Thursday, June 15, 2017

why being tough on crime does not always make sense

Since we live in “the great melting pot”, none of us will ever agree with everyone else on every single topic, and one of those topics is how to deal with the criminals in our society.

Before I give you my opinion, I would recommend that you read the articles that I have previously published about crime:








There is no question that there ARE members of our society who are dangerous people, and they need to be locked up in order to protect the rest of society. However, the problem that we have in our society is that we have far too many people in prison, and a disproportionate number of them are minorities. In fact, although blacks constitute 30% of our population, they make up 60% of our prison population.

We have one of the highest incarcerations rates in the world, and we are spending LOTS of money to keep people locked up far longer than they should be, especially those convicted for non-violent offenses. By now, most of us have come to the realization that “the war on drugs” has been a complete failure, and it is largely responsible for the dramatic increase in the number of people who are being held in prison. The “war on drugs” caused our prison population to quadruple since 2008. Depending on the state, it costs anywhere from $18,000 to $31,000 a year to house a criminal, which means that we are spending somewhere between $43 billion and $74 billion per year for our prison population, and that does not include the money that states are required to care for the criminal’s families (see Monopoly and Lincoln logs shown above)

As of 2016, 4 states have fully legalized recreational marijuana use, 23 states have legalized medical marijuana, and 19 states have decriminalized marijuana possession.  However, in 4 states, a person caught with ANY marijuana can be charged with a felony, and the state that has the WORST laws about marijuana possession also happens to be the state that also has the worst (loosest) gun laws. It’s known as the Grand Canyon State, and it happens to be the state that I pay taxes to. Unfortunately, very few of those taxes go to education, since Arizona has long been of the worst states in terms of education funding. 

Because a felony conviction is given for very serious crimes, it stays on your record FOREVER. As a result, an individual who has received a felony conviction for possessing minor amounts of marijuana will have difficulty finding employment for the rest of his life. In many states, he/she will be unable to vote even after they have served their sentence 

As you know, our criminal system is not perfect, and there are LOTS of people who were charged incorrectly with a felony - and one of those people is our son. His story can be found in the story shown above as “go directly to jail”. Even though the felony charge for a youthful indiscretion was dismissed more than 20 years ago, it came back to haunt him when he applied for a job in Chicago in 2012. He was able to clear up the misunderstanding by driving to the courthouse in the western suburbs of Chicago, and he got the job. 

However, that past wrongful charge came back to haunt him again just recently, and here is how: 

I’ve been a substitute teacher in Arizona for 5 years, and like it so well that I recommended that Brian look into it as well. Part of the process in becoming a substitute teacher is to obtain a fingerprint card, which Brian requested on March 27. As of today, he had not received his card, so he called the office to find out the reason for the delay (it took me about 2 weeks to get my card). Not surprisingly, the felony charge from 22 years ago had raised a red flag. After carefully explaining the situation to the person at the issuing office, he FINALLY was able to convince them to issue him a fingerprint card. With a little luck, he should be receiving it sometime in the next week. 

As a society, it’s important to find a balance between too loose on crime (remember Willie Horton?) and being too strict (Sheriff Joe Arpaio). The voters in Maricopa County finally got smart and tossed Sheriff Joe out of office last fall. Since 2007, he has cost Maricopa county taxpayers $56 million in judgements. In spite of the pink underwear and the infamous tent city, the majority of the cities in Arizona that have the highest crime rate happen to be in Maricopa country. In fact, between 2002 and 2009, crime went down in every Arizona county EXCEPT Maricopa, where the crime rate INCREASED BY 58%. 

If you think that sheriff Joe has “left and gone away”, never forget the fact that Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke is still with us, and he has cost Milwaukee taxpayers over $400 000 – so far. However, that amount does not include the $6.7 million that  was recently awarded to a Milwaukee woman who was repeatedly raped by guards in a Milwaukee jail, and was shackled during labor.

In May, the sheriff announced that he had accepted a federal appointment as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. So far, the Department of Homeland Security has not confirmed the appointment, but since he worked on the Trump campaign last fall, it’s anyone’s guess whether he actually has the job. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

One final thought on getting tough on crime: 

If you are ever in doubt about to handle a criminal case, remember the Ox-Boro incident. If he were still living, Henry Fonda would help you to understand, and so would 12 angry men. .













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