Let's get this straight: The guy who police say killed 15-year-old Jermel Tyler Brown was out on bail after he was arrested in the rape of an 8-year-old boy. What?

He also had just recently beaten another murder rap. And he is suspected of shooting a man in the neck Monday night.

The fact that this man was still walking the street is proof that there's something wrong with the system.

A lot of people say the Legislature is at fault for not enacting strong enough crime laws. That's the easy shot, but it's a little more complicated than that.

Many of the problems facing the Department of Corrections, the solicitors, the courts and the police all boil down to one thing: money. Between the worst budget deficits this state has ever seen, coupled with years of tax cuts, there simply is not enough cash to do all that needs to be done.

The hard truth is, if we are going to make these thugs pay, we are going to have to pay.

Outlaw bail

It's funny to think the Republican-controlled Legislature is soft on crime. If you believe that, talk to Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, who has a great motto regarding parole for violent offenders.

"As far as I'm concerned, a murderer can walk out of prison when his victim can walk out of the cemetery," McConnell says.

McConnell says the General Assembly is on the cusp of making major changes to the way criminals are handled. It is looking at alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders, to make room for the murdering animals who are never going to be rehabilitated.

It wants to tighten sentencing guidelines and make changes that will allow the court system to move quicker. And, perhaps most importantly, lawmakers want to outlaw bail for repeat violent offenders.

It's a shame that some lawmakers have held up these measures. They might have kept Jermel's killers off the streets.

Forget poker, bust thugs

There are problems with any overhaul to the justice system. McConnell says it's difficult to change gun-control laws without trampling on gun rights. And Corrections is already running a deficit.

But the senator says police could help by getting their priorities in order. He says it's crazy to devote manpower to speed traps that routinely catch people going 40 mph in a 35 zone, and it's a waste of personnel and time to bust up home poker games.

"It's ridiculous to spend time and effort to make sure some charity doesn't hold a raffle," McConnell says.

Amen.

The bottom line is that unless folks are willing to pay more money for criminal justice, there is not going to be the sweeping change that everyone says they want.

It would be a wise investment, one of the few things voters might be willing to pay for. They say you can't put a price on safety.

Of course, we could also make better use of what we already have. For instance, why not take that hole the inmates at Lieber recently dug and put Jermel Brown's killers down in it?