Constitution Daily: Opinion: Lyle Denniston: The Constitution Outside the Courts: The U.S. Sentencing Commission
This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger
Making punishment fit the crime should be an obvious statement if it isn't, but if you look at our criminal justice system that of course is not always the case. We have thousands if not more people doing five years or more for simple drug possession and in a lot of times that is their first offense. Look at the War on Drugs where we have thousands of people doing long sentences again for drug possession, or selling small amounts of marijuana and other illegal narcotics. Doing long sentences for selling things that people want to buy, have and use.
And anyone still wondering why we have two-million or more people in prison in America? I sure as hell am not and by the way we have the largest prison population in the developed world. And we are supposed to be this beacon of freedom and great free society this liberal democracy that everyone else wants to be. It is hard to make the case that we are those great things when we have so many people in prison that do not represent major if any threats to society and are doing time in a lot of cases for what they did to themselves. Or providing services that others wanted from them.
I'm not a fan of illegal narcotics including marijuana even though I do support marijuana legalization. I'm not a fan of gambling or prostitution. But just because I don't like these activities doesn't mean I want to arrest people who choose to engage in them. There are much better more cost effective ways to dealing with activities that come with high risks including tobacco, junk food and soft drinks than arresting people and locking them up for engaging in those activities. It is called regulation to make sure non-adults aren't involved in them and making sure that adults who are involved in them know what they are getting into.
And I'm referring to gambling and prostitution mostly. But with lets dangerous products that people choose to use like alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, soft drinks and junk food instead of expanding the War on Drugs which is what some nanny statists on the progressive Left want to do. Again regulate them so people know exactly what they are consuming and tax them for it so Americans who choose to live healthy don't get stuck with the health care bills of people who choose not to live healthy.
But that is just one way to cut the prison population and create that free society and liberal democracy that a lot of Americans on the Left and Right do want. Another way would be to say "prison and jail are not always the answers and they aren't always the first answers either". When we are talking about low-level offenses and instead look at halfway houses, community housing, community service, probational release where offenders aren't free or in incarcerated, but living in a halfway house type environment as they are also working so they can pay their rent outside of the home. And getting treated for why they are there in the first place.
We put in policies like this and we'll have all of the jail and prison space needed for real hardcore criminals that need to be in prison. Violent offenders and organize criminals, but also white collar criminals who represent a serious threat to the economy and Americans economic wellbeing. Instead of having so many overcrowded prisons in America full of not only people that we have to have in prison, but with offenders who do not need to be there.