10A090 Government Cages by Jim Davies, 12/2/2010    

On Saturday the ZGBlog remarked that far too many people are in prison and should be pardoned, and right on cue on Tuesday the US Supreme Court (which must be reading it) considered whether some government prisons are overcrowded; those in California, from where it was hearing an appeal. On PBS' News Hour, observer Marcia Coyle was asked how they came to be so full.

She replied that the US and California have 'tougher sentencing laws in the last two decades than probably ever before. I think California may still be what we call a "three strikes, you're out" state.' It may indeed. But wait; do I see here a link between making otherwise presumably reluctant judges impose long sentences (on the one hand) and prison overcrowding (on the other)? - but surely, that would be logical! Mind, they are awakening to the problem only several decades after causing it, instead of before they wrote the law in the first place, but it's scary to see such a display of common sense.

Ted McLaughlin's informative article on "The Best of the Blogs" (a title I dispute, of course) reveals that the US imprisons more of its population than any other country, at 2.2%, and published this chart of how the number has dramatically increased since 1980 - without, it appears now, enough accommodation having been built for the people being caged. The rate per 100,000 is 738 here, yet in neighboring Canada it's seven times lower. Although I've not lived there, I'm very skeptical that Canuks are seven times more virtuous than Americans. This is not a problem of crime, it's one of government. McLaughlin suggests a couple of reasons for the discrepancy: the "extremely long and harsh sentences" and the "failed war on drugs."

The Supreme Court is belatedly addressing the former, while the glaring truth of the latter has still not been acknowledged anywhere in government circles. It's an abject failure in terms of its presumed or stated aim (to cut drug use) though if it actually has a quite different aim (to make it much easier for government snoops to scrutinize financial affairs and violate privacy rights, and to lock away those inclined to disregard its wishes) it must be counted a success. I wonder how SCOTUS will eventually rule, even on the perfectly simple question of gross overcrowding.

In the coming zero government society, such questions will be moot. There won't be any war on drugs (if people wish to ruin their lives, they have that right) nor any prisons recognizable as such by today's standards (perhaps just a very small number of psychopaths will need restraint of some kind) nor for that matter any Supreme Court. Instead, justice will begin to operate.

Your feedback, please!

Do you like what you read here? If so, spread the word among your friends! Suggest they check TinyURL.com/ZGBlog daily, or use RSS.