Of Crime and Punishment

For the most part the punishment of a crime against society is fair and equal. In my opinion some forms of punishment do not fit the crime. Such as the Supreme Court decision to ban the death penalty for the rape of a child. While the child molester is sentenced to ten years of prison, the child is sentenced to a lifetime of fear and hell reliving the painful memories.

In Texas anyone caught breaking into a car and stealing a GPS, radio or some other accessory from the car is only given a ticket and a fine. Somehow this punishment does not seem to fit the crime. Some of us really and truly work hard to buy what little we have.

A punishments that punishes with time served or community service is a punishment that is equal. Anyone committing a crime and sentenced to serve time will serve about the same amount of time as anyone else regardless of economic position.

For example anyone caught with a certain amount of drugs and charged with "possession with intent to distribute" will get about four years of hard time. Leaving aside the ability to purchase an outstanding defense attorney, the rich and the poor alike will get about the same sentence.

Of all the most unfair, unjust and discriminatory punishments is the monetary punishment. A monetary punishment is used mostly in the administration of penalties for traffic offences. It is designed not only to abate the undesirable behavior but to also generate general revenue funds for the agency administering the penalties.

Often times the enforcement of such penalties is aimed at the common minority population. It is often easier to collect a traffic fine from a minority than from a member of the elite society. Members of the elite society can afford to exact much more in court costs from the system than the fine is worth.

Leaving all the above aside let us look at the toll taken on two different people. A common every day citizen making $12.00 per hour (common labor in construction) and a president of a corporation (TXU Energy) making 17 million a year.

If they both get caught driving without a seat belt it will cost each of them about $350.00. For the labor it will cost him 16.96 percent of his monthly pay. For the corporation president it will cost him 0.025 percent of his monthly pay. Put another way, the labor can only afford to be caught 5.9 times before he runs out of money. The president of TXU Energy can afford to be caught 4,047.62 times before he runs out of money.

What this means is that the laws are not fair, not just, not equal. If the laws are meant to deter unwanted behavior and the fine is meant to act as a deterrent then the punishment must have meaning to the person paying the fine. Sure for the labor paying 16.96 percent of his monthly pay it does make a difference. But for the president of a large corporation it doesn't even amount to pocket change.

In Dallas Texas some intersections have cameras that take a photo when someone runs a red light. The fine is $75.00 per occurrence. The common man can only afford to run one red light per day during the month (27.52 times). But the president of a corporation can afford to run a red light 18,888.89 times in a month.

Although every attempt has been made to present our laws as just and fair that is not always the case. Our lawmakers must be made aware that unjust laws that target a specific group of people (low to middle income) only generate mistrust of our law makers. And worse yet it generates an unwillingness to cooperate with those charged with enforcing the laws.


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