Saturday, August 11, 2007

Too many in jail
In the US, says LRC’s Charley Reese

Not only is there the nonsense of victimless and consensual crime, or ‘nobody learnt anything from Prohibition’, but there’s legislative posturing like when a pol ostentatiously declares a patch of slum a ‘crime-free zone’ (so the rest of the city’s fair game — woo hoo!) or needlessly filling jails (impress the voters because you’re ‘tough on crime’).
Legislators, who have no real responsibility for law enforcement, cannot resist doing something when some particular act makes the news. Their usual response, if whatever made the news isn't a crime, is to make it a crime or to increase the penalty if it already is a crime.

One example is the federal law against the murder of a federal agent. It is completely unnecessary. State laws against murder do not exclude federal agents and never have.

Hate-crime laws are another example of legislative grandstanding. Murder is already against the law in all 50 states.

Of course, the motive of the hate-crime crowd is to legislate against hate speech. It's already happened in some states. This, of course, is legislating against thought, which, however obnoxious, deserves the protection of the First Amendment.

Criminal laws should be confined to actions that cause death, injury, theft or destruction of property.

Finally, of course, a sensible criminal-justice system would confine only people who are dangerous. In fact, only a third of the people in state prisons are there for violent crimes. Many are there for selling contraband – namely, common drugs, which the federal government has decided people shouldn't use.

It would be a good social policy to try to dissuade people from using drugs that are harmful to them, but criminal laws should not be employed as a bludgeon.

Going to prison has never educated anybody except in the ways of crime.

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