OC sheriff: Recidivism a frustrating phenomenon
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
They keep coming back like a song. The face you see being released from the Obion County Law Enforcement Complex — the county jail — today is likely the face you’ll soon see being booked on a new charge.
The word formally used to describe this conduct is “recidivism,” defined in Webster’s New School and Office dictionary as “a relapse into criminal habits after punishment.”
Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder is well acquainted with recidivism. It’s a frustrating phenomenon. “We get so many repeat offenders,” he said. “Probably 70 percent of our jail population are repeat offenders. The multiples aren’t one or two times, either. Most of them have five to seven prior offenses.”
Case in point: Monday’s head count, meaning the jail population. Of a population of 106 — 88 males, 18 females — 60.3 percent are repeat offenders with an average of 7.4 prior convictions.
Why do they keep coming back? What motivates them?
“I don’t think anything motivates them except criminology,” Vastbinder said. “All they think about is being a criminal. And if they’ve got a substance abuse problem, they are going to do what they have to do — forge checks, break into houses — to get money to buy drugs or make drugs (methamphetamine).
“The big thing now is stealing copper out of abandoned buildings. They’ll go so far as to cut the leads off farmers’ welders to get copper. When they sell it, they’ve cut it into little pieces so it doesn’t look like a hundred-foot line of welding leads. They also steal scrap metal from behind welding shops or off people’s property. They’ll take it apart, sell it for the poundage.
“I’ve seen all these things.”
Published in The Messenger 5.13.08