Why is there no discussion about criminal sentencing in the U.S., other than the usual nut cases advocating even more and more of it?
Is there a single politician in the U.S. who doesn’t run on a platform of “getting touch on crime”. Those criminals! They commit crimes. Next thing you know, they’re out there just walking the streets and committing even more crimes, right after their 30 year sentence is up!
There is a logical absurdity at work here, of course. Ever since Nixon in 1972, every American politician, including Democrats Clinton and Carter, have pledged to get tough on crime, just like the Republicans do. But if every new generation of leaders gets tougher on crime than the previous generation, we must have long ago reached maximum toughness. In fact, I think we’re at a level of insanity that approaches the very high standards set by Salem, Massachusetts in the 17th Century, and Spain during the Inquisition.
So, how would you react if someone said, “you know what– I think we need to start showing some compassion, and we need to reduce prison time, improve prison conditions, and concentrate more on rehabilitation? How would you react? I’m not sure. Polls suggest that most people will react with sneering and laughter. Are you nuts? Do you know how easy criminals have it? Man, I wish I could sit around all day in my comfy prison cell just watching TV and stuffing my face all at taxpayer expense! No worries! No bills! Did you know how often they weasel out any sentence at all?
I would challenge anyone who thinks like that to spend a day in one of our lavish, over–crowded prisons.
What we have is a society that has become vicious, heartless, vindictive, and irrational. Yes, that’s us. We’re nuts. We have been increasing sentences– in the U.S., at least– and Harper wants to do it in Canada– and we have reached a level of absurdity: 20, 30, 40 years for property and drug crimes!
How does anyone know what the right sentence is? I just read about a first-time offender in the U.S. who got 33 years– I’m not making this up– for hiding a video camera in a women’s locker room. How do you know 33 years is “right”? What is 33 years? What pleasure does the judge get when he looks into this man’s face and decides his life should be destroyed. It was his first mistake– enough. Destroy him. Crush his spirit. Erase his existence. Annihilate his soul.
You could argue that it likely wasn’t his first mistake: it was the first time he was caught. But you could also argue that most of us have sinned at one time or another and never been caught.
That is the kind of human being the judge is: he will deny it until he is blue in the face, but it’s true– he takes pleasure in doing it. It gratifies him. He should admit it, so we can have an honest discussion of crime and punishment in America.
And America needs to look at itself and ask: if what we believe about crime and punishment was true, how come we’re not the most crime-free society on earth, because almost nobody punishes as harshly and ruthlessly as we do.
Tommy Barnett, 56, an independent of Cullman, Ala., said: “Somebody told me he’s not from here. I said I never heard of Barack Obama, that’s not American, then we find out he’s Muslim. What they got somebody like that running our country for?” (NY Times, April 21, 2010)
He doesn’t. You do.