Worse yet, without any violations to keep them locked up or confined for a longer time, again as Swift has done. Remember, he was sentenced to eight years in the program but released in four due to “good behavior,” a phrase that all victims detest.

“I have to tell you he did an amazing job tutoring participants who were working on getting a GED,” said Kellie Bittorf, executive director of Lake County Community Correction, which oversees the work-release program. “Many passed the test and would not have without his assistance.”

Does this serve as a contribution to his debt to society? Did it tip the scales of justice a little more in his favor? Does it factor into our collective judgment of Swift and what he did to those victims many years ago? I don’t know.

But one thing is clear: Even if he rescued a baby from a burning house, helped a jailhouse of inmates earn their GED, or became a reborn believer, it would most likely not change the perspective of his victims.

If I were in their situation, I’d probably feel the same way. It may not be the Christian thing to do, but it is the human thing to do.

Toddler-like tantrums?

Is it just me or do you also think more adults are acting like toddlers these days by throwing tantrums, acting childishly and behaving like brats?

Last week, I witnessed a middle-aged woman acting like her young son when her number wasn’t called in the right order at the grocery store deli.

“I’m next! I’m next!” she yelled to the poor deli worker who obviously lost track of the next number. “I’m number 42! You’re NOT on number 43!”

Relax, Ms. Immaturity and act your age, not your shoe size. Geez.

What’s up with our society anymore? Is it the ripple effect of overly dramatic and obviously staged “reality” from reality-TV shows? Is it life reflecting art reflecting what we perceive as reality? Or are we simply not as civil as we once were?

I did some research on this issue and discovered the fourth annual “Civility in America” survey, showing that 70 percent of us feel that incivility has reached crisis levels in our country.

More than one-third of Americans responded that they have personally experienced incivility at work, which is often ground zero for temper tantrums, causing 26 percent of respondents to quit their jobs, the survey found.

In addition, 81 percent of respondents believe incivility is leading to more violence in our society, and 95 percent believe we have a civility problem in this country. I guess I’m not alone, huh?

Also, “for the first time since the survey began in 2010, the Internet/social media has risen into the top ranks of perceived causes of incivility,” the survey states. This doesn’t surprise me at all. As a daily user of social media, I’ve had my run-ins with readers, “friends” or followers who have acted anything but civil with their comments or exchanges.

The average American experiences “online incivility” more than eight times a week, according to the survey. Heck, I see it eight times a day during some weeks.

My question is this: When you witness such public outbursts, do you say anything to counter them or do you — like me — just look on in amazement and amusement? Let me know and I’ll write a follow-up column on this touchy topic.

Connect with Jerry via email, at jdavich@post-trib.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.



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