Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Crime and Punishment

Creative Sentencing

During the first week of October, 2001, only nine years ago, Georgia finally declared the use of the electric chair to be “cruel and unusual punishment.”

A state that moved from the Hanging Solution to the Wonders of Electricity now uses lethal injection to carry out capital punishment.

FYI, lethal injection was first used in the state of Texas in the early 1980s. Since then, Texas has executed more people than any other state in the union. No correlation is implied here between the method and the madness. It’s just a fact.

Regardless of what your position is on the death penalty, evidence of uneven sentencing for all manner of crimes and misdemeanors befuddles even the most fair minded of people.

What a fair penalty for___Crime To Be Designated Later__is, varies from county to county, state to state, school system to school system, and politics in general.

Sentencing varies dependent on

• who the sitting judge might be

• how good one’s lawyer is

• how jury selection is handled

• how high profile the case is

• the mood of the nation

• whether a vice principal is more sympathetic to one student’s circumstances, as opposed to another.

• myriad other complications.

All we have to do is point to OJ Simpson, who is finally off the golf course, to convince someone serving time for non-violent behavior that Life is Just Not Fair. Even in the justice system.

Zero tolerance seems to indicate a bottom line. While all absolutes have inherent problems involved for particular cases, zero tolerance itself is a questionable stance, and often undermined by the terminally literal mind.

EX: A six grade girl is suspended for two weeks for having a Tweety Bird key chain on her backpack. In her school, the new code of conduct banned “chain possession” under their weapons definition. No warning, no personal letter home to the folks saying, “I know it seems silly, but in our efforts to be consistent, would you please help us by find a different key chain for Amanda?”

Creative Sentencing

1. I was reading the newspaper about a young man in Ohio. Only coincidentally was the the driver named Law. Anyway, he was busted for driving through town with his windows down and speakers turned up so high to some kind thudding sounds that small animals were having seizures.

His punishment for this noise offense was to listen to polka music turned up high for four hours. The judge probably safely assumed that Mr. Law would not find the songs catchy. The horror, the horror.

2. In Knoxville, TN a seventeen year old boy pled no contest to vehicular homicide. Part of the plea agreement for Pelham McMurry includes planning his own funeral. He must meet with a funeral director, write his own obituary, choose the clothes he would wear to be buried in. Many other appropriate restrictions are included in the year long probation—200 hours of community service, mandated counseling, random drug and alcohol testing. The victim’s father was profoundly dissatisfied with the judge’s decision to keep the case in juvenile court.

Which brings us to the concern of the day.

Let’s forget ‘an eye for an eye’ as in the Old Testament, or lopping off the hand of a thief, as in the Queran (Koran). No tit for tat (whatever that means).

Let’s think of some creative ways to punish non-violent offenders so that the punishment really fits the crime in some delightful, ironic, or useful fashion, and clears out the jails of the country who has the highest population of incarcerated individuals in the world..

Let’s really consider Poetic Justice.

Not everyone deserves the slammer. Or detention. Or a fine. Or humiliation.


No comments: