Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bad Laws: Zero Tolerance and Mandatory Sentencing

In my opinion, there has been an unfortunate, excessive trend, in the United States, toward rigid, "one-size-fits-all" laws. These bad laws include mandatory sentencing laws and zero tolerance policies.

I have no problem with some mandatory sentencing laws, especially for violent, repeat criminal offenders. For such dangerous, repeat offenders, I believe most of us would generally agree to "lock 'em up and throw away the key." But the mandatory sentencing laws go much further. All around the country, legislatures are deciding to take away sentencing judges' discretion by mandating minimum sentences to be served for various crimes. For example, we have seen some offenders getting mandatory life sentences under some states' "three strikes" laws for simply shoplifting items worth a few dollars. In my opinion, this is going too far. While some mandatory laws are good, sentencing judges still need some discretion to avoid extreme results.

I also take issue with some "zero tolerance" policies that are in vogue around the country. For instance, school boards everywhere have jumped on the bandwagon with their inflexible zero tolerance policies concerning weapons on campus. Just this past week, we have all read about the Delaware first grader who was suspended for innocently taking a cub scout all-purpose utensil to school. And did you hear about the high school eagle scout who was suspended simply because he had a scouting knife carefully tucked away in his car trunk? In my opinion, these suspensions, based upon these rigid zero tolerance policies, are outrageous!

When will state legislatures and school boards get back to using a little more judgment and common sense? One size does not always fit all. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Richard,
    I'm with you on this one. We are becoming a court of zionist. When common sense, replaces, these blanket laws, we will have recovered some sense of liberty, that was lost. I have tried to figure out when all these laws started taking place, and when we gave up on the belief in our court system, having the ability and judgement to rectify, the injustices that take place every day, without a need for extremism.