This week, the editors of The New York Times reported that overcrowding in New York City’s jails threatens the safety of inmates and staff, as well as the security of the city.
The key report, “Who Can Be in Your Jail? and Other Questions for New York’s Beds,” sheds light on how conditions in jails has grown dire enough to prompt a prison term that the inmates call “living in a concentration camp” and the guards call “being locked up in concrete.”
Other headlines this week in the news cycle all revolved around a human tragedy: the outbreak of what was thought to be a non-contagious, non-lethal illness.
While hard work, medications and smart medical planning seem to have turned the outbreak of the horrible flu into some kind of “success story,” experts warn that a far more dangerous contagion — people on drugs — is already potentially spreading.
And just last week, the majority of the 60-plus people who were killed at a high school in Russia — most by the opioid abuse of a classmate — were only old enough to be in the J.C. Penney parking lot, oblivious to the overdose that has left the whole school and campus contaminated.
This all troubles us greatly. Not so much because we are familiar with the symptoms and the risks of drug overdoses, or because we are familiar with the cautionary tale of the 36-year-old woman who went to find help when she noticed a gasping man passed out on the sidewalk, or as a parent you may wonder how you can monitor your children more carefully.
What troubles us greatly is not that people are dying. Death — even suicide — is sad.
What troubles us is that we are following previous tragedy with another tragedy. We have done it before, and we are sure we will do it again.
We will not decide, as we have already decided for ourselves as a country, that New York City, and its state, and its city, and its state, and its country, is a better place than the rest of the nation.
We will not say that if we put more people in New York’s jails at any given time, they will die of pneumonia.
We will not say, as we are thinking now, that we cannot afford to medicate one more death.
We will not say, as a country, that it is a moral failure to be concerned about one more life lost.
No, we will not do it. We will not be driven into it.
And please don’t put us into it.