The present system has not rehabilitated the majority of its convicted felons but does provide one-time offenders with a graduate school diploma in better methodologies of crime. The system does not deter crime and serves mainly for the employment and profit of not only criminals but also lawyers, judges, probation officers, jailers and others who maintain a living from it.
Before the taxpayer continues to add prisons, criminal courts, and halfway houses to the landscape, perhaps, John Q. Public needs to ask a difficult question.
"Is the current criminal justice system in the U.S. decreasing the crime rate and making the nation a better and safer place to live?"
The answer should be obvious --- ABSOLUTELY NOT! If you don't agree, then be prepared to show where and how crime has decreased in any aspect during the past 90 years. The current criminal justice system has not reduced crime despite the massive amount of dollars spent.
Rather I submit that the present criminal justice system serves to improve the ability of the criminal element to prey upon the general public.
Honest answers to these questions must show that most crimes are caused by felons. Crime must pay or it would not be increasing!
Over the past 25 years, I've been exposed to the law enforcement system and its workings in a myriad of ways both here and overseas. It would seem that maybe we can learn something from other cultures about ways to reduce crime.
One result of that exposure is this nagging thought . . . perhaps, we should throw out our current criminal justice system, bathtub and water, and just start over. Only the legal professionals with their vested interests think this is impossible. The victims of violent crime want an effective system now!
At the very least, we must question the basic premises upon which the current criminal justice system is based, i.e., incarceration is a deterrent, rehabilitate prisoners by giving them a trade, corporal punishment is inhumane, the death penalty is cruel and unjust, etc.
Lao Tse wrote about 600 BC that
"the more meddlesome the government, the poorer the people"
"the more laws, the more criminals arise."
I think that we have more laws and regulations than necessary but my readers already know that!
We must decide what constitutes criminal felony activity and if violence makes the offender subject to additional punishment. There may even need to be a distinction between violent crime and economic crime. For each major felony conviction, the punishment would increase one level for most offenses but certain offenses and conditions can increase a person's punishment level. However, there are only four levels.
Trying to impose one's moral values upon another segment of society often leads to laws which are almost impossible to enforce. Making laws which are not obeyed voluntarily by more than 95% of the population results in a break-down of respect for the concept of law and order. It also leads to a large police force to enforce the law. Selective enforcement further breeds contempt for the law.
Many current laws were made to impose someone's moral values upon society. Some laws should be reviewed and perhaps, taken off the books. A partial list of felony offenses to be reconsidered are: abortion (the world's major form of birth control), adultery, credit card abuse, drug use vs. drug dealing, failure to pay child support and/or alimony, fornication between consenting adults, gambling, public drunkenness, driving while intoxicated, prostitution, panhandling, pornography, theft versus shop-lifting, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, assisting the terminally ill to commit suicide and/or gay conduct.
The question of which crimes are misdemeanors or felonies is rooted deeply into the philosophy of our criminal justice system and will cause a lot of discussion. John Q. Public must decide if drug and alcohol abuse and/or usage is a felony crime or a disease that needs to be treated.
While I believe in the concept of turning the other cheek, I also don't believe that society should do it forever. Level 1, or the initial felony conviction, would require a confinement term of only three (3) months in a minimum security facility plus one year spent working in a government-approved job. During the first 30 days, the felon would be evaluated to determine the felon's current skill levels, i.e., reading, writing, and arithmetic, and communication skills, etc. If crime does spring from poverty as one of the underlying causes, society must provide steps to break the poverty chain.
There are two exceptions: if a person murders a law enforcement employee performing in the line of duty, or if the first offense involves multiple murders, conviction would be an automatic Level 4 penalty.
With this exception, all persons convicted who are past 12 years of age would be subject to this program. However, those under 18 years of age would be judged based upon their age level and if necessary, remedial schooling provided. The first time offender will not be housed with multiple offenders to learn additional ways to terrorize society.
Behavior Modification is the Key!
During the last two months of confinement, the felon would eat greasy food three times a day and spend 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon viewing a multi-media presentation which continually shows the punishment phase for the second, third and fourth convictions.
The multi-media room would have sinks around all four walls to enable the felon to throw up during the shows. Pavlov's dogs were effectively trained, why not human beings?
During this confinement, all individuals would be denied access to tobacco, drugs, and alcohol and would be required to sleep in solitary rooms. Subliminal messages about non-acceptable behavior would be piped into each room according to the test results determined during the individuals personal skills assessment.
Upon completion of three months of confinement, if the felon did not have the skills required of a high school graduate, the felon would be offered an opportunity for additional education. The felon could accept additional schooling to increase his/her literacy to acceptable levels and to obtain skills to find a job.
Failure to accept additional schooling, if recommended, would place the individual in line for a Level 3 punishment upon the second conviction.
Upon completion of the three months confinement, and/or the attainment of basic skills, the government would be responsible for:
The current system of releasing a prisoner with $100 - $300 and a bus ticket to wherever is almost sure to put the ex-convict back into crime. Haven't we learned enough about behavioral traits and safety and survival levels during this century to understand the fallacy of the current system?
For specific felony crimes, certain additional restrictions and/or sanctions could be implemented for the first or second offense. For instance, rapists could be castrated upon the second offense; drunk drivers could be required to operate only motor vehicles that would start if the driver tested below a certain level of alcohol in his breath; and those convicted of violent crimes such as mugging, armed robbery, or assault might be visibly tattooed.
Thou shall not kill! Murder except self-defense after the first offense is a Level 4 offense.
The felon would be required to work at the government-approved job for a period of one year before being allowed to return to the original environment. During this period, the felon would wear an electronic monitoring device containing a stun gun device to stop unauthorized movements at all times. If necessary, the government could provide WPA type jobs at the GS-12 level to improve the environment with the work of these felons.
Why should felons get to play sports, eat 3 meals a day, watch TV and develop their criminal skills while the victims pay taxes to keep them in the surroundings the current system demands? Corporal punishment would be allowed if the felon deviated from normal behavior during the monitoring period.
The current cost of incarceration per inmate has been estimated in the range of $15,000 to $40,000 per year. However, the total cost of the criminal justice system is probably much higher per person incarcerated. Most studies do not include the costs of the criminal justice system, the defendant's legal costs, the costs of the parole and probation systems and the costs of half-way houses, let alone the costs to support the families left behind, many of which are placed on welfare.
The proposal advocates that the government recommit those funds to solving the problem and breaking the chain by not continuing to place people in prisons which simply warehouse felons for a portion of their sentence. The local furor which develops when half-way houses are opened in a community will be eliminated since we won't have half-way houses. Electronic monitoring will solve the problem.
The government would take those felons who were not literate and provide the necessary training to ensure that they could read, write and communicate in society at some acceptable level. Upon passing this level, the government would find or approve an acceptable position in the private sector for the felon who would be electronically monitored for one year.
During the re-education period, the felons would be restricted to an austere campus environment wherein the only distraction would be organized exercise and eating periods. At all other times, the felon's time would be spent in learning centers under group and/or individual instruction as required to enable them to function in society productively.
Felons under 18 would be returned to their family environment if all parties agree, otherwise, the individual will be placed in a boarding school, preferably, military, with no more than 20% felons.
If a determination is made that the individual is not capable of learning or is not attempting to learn, the felon will be sent for Level 4 punishment following extensive reviews unless someone vouches for the felon. All future punishment will be Level 4 punishments for these felons. The person vouching for the felon must also submit to a Level 1 incarceration period to insure that they understand the complete program.
But what about the second, third and fourth time offenders?
Simple, when a felon is convicted for a second time, (Level 2), the felon receives 25 lashes with a Cat-of-Nine Tails whip in a public square after which the felon is also placed in solitary confinement under a doctor's supervision every week for four consecutive weeks. The anticipation of the next flogging will make an impression. The felon is then returned to the Behavior Modification program for 60 days.
If convicted of a third offense, (Level 3), the felon must choose which extremity, i.e., arm or leg, is to be amputated without anesthesia.
The fourth felony conviction, (Level 4), carries a death sentence. The felon is immediately executed upon conviction in public -- no appeals allowed -- the felon refused to modify his behavior. The standards of reasonable doubt for this trial will be most strict to assure that an innocent person is not convicted.
The question of whether a criminal's death is humane or not is symptomatic of the problems ailing the criminal justice system. The system gives little weight to the humane or inhumane manner in which a victim was beaten, cut, shot, raped, or killed. Death should only be dignified for those who are not criminals. By making the execution less visible to the public and almost painless to the person being convicted, John Q. Public has lost the shock value of a public execution as a strong and real deterrent!
The proposal's simplicity will ensure that additional prisons are not required to house criminals for long periods of time. The resulting economies should enable the government to fund the education and work programs required.
Prisons Don't Help -- They are inhumane cesspools and recruiting campuses for gangs!
This proposal reduces the inhumane treatment of prisoners and the homosexuality which exists in prisons by keeping people out of prison. Current sentences warehouse prisoners out-of-sight. The parole system does not effectively supervise criminals due to manpower and budget problems and will no longer be required. Of course, we also will not need as many prison guards, parole officers, etc.
Prisons have become places where gangs recruit new members often based upon ethnic and national backgrounds. Gangs provide support mechanisms both in and out of prison including criminal activity skill improvements for felons who are released from prisons! Do the victims really want this?
Trap-guns and/or booby-traps will be allowed. Individuals and/or companies will be able to post premises as being booby-trapped. Individuals injured and/or killed entering such premises will have no recourse against the individual and/or company using trap-guns and/or booby-traps. People without felony convictions will be allowed to carry concealed weapons under a federal licensing law. No longer will only the criminals have guns, --- they will now have to worry if the potential victim also has one.
All lawyers and investigative police officers involved in the criminal justice system will be required to work in two year shifts on both the prosecution and defendant sides. Both prosecution and defense lawyers will be paid only the per diem rate set by the government.
Judges will not accept plea bargains for any reason. A case must be adjudicated before a jury unless a guilty plea is entered. Even then the judge must determine if the plea was coerced.
To often, judges and the lawyers accept a plea bargain to expedite a crowded courtroom schedule. By reducing the overall number of cases by execution of criminals after the fourth conviction, the criminal justice system should become a system where a person's innocence or guilt can be established without the judges and lawyers bargaining over a person's future life because of a golf date.
Here is a new concept. Peers means people in similar professions and/or socio-economic status . . . not from the general public. Jurors will be allowed to ask questions rather than being muzzled during the trial process. Many of us have sat on juries and wanted to ask witnesses specific questions which we thought might shed considerable light upon the case but were prevented from doing so by the rules.
Justice can not be blind and/or delayed. The adversarial system does have its faults and often the ego and skills of the opposing attorney's have more impact upon the outcome of the trial than does the facts.
To make the program workable, certain additional measures are absolutely essential to a fair and speedy disposition of the judicial process.
The concept of innocent until proven guilty must be maintained. After booking, all individuals will be released without bond for Level 1 offenses upon their own recognizance except that their passport will be invalidated and handed over to the court. Felons will only be released upon receipt of a $50,000 personal appearance bond. This proposal also reduces the need for local and county jails.
The government agrees to bring the individual to trial within three months of the indictment. If not, the charges must be dropped and expunged from all computer records.
If an arraigned individual attempts to leave the country, and/or fails to show up for any scheduled court hearing, and the court is not informed within 24 hours as to why such person was absent, the case will be automatically changed to a Level 4 offense. If a person is convicted of a second felony which occurs while that person is free upon their own recognizance, the second felony conviction will automatically become a Level 4 offense.
The government will provide the defendant with independent resources to prove that he is not guilty. A separate staff will work to investigate the indictment from the defendant's viewpoint. Lie detector test results will not be allowed as evidence in court as their reliability is questionable despite the skills of the operator.
Reasonable doubt must be the bedrock of a juror's deliberations. The judge must speak up!
Too many people have been convicted based upon lie detector tests who were later proven to be innocent that the continued use of lie detector tests must be stopped. Cases based upon circumstantial evidence must also be carefully handled to avoid prosecution zeal.
The felon will be provided skills to function as a productive member of society. Also, society will provide the felon upon release, a job which will enable the person to be self-supportive.
The Criminal Justice System must help people to live productive lives and not to become better criminals!
The current system only pays the criminals and those who profit from it. There comes a point when we have to question ...
Does the current criminal justice policy actually make the world a better place to live for all of humanity?
But then - - 'Tis Only My Opinion!
This issue of 'Tis Only My Opinion was copyrighted by Adrich Corporation in October 1991.
It is intended to provoke thinking, then dialogue among its readers. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.
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Last updated - July 1, 2008