Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Harsher Sentences Are Not The Answer

A Guest Post By E. Fink

This is what the shoe feels like when it's on the other foot.

For decades, right-wing / republican / conservative / Judeo-Christian Valuists have talked a big game when it comes to fighting crime. Running on "Law and Order" platforms and promising harsh sentences for criminals was a sure way to gain support.

On the other hand, bleeding heart liberals have been trying to model the justice system after the softer Euro sentencing structures.

Traditionally, middle class white people support Law and Order style justice. Harsh sentences make them feel safer and they are less likely to know someone who will be incarcerated, thus they are removed from the effects of the harsh sentencing of criminals.

Lower class folks usually support softer punishments. They are the ones who are more likely to have friends and relatives in the justice system. For many of them, the softer the punishment, the sooner they get their daddy back.

It was real easy for us middle class white (Jewish) people to support strict sentencing guidelines when it didn't really affect us. But after witnessing one of our own fall prey to the system we helped create I am sure we all feel differently. (Of course I am aware that there are some middle class white Jews who vote democrat and support liberal causes, I am talking to everyone else.)

27 years is a long time. Rubashkin is a crook but his sentence is very harsh. We now feel what lower class communities have felt for so long. Some of us now think the system is out to get us. They have felt that way all along. Some of us now are horrified by the sentencing guidelines and the leeway given to particularly strict judges. They have been saying this is a problem all along.

Perhaps it is time for our community to more fully support softer punishments for all criminals. In some states (like mine - California) we are spending millions and millions of dollars locking up "3 Strikes" criminals for LIFE (including non-violent, minor felonies). That is even harsher than Rubashkin's sentence. If we are outraged over his sentence let that outrage spill over into more socially conscious, activist role and help modify our current justice system.

But please, for intellectual honesty's sake, be consistent. If you think Rubashkin got a raw deal, do some research and learn about how other people who made mistakes in their teens will spend their entire lives in jail because of America's love of retribution. Help everyone who got shafted by the system and let's try and prevent this from happening again, to anyone.

Search for more information about harsh sentences at 4torah.com.

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