Search This Blog

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Crowding In Los Angeles

A report yesterday on NPR's All Things Considered explained how many jail inmates in Los Angeles are being released after serving only ten per cent of their sentences due to drastic budget shortfalls and overcrowding in jails. Perhaps this situation should lead us to rethink our sentencing guidelines and to reevaluate just what infractions deserve jail time.

I propose that only violent offenses be punishable by incarceration. Only those people who are a real and present danger to society should be locked away. Other offenses, such as white collar crime, non-violent theft, fraud, forgery, and especially recreational use drugs offenses, should be punished by requiring the offender to restore to society what he took.

For example, if you steal from your company, you should be required to work for that company with only subsistence wages until you have repaid in time and productivity, the value, plus damages of what you stole. If you forge a check, then you should be required to perform such community service that would both enhance the public good (repair a dilapidated school, for example) and suitably atone for your crime.

The fact that the most advanced civilization in the world has more than ten per cent of its population in cages is obscene. Add to that that a hugely disproportionate amount of those locked up are black or Hispanic, and we have an even bigger inequity that needs must be addressed. Let's start by looking at the practical ways that we can reduce the prison population while at the same time repairing and restoring our crumbling infrastructure. I believe that a work release program for non violent, non repeat offenders is an excellent way to start. The streets around my house need repair.....just a thought.

No comments: