Thursday, January 23, 2014

Who's the Victim Here?

Lost in all of the hoopla over budget surpluses and tax cuts in Madison, was the introduction last week of a bill that will require all new criminal laws to include a "minority impact statement".  Representative Nakiya Harris--a Democrat from Milwaukee--wants to Department of Justice to estimate how many more African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians will be put behind bars if a new crime is added to the code or if existing penalties are increased.

I find the bill fascinating, as we are somehow expected to predict the future bad behavior of just certain segments of the population.  If we are that good at making predictions about that, why don't we just create the "PreCrime" police division like they did in the movie Minority Report and arrest people before they can even attempt the offense they are "surely" going to commit.

Actually, Representative Harris has introduced her bill in an attempt to frame all future debate about crime and punishment in Wisconsin not in the context of "criminal justice"--but rather in the context of "social justice".  We all know that it's not bad behavior that lands people in prison--it's bad laws.  Laws that some believe were put on the books for the sole purpose of ensuring that people of certain colors end up behind bars--or brandished with the scarlet letter of "F" for convicted felon--ensuring they will never have a good job and will remain poor their entire lives.

The real "victims" of crime in the "social justice system" aren't those who see their kids get hooked on drugs sold by a local dealer, or the people who have their belongings or money stolen by the drug addict looking to buy his next fix, or the people who get shot in gang disputes, or the businesses that lose money when people steal items from them.  The "real victim" is the person "unfairly" sent to prison for committing those acts--even if it was of their own free will.  

Perhaps that is the way sponsors of new criminal bills can turn the focus back to "criminal justice".  You can put the number of minority criminals that will get locked away because of it, but you can also add the number of minority kids that won't be pressured to start using drugs or join gangs.  Or you can list the number of minority innocent bystanders that won't be shot by thugs "sending a message".  And you can include the number of minority businesses that might not have to hire armed security guards or put their employees behind bullet-proof glass to work the register.  In other words, remind everybody about why we have laws--and prisons for those who refuse to live by them.

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