There have been calls of late to "lock 'em up," referring to those who commit crimes. Only then, some say, will the "Good Old U S of A" return to our shores (as if the country we live in today is not the United States).
I see two basic problems with this approach. One, I call "Wherever Shall They Go"; the other, "Whatever Shall They Do."
The "Wherever Shall They Go" question refers to the severe lack of space in our nation's prison system. We're rapidly running out of places to put our criminals. Each inmate costs the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania approximately $60,000 per year to keep behind bars. Aren't we strapped for cash already?
The "Whatever Shall They Do" question deals with so-called "white collar" criminals and government officials.
It is a commonly-held belief that major banks and investment firms, including quasi-governmental outfits like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac caused The Great Recession. How does a state, how does a nation put behind bars a bank or large institution? Shall the CEOs, CFOs, etc., of such companies go to jail?
If we imprison one bigshot or confiscate the resources of a company as punishment for criminal behavior, what collateral damage might be caused? Could we do more harm than good?
Richard Nixon was clearly involved in the Watergate scandal. Should he have been put in prison? In a speech broadcast on national television, Ronald Reagan took full responsibility for the Iran-Contra Affair, a clear violation of federal law at the time. Should he have been locked up? Should Bill Clinton have gone to jail for whatever he may have done with Monica Lewinsky?
Before we start building ever-larger pens for our fellow citizens, we might want to take a moment and consider the unintended consequences of our actions.
There are at least 11 million undocumented aliens in this country, right now. Many have been here for a generation or more and have, whether we like it or not, woven themselves tightly into our communities. They have spouses, children and extended families to support. They own and operate businesses we patronize every day. They work alongside us. If we go after the illegals in our midst, where will they go? What will become of them? What will we do about them, and what damage will we cause to ourselves if we lock them up?
We say that we want less government, that we are broke. It costs lots of money to prosecute, convict and imprison criminals. Dangerous criminals should spend time "away," as it is often called, but I also believe in prosecutorial discretion in upholding the law. We need to think about what it is that we are doing when we decide to prosecute someone.
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom