Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Can Justice Itself Become Criminal?

It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who wrote, "Justice without mercy is not justice."  Case in point: A California man has been sentenced to up to eight years in prison for stealing a $3.99 bag of shredded cheese.  Not only "where is the justice" in that; where is the sanity in that? 

The California penal system is bankrupt, spending 10 Billion per year on prisons at the expense of virtually every other social investment such as roads or schools.  Yet, this crippling level of spending hasn't been enough to save the penal system from being so overcrowded and dangerous to inmates that federal courts have ruled it to be cruel and unusual punishment. 

In a twist of irony, the federal courts' forcing of California to abandon simplistic slogans like "Three Strikes, You're Out" may drive meaningful re-evaluation and a retailoring of the penal system to fit the goals of the criminal justice system.  Further discussion of this issue can be found HERE.

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