Posted: October 24, 2013 by cworboy1493 in Uncategorized

“Legal System is too harsh on petty crimes” by Sarah Shebek Crime and punishment is becoming increasingly common in the land of liberty, equality and justice. Shocking new statistics released from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that a whopping 1 in 32 adults in the United States were either incarcerated, on probation or on parole at the end of 2005. Furthermore, the number of women in state or federal prisons increased by 2.6 percent from the end of 2004 to 2005, and the number of men rose 1.9 percent. This brings us to one of two conclusions: Either our country is overpopulated with thugs, or our justice system is screwed up. I’d like to believe the latter. Although our system isn’t nearly as corrupt as those of many other countries, we are notorious for sentencing the average pot-smoking Joe to prison for five years or more, while convicted sex offenders and drunken drivers get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. Hollywood stars and big name athletes commit any crime of their choice and are almost automatically guaranteed to have their actions go largely unpunished, but minorities stand little chance of a reprieve for even the smallest of infractions. So our jails and prisons fill up with petty thieves and drug addicts while our country continues to spend millions of dollars to house and provide for them. More data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that in 2003, the largest number of inmates in the federal prison system were drug offenders, with 86,972 behind bars. The number of people imprisoned for violent crimes, such as homicides or robbery? Only 16,688. Either there really aren’t a large amount of violent crimes occurring in this country, or far too many people are getting away with serious offenses while our policemen chase after the 15-year-old selling marijuana in the schoolyard. Now, I’m not trying to make the case that drugs are harmless and that they should be legalized. But when the large plurality of prisoners in our system are there for drug offenses, it only gives the justice system less time, space and energy to convict people for more serious crimes. Perhaps that’s why many would-be convicts are running loose, free to pick and choose their next victim as we either forget their presence or attempt to corral them with limited resources. Another problem with our prison system: We assume that sticking a bunch of prisoners together actually will reform them and not make them all the worse for it. Although some really do change, others are only inspired to try new, even worse tactics that they’ve learned from their fellow inmates. Some are hardened after harrowing experiences in their cell and become less human than ever before. And some even prefer the prison life to life out on the streets – after all, while incarcerated their basic needs are provided for, and they don’t have to worry about finding a job or raising a family. One way or another, the prisons in this country are not serving their supposed function for many inmates. The question remaining is whether our country really is full of criminals or if our judicial system is unfairly doling out the same punishments for the man who makes a living from violent robberies and the man who unknowingly spiraled into a cycle of addiction after trying a drug as a na’ve teenager. Law enforcement officials need to do something different, whether that be creating a different set of punishments for drug offenders or creating a new system that weighs the severity of each crime based on its circumstances. If we don’t modify the way we handle offenses to meet the changing times, this problem will only continue to worsen. I don’t believe that our country is dramatically down-sliding. Both sides need improvement, but I look forward to the day when the truly innocent are understood, and the guilty are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. “Truman State University Index,” September 6, 2006 http://tmn.truman.edu/theindex/2006/12/06/legal-system-is-too-harsh-on-petty-crimes/ Sarah Shebek is a sophomore communication major from Iowa City, Iowa

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