2017-07-20 – OJ served way too much time.
I’m not saying the OJ is a good guy. It’s not just OJ. It’s most of the folks we have locked up. We are punishment crazy in this country and it’s not doing any of us any good (unless you own prison stocks or you’ve got a job in the system—or fighting the system).
President Trump has been quoted as saying that his favorite verse is “an eye for an eye.” I can see that. Lots of people like that one. But I think lots of people don’t really understand what “an eye for an eye” really meant in the Bible.
The Bible was not trying to be gruesome or harsh. Just the opposite. At a time when the punishment for all sorts of things was death, the Bible was saying “Whoa! Let’s try to be proportional about it! The punishment can’t be greater than the crime!”
And so here we are in 2017. And we throw people into prison for unconscionable lengths of time. We essentially take away a big chunk of their lives. And people are saying “an eye for an eye”? If you believed in “an eye for an eye,” most of the prisons sentences that we hand out would drop precipitously in length. A year should be the longest we put someone away for—excluding the perps who continue to be dangerous.
And here’s another thing. What do these long sentences do for victims?
For one thing: nothing.
And for another thing: what victims? Tons of people are incarcerated for crimes in which there is no victim.
And so, with penalties that are wildly out of proportion with the crimes, we end up with wildly inconsistent enforcement.
People are reluctant to report certain crimes because the penalty is too large—unless they have a vendetta against the perpetrator.
Juries are reluctant to convict because, even if they feel the accused is guilty, they feel the consequences will be unfair.
Cops and prosecutors use the threat of heavy penalties to coerce defendants to give up their constitutional rights and cop a lesser plea—even when they know they are innocent.
The abstract idea of giving people what they deserve is great—but it isn’t working out in the day to day world.