A few nights in jail. That prospect prevents countless Americans from driving drunk, shoplifting, trespassing, using illicit drugs, vandalizing property, and more.
More than 90% of Americans lead their lives without getting locked up for a moment. They so prefer sleeping on their own terms, even on the ground, they dissuade themselves from indulging in common temptations forbidden by the law.
The carrot-and-stick proposition of freedom vs. confinement has served this country well for centuries. That appears lost on left-wing activists who want to fix what is not broken.
In their push to change a country most of the world envies, progressives want to lower consequences for suspected criminal behavior. They want suspects on more equal terms with victims of crimes and those suspected of nothing. In typical fashion, socialists want equal outcomes for all — no matter what anyone chooses to do short of a brutally vicious crime. These are the same social justice warriors who would “defund the police” at a cost to the safety of people in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods.
State Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, leads the Colorado charge for treating criminal suspects more like everyone else.
Lee sponsors Senate Bill 62, which “prohibits a peace officer from arresting a person based solely on the alleged commission of a traffic offense; petty offense; municipal offense; misdemeanor offense; a class 4, 5, or 6 felony; or a level 3 or 4 drug felony.”
Tell the victim of identity theft the perpetrator committed a low-level crime that warrants no arrest. Tell the parent of a young drug addict how the dealer committed a minor crime that triggered a citation.
“There are scores of cases; people held for minor offenses who can’t get out because they don’t have $100,” Lee said during a recent committee hearing
Not having $100 represents a multitude of problems. It means one cannot afford food, rent, a mortgage, or fare for a ride. It means the suspect has no good foundation of friends, colleagues, secular or religious peers, and no caring relatives or neighbors. Rather than end cash bail, a cornerstone of the criminal justice system, we should do more to end abject poverty.
Legislators should not tie the hands of law enforcers who need the discretion to handcuff and jail someone suspected of driving recklessly, dealing drugs, or stealing what belongs to someone else. Without the threat of jail to deter run-of-the-mill crimes, we will get more of them.
Consider Denver drug lawyer Rob Corry after he helped legalize recreational marijuana for consumption in private.
Oh, (expletive) off, cop. It’s a citation only,” Corry said, as quoted in a Denver police report after he refused to stop smoking pot in a crowd at a Colorado Rockies game.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman learned of a 70.6% increase in motor vehicle theft in his city after law enforcement quit arresting car-theft suspects during the pandemic. Suddenly, there was less downside in the risk-reward equation one considers before stealing a car. A friendly summons does not strike fear in the heart of a thief like the thought of handcuffs.
The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police opposes Lee’s bill because top cops know it will increase crime. Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold told legislators people are arming themselves because the pandemic has lowered arrests and therefore the public’s confidence in law enforcement.
Even the American Civil Liberties Union, which cares little about the civil liberties of crime victims, acknowledges the recent spike in crime. The organization blames “multifaceted social factors related to the challenges of this moment.”
Such gibberish. We can link all crime — past, present, and future — to “social factors related to the challenges of this moment.” The urge to steal, sell drugs, or drive drunk typically relates to social factors and challenges.
The cash bail system is neither perfect nor fair. That makes it like anything else in a society balancing the diverse interests of 330 million unique individuals yearning to live free.
The United States has become the envy of the world by rewarding good character, behavior, and accomplishments. The law discourages harm, deceit, and injustice with the threat of confinement. By weakening this system, in any way, we weaken the world’s strongest country.
Crime hurts innocent people. The jail cell — and the cost of getting out — mitigate harm. Though badly flawed, it is the world’s best system. In the interest of justice and peace, don’t reduce the cost of causing harm.
(c)2021 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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