Monday, March 8, 2010

Kennedy on Prisons

"Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke out against excessive prison sentences this month in California, criticizing the state's deeply misguided three-strikes law. It was a welcome message, delivered with unusual force. ... Sentences in the [US] are eight times longer than those handed out in europe, Justice Kennedy said. California has 185,000 people in prison at a cost of $32,500 each per year, he said. ... Justice Kennedy took special aim at the three-strikes law, which puts people behind bars for 25 years to life if they commit a third felony, even a nonviolent one. The law's sponsor, he said, is the correctional officers' union, 'and that is sick.' ... Under the three-strikes law, a man named Gary Ewing was sentenced to 25 years ot life for shoplifting three golf clubs from a golf pro shop. ... It's not that the court is insensitive to excessive punishments. It has repeatedly thrown them out--when they are against corporations", NYT, 16 February, 2010, link:

I believe California incarcerates about 168,000 prisoners at $62,500 each per year. That said, it's too many. Three-strikes law was imposed on convenience store thieves, who took three 75 cent candy bars. California's taxpayers can spend $62,500 a year for 25 years over a $2.25 theft! Amazing.


Anonymous said...

Abundance allows foolishness.

Scarcity creates priorities.

Hopefully California is examining some old assumptions. And coming up with some creative solutions.

For third time petty criminals how about a brand on the forehead... in this example a "T"... thief... others would be forewarned and society would have some measure of "protection".

Ubu said...

I'm fine with the principle of 3 strikes because the vast majority of all crime is committed by a small but inveterate group of life-long criminals. I'm sure you can find anecdotal cases otherwise, but the rap sheet on most three strike criminals is already a mile long by the time they get hit with a long stretch. I'm fine with reconsidering drug charges, but most drug dealers, from my experience, are also involved in a host of other criminal enterprises from larceny to GTA.

As for Europe, the criminal sentencing in Europe is such a joke (like most of Europe) that is is the perfect place to be a criminal; you get virtually no time for much of anything, including very violent crimes, and murdering Jews will get you even less. I do not, under any circumstances, look to Europe for criminal sentencing standards. Frankly, the reason we took judgment out of the hands of judges like Kennedy is because rather than putting the scumbag away, he wants to be feted at his Georgetown cocktail parties by showing how progressive he is by blabbering on about how Europe does this and Europe does that; he ignores our laws and customs in favor of some wrong-headed notion of crime and punishment as imagined from a Sorbonne sociologist.

Anonymous said...