America has, historically, had problems separating justice from revenge and punishment. From the Salem Witch Trials and other puritan atrocities through the hanging of horse thieves and the political imprisonment of poets and pacifists during our several modern wars, America has been notable for the harsh treatment and long sentences meted out on conviction for even minor offensives. The drug wars are an example, with the marijuana issue a prime case in point.
In California, despite its mythical liberalism on the issue, 60,000 people will be arrested for pot possession this year. Most will be placed on probation, possibly after a short stint in the county jail or a year or more in state prison. The fortunate will manage to plead to a federal offense in order to enjoy slightly better living conditions at “club feds.” The probation or parole restrictions will last several years, during which time any encounter with police will threaten to return you to custody for several weeks or months as a violation of your release.
The deplorable conditions in state prisons are well documented across the entire country, with rape and assault common, and overcrowding contributing to the tension, forcing gang affiliation for self defense. Anyone experiencing this situation will fear a repeat of incarceration, and often act out of desperation to try and avoid re-arrest. This is the root cause of those televised police pursuits through suburban districts and freeways, where the fleeing suspect is finally caught and held for violation of parole or probation.
In extreme cases, where the suspect has two felonies already and faces life without parole if caught, some choose to shoot it out rather than face the sentence. In many cases they know that their chances of surviving a gun battle with dozens of police, swat teams and helicopters are slim to none, but the choice of “suicide by police” may be appealing, compared to life in a cage with jackals.
A sane society would reform our legal and judicial systems, along with new prisons designed more for rehabilitation of minor offenders and humane living conditions for even the worst.
Until our attention focuses more on justice than revenge, nothing will change, and more police and perpetrators will die for our mistakes.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.