EDITOR’S NOTE: Since Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength announced that he will not seek re-election, four candidates have emerged: Lt. John Ivey, Capt. Scott Peebles, Lt. Richard Roundtree and Lt. Robbie Silas. Here, Roundtree answers questions about his candidacy.
Q: Why do you want to be sheriff?
A: About six years ago, when I was working homicide, I saw that we had a large number of homicides committed by juveniles.
There was just one common factor in all of them and it wasn’t socioeconomics, it wasn’t race, it wasn’t a lack of a two parent household, it was that not one child who was accused of committing homicide had graduated high school. That’s when I saw a direct correlation between the lack of education and the violent crime rate.
At that point is when I said I one day want to be in a position to be able to assist the educational system so I can keep kids from entering the criminal justice system.
Q: Black males make up the majority of the prison population. What can be done?
A: I believe in education over incarceration because I know it does work. The 19-29 age group makes up 70 percent of the prison population, and the average inmate reads at a 6th grade level and have a 5th grade math level. The thing about it is, that they enter the system and they are uneducated, and you know 90 percent of the people who go to prison get out.
So that’s why I say the key has to be some alternatives to incarceration, because once they get imbedded in the incarceration system, especially 17-18 years old, it’s almost like a death sentence now.
Q: How can you as sheriff have an effect on that?
A: I can’t help the fact that I am an African-American. I grew up in this city. I’ve seen the plight that some of the young males are going through. They make up the majority of the prison population. I think that by seeing a positive roll model that is out to help the people and just happens to look like them, I think that will make an impact itself.
Q: What will you do to make changes?
A: You’ve got to partner with the educational system. That’s one of my advantages, working with the Board of Education. We’ve established some great partnerships and knowing exactly how the system works. And then to be able to expand on those programs I already am familiar with. The other thing is that you have to work with the courts and the DA’s office because there has to be some alternatives to incarceration. Sure there has to be some penalties, some consequences for certain actions, but incarceration is not always the best answer.
Q: Can you lead the sheriff’s office?
A: Ninety percent of the sheriff department are road patrol deputies and they are the work horses of the force and they are the ambassadors to the public. That’s what the people see. They have to see the philosophy of working with people trying to solve their problems and when they see a leader who embraces that, it will trickle down. They know I’ve never had a problem working. Never had problem going on calls. They respect my work ethic. I would never ask them to do anything that I wouldn’t do. And I think the men over the years respect me for that.
Q: With four candidates, do you think you can pull in enough voters to win outright in July?
A: Politics is a numbers game. The numbers favor us. If they follow the same trend as four years ago, we can win. The thing about this election is, we are giving them a good product. It’s not that this person is in the race and he looks like me. Not only does he look like me, he is qualified, I’m buying a good product here and that’s what we are telling people.