Last week our 2 Paragraphs discussed the failure of the policy of “Tough on Crime,” and put forth realities on how we could have safer and more crime-free communities by being Smart on Crime. What follows are specific things we all can do to achieve those goals:
- Stop “Over-criminalization!” Many jurisdictions have turned their police and traffic laws into fundraising mechanisms. Not only does this frequently weigh disproportionally upon the poor, it also directly results in anger and distrust against law enforcement in general. In addition, large fines, coupled with additional penalty assessments, often result in unpayable amounts of money being owed by many people. And if it is not paid, that inevitably results in additional fines and even being subject to arrest. So the cycle perpetuates itself.
- Arrests should be seen as a last resort, just like in medicine, where surgery is seen as the last resort. Furthermore, if people are arrested, bail should be reasonable. That includes the proposition that suspect who are not a threat to anyone and are highly likely to appear in court should be released upon their written promise to appear. (Actually, this is the normal rule of law, but often bail is still required.)
- Repeal Mandatory Minimum Sentences. No one can determine in advance a reasonable punishment without knowing who the perpetrators are, their backgrounds, who the victims are and how badly, if at all, they were harmed. But these “automatic” punishments often result in obscenely long sentences that are truly unfair to the defendants, their families and also the taxpayers.
- Body cameras on the uniforms of the police result in better conduct both by the police and also by the people in the community. And that frequently also results in the exoneration of police officers who are charged with misconduct.
- Community Policing. Get the police back to being peace officers instead of law enforcement officers. That includes repealing the failed policy of the so-called War on Drugs, because that often results in the police treating drug violators like the “enemy.”
- Repeal “Policing for Profit.” In other words, change the civil asset forfeiture laws to require a criminal conviction before anyone’s property can be forfeited to the government. And when this does occur, the forfeited property must be placed into the general fund instead of police coffers. Clearly our police must be fully funded for the protection of us all, but they should not have a financial incentive to forfeit property.
- If non-violent offenders have drug addiction or mental illness problems, but otherwise are not hurting anyone but themselves, they should be referred to medical assistance, not the criminal justice system.
Being Smart on Crime by providing reasonable assistance to help people live more productive lives, as well as bringing our police back into the peace officer business, will not only enhance Liberty for everyone, it will make all of us safer and even reduce taxes along the way.
Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice
President, along with Governor
Gary Johnson as the candidate for President
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