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Local Elections 2012: Kent County Sheriff's candidates respond to Rapidian questions

Lawrence Stelma answered some tough questions to help our local citizens understand who to vote for in upcoming elections Tuesday November 6.
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Our politics beat asked the Kent County Sheriff's office candidates James Farris, John Stedman and Lawrence Stelma some questions for our Rapidian readers. We hope they help you to get informed about where they stand on issues that affect us locally. See below the questions and their answers. Candidates James Farris and John Stedman were not available for comment.


What is your opinion about Proposition II, that proposes decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana?:

Lawrence Stelma: “Proposition 2 is a 'City Ordinance'; it does not supersede either state law or federal law which we enforce and which we will continue to enforce. It sends the wrong message that 'a little bit of illegal is ok.' It certainly contradicts education efforts and since marijuana is a gateway drug, longer term issues are inevitable. It sends a confusing message that on one side of the street, a certain action does not constitute a crime and criminal enforcement does not occur yet on the other side of the street, the same action is a crime and criminal prosecution will occur.

The charges for possession of 'use' amounts are generally brought as the ancillary result of some other investigation and in and of themselves, do not consume significant enforcement resources. Also, the offense by itself doesn't consume jail bed space but the offense is used as an alternative to a more serious charge through the plea bargaining process. If that option is no longer available, some individuals might have to face a more serious charge than if the 'use' option was still available.”


What are you doing or would you do about diversity training and racial equity in your role as Sheriff?

Lawrence Stelma: “Diversity training and respect for all diverse populations is a priority of the Kent County Sheriff's Office. Not only are our new recruits exposed to significant and advanced training in their various academy's, it is a significant part of our continuing education with our yearly update training.”


What do you see as the main causes of recidivism, and what plans do you have to lessen the "revolving door" syndrome in our jails and prisons? How do you see the Sheriff's role in this issue?

Lawrence Stelma: “To break the 'chain of recidivism' takes a change of heart for the offender. Each offender is different and what might work with one doesn't necessarily impact another so therefore, it is necessary to provide a wide variety of options for those desiring to change their life styles.

Under my leadership and in spite of significant budget cuts, the Kent County Sheriff's Office has become a recognized leader both nationally and across the state with innovative programming and re-entry initiatives aimed at breaking the chain of recidivism.

From an emphasis on education to substance abuse, anger management, career and vocational opportunities, various faith based initiatives, a life principle pod and mentoring programs, a 65% to 70% recidivism rate (standard across the country) has been reduced to 30% to 35% with some of our programming. It is my legal responsibility to provide a Constitutionally safe and secure facility; it is my moral responsibility to do all I possibly can to prepare inmates for their re-entry into the community.”


What motivates you to run for Sheriff?

Lawrence Stelma: “My entire life has been spent serving this community through the venue of the Kent County Sheriff's Office. It has been extremely rewarding to see the improvements and enhancements within our community become a reality such as the Cold Case investigation team, the many enhanced re-entry programs and the advantages this brings our community, the dispatch consolidation and the many other enforcement consolidation efforts, and the re-modeled correctional facility.

Building on these successes along with bringing the many pending projects we are currently working on to completion are more than enough motivation to continue the fine honor of serving this great community.”

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