Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Legal Stress

Driving home from work today, it suddenly struck me that I needed a little more stress. My radio was pleasantly filling my car with music from the local classic rock station. That obviously wouldn’t add the stress I was craving. So I tuned in to one of those wonderful talk radio stations where I new I could be assaulted with the asinine ranting of a right wing lunatic punctuated with moronic comments from people calling in.

I was not disappointed. Today’s topic was about the brand new Seattle cop that was killed by a drug crazed woman running a red light at 80 MPH. Read the story yourself. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003199343_crash15m.html

The bone of contention for this true blue (oops, I mean red) lockem up law and order fanatic was that this woman had been released after only serving a couple of months in prison because she was sentenced under a DOSA plea bargain. Under a Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative a suspected drug offender can plead guilty and promise to get treatment in return for serving a much shorter sentence. The thinking went something like this. If this woman had been tried and given a real sentence she would have been cooling her heals in prison when Mr. Policeman was driving through the intersection in question and would therefore be a public servant for many happy years.

Sounds wonderful don’t it? So why was my blood pressure spiking while I chugged along in rush hour traffic? Was it that I hated cops and want all of them killed? NO! It had more to do with the fact that tragedy happened because our legal system has become totally twisted by the “ if I don’t like it make it a crime crowd” and then made insane by the “ criminals are the real victims crowd”.

Let me explain. In the first place we have labeled many behaviors as crimes that in and of themselves have no direct negative impact on our ability to enjoy our own pursuit of happiness. Drug use itself should not be a crime. Stealing to support your habit is a crime. Endangering the public by driving under the influence is a crime. Letting your children go hungry so you can spend all your money on crack is a crime and should be dealt with as a crime.

OK, now what? If someone commits a “real” crime we should remove him or her from society for a time that is proportionate to the severity of the crime. For relatively minor crimes, a couple of years. For major crimes, a decade or two. For heinous crimes, life. Lets not stop there. If an offender is also a drug addict give them treatment while still in the properly controlled environment of prison. If they need job skills to give them a hope of a life without crime teach them. Give them what they need to be able to choose a life without crime. If they choose to go back to crime when they are released then warehouse them for life.  

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