Unfortunately, our harsh sentencing laws for petty crime and debt failure never seem to apply to the major crimes against the people, or when some poor scapegoat executive does get busted, he serves short time on one of the government’s neo country club prisons. One of my felonious friends doing time for marijuana spent a year shagging golf balls for a former president’s attorney general at Lompoc from the Watergate days.
For the lower classes, however the advent of mandatory sentencing, combined with the fear mongered arguments of the incarceration industrial complex has proven a disaster. Our prisons are filled with petty criminals, probation violators and social deviants whose threat to society is minimal at best, but who cost tens of thousands of pubic funds to jail per year. A two tiered system in which the rat bastards run free and the minor offenders suffer our version of “correction” at great expense. How’s that working out, anyway?
In other, more mature cultures, children and the population at large are taught that honesty and good behavior are rewarded with respect from your peers and community. To lose such respect is the ultimate punishment, and public disgrace is sometime followed by ritual suicide, as in Japan.
Unfortunately, America no longer practices public shame as a punishment. The colonial period saw various methods of penance featuring public display of the perpetrators in stocks and pillory benches in the public square outside the courthouse. Passers by could jeer, throw refuse and rotten vegetables at will.
When the duration of punishment was ended, everyone knew what had been done, by whom and why. Truly onerous citizens might be banned from town or shunned by respectable folk. Shame was an effective anti crime tool, and cost a lot less than jailing.
Today it is the punitive puritan practices or our so called justice system that are the shame of our nation.
“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.