Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Slate

March 29, 2013

'Spring Break Court' gives kids, cops a break

For police departments in southern coastal regions, spring break is a hellish month's worth of property damage, Red Dog vomit, and belligerent teenagers yelling. But it's equally bad for courts, which see their dockets overflow with minor cases that end up being very difficult to resolve, largely because the defendants find it more expedient to flee the state than to face the charges against them. So what's the solution? Let lawlessness reign? Assign more cops to the Señor Frog's detail? Deputize a bunch of back-talking bounty hunters to hunt down open-container scofflaws and bring them to justice?

For Panama City Beach, the answer is Spring Break Court, a concept that will surely become an A&E reality show. This year, Judge Joe Grammer ran a month-long pop-up courtroom on the fourth floor of the Majestic Beach Resort, where he gave spring breakers accused of minor offenses the chance to resolve their cases quickly. The defendants were given three options: plead guilty; plead not guilty and have the case moved over to a real courthouse; or enter the State Attorney's Diversion Program, complete some community service, and have the charges dropped. As S. Brady Calhoun reports in his fantastic article for the Panama City News Herald, every single participant chose to enter the Diverson Program.

This is a great example of a smart solution to a small but persistent problem. Spring-break crime might seem inconsequential, but it's a big strain on local justice systems. As an assistant state's attorney told WMBB-TV, "We see about a 50-75 percent [crime increase] in about a 2 to 2.5 month period which falls primarily on the court system." It costs money to try all these cases and to track down vanished defendants. I applaud Grammer and his colleagues for taking an imaginative approach to clearing a bunch of cases all at once.

Text Only
Slate
  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 18, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 16, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Boston doctors can now prescribe you a bike

    The City of Boston this week is rolling out a new program that's whimsically known as "Prescribe-a-Bike." Part medicine, part welfare, the initiative allows doctors at Boston Medical Center to write "prescriptions" for low-income patients to get yearlong memberships to Hubway, the city's bike-share system, for only $5.

    April 11, 2014

  • A man with amnesia taught us how memories become personal

    Although not as celebrated as the late American amnesiac H.M., for my money K.C. taught us more important and poignant things about how memory works. He showed how we make memories personal and personally meaningful. He also had a heck of a life story.

    April 7, 2014

  • Investing more money in tornado research would be a disaster

    This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would require National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funding to focus on improving forecasts of "high impact weather events" like tornadoes and hurricanes "for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy."

    April 3, 2014

  • Hate With Friends, the fun new Facebook tool

    Hating movies, earworms, conventions of grammar, clothing brands, diet fads - you get the twinkle of pleasure without the glob of guilt, or the cold brush of fear. A Coldplay song doesn't know you hate it.

    April 2, 2014

  • dog-sunglasses.jpg Do animals have a sense of humor?

    Right now, in a high-security research lab at Northwestern University's Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics, scientists are tickling rats. Their goal? To develop a pharmaceutical-grade happiness pill. But their efforts might also produce some of the best evidence yet that humor isn't something experienced exclusively by human beings.

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_zuckerberg.jpg The logic of Facebook's multibillion-dollar shopping spree

    Yet again, Facebook has spent a gaudy sum of money to buy a hot startup. This time, it's virtual reality pioneer Oculus VR, at a purchase price of $2 billion. And don't be surprised if Mark Zuckerberg continues on his buying spree.

    March 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140325-AMX-BARISTA251.jpg Coffee's third wave? The Apple to Starbucks' Microsoft

    Do you remember when Starbucks was cool? It opened in Seattle in the 1970s as a local specialty roaster, a trendy alternative to the prevailing generic swill. But the price of conquest is cachet. What was once novel — the warm décor, the gentle music, the faux-Italian lingo — has become banal. Today's coffee snobs would rather snort Sanka than set foot inside a Starbucks

    March 26, 2014 2 Photos