Saturday, January 10, 2009

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

States Look to Prisons for Ways to Save Money, Including Letting Some Inmates Go

As the years have gone by in our now shabby and failing republic, the laws have multiplied fruitfully. The penalties have steadily risen and mandatory jail sentences have been imposed for some of the smallest and least offensive crimes. And the result, the highest number of people incarcerated per capita in the world. Even Russia comes in more than 30% lower.

What happens when you jail someone? They cease to be a productive member of society - often, for the rest of their lives. "Stamping license plates in prison for three years" as a "prior experience" item on your Resume somehow doesn't really get you the job.

There are a number of serious crimes for which prison is, indeed, the only recourse. Serious assaults, murder, etc. But then there are other crimes, such as having a semi-automatic rifle that malfunctions, or minor drug related offenses in which the possessor was simply caught due to a broken tail light. With the number of laws now on the books, we are, in reality, a nation of criminals (at least, as defined by our loving overlords).

With the current economic crisis, states now are realizing that they can't continue to pay to keep all these people in prison. So they're going to let them loose. Assuming the people they let loose are no threat to society, I have absolutely no problem with that.

What gets me though, is this: How many of these states, as a result of this issue, will review their statutes with an eye towards reforming overly draconian laws designed to make criminals out of law abiding citizens?

Somehow, I doubt even one will.

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"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." – Thomas Jefferson