Thursday, May 26, 2011

Solving prison overcrowding.

The U.S. jails more people per capita than almost every other nation.  Prisons and jails generate big business, from construction to staffing and everything in between.  The phyrric war on drugs and "getting tough on crime" provide the human fodder.

Legislators fear being labled soft, meekly passing laws mandating jail or prison, increasing sentences and adding more and more punishing laws to the already huge volume of possible crimes.  Too many judges lack the courage, conviction or sense to say no to law enforcement's never-ending demand for more power.  Prosecutors clamor for more tools.  The result of course is that the "land of the free" has become the home of the inmate.

Recently the Supreme Court issued a decision (Brown v. Plata) ordering California to release thousands of inmates on grounds that overcrowding led to cruel and unusual punishment.  Anyone who has visited a prison or jail likely would agree.

A week later the same court decided Kentucky v. King, a decision (further) eroding the 4th Amendment (the one supposedly guaranteeing against unreasonable, i.e. warrantless, searches and siezures) by empowering police to bust into a person's home if police decide its inhabitants sound like they may be destroying evidence.  Bottom line is even more people will be subject to increasingly suspect arrest, prosecution and incarceration.

The solution?  Stop destroying the 4th Amendment further to empower police.  That Amendment has been so diluted over the years that its exceptions would take thousands of pages to list, explain and justify.  For all intents and purposes the government can do whatever it wants in the name of "law enforcement."

The Founding Fathers intended the language of the Constitution to be understandable by the common person.  It was written to limit government power.  Two hundred plus years of legal meddling and sophistry have changed that.

This latest example - widening the door to let more people into prison just to have to open another to let them out - underscores how absurd the situation has become.

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