Law Offices of Jess C. Bedore III - Certified Specialist in Criminal Law
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Prop 47 looks to limit punishment for nonviolent crimes

We have talked about many imaginary situations on this blog where a person is accused of a crime and is eventually thrown in jail for an extended period. The crime itself may have been nonviolent, and yet the rules dictate that people who are in this position must be harshly punished so that they "learn a lesson" (even though much research has shown that such negative reinforcement doesn't inspire people to "learn a lesson").

Even if the rules don't dictate it, there is a perception that people who commit crimes simply need to be harshly punished, if not to make them see the error in their ways then at least to make the rest of society feel a little bit safer. This is nonsense, and it does nothing to make society better by any objective means.

 

We talk about all of this in light of the changing perception of criminal punishment here in California over the last 10 or 15 years, culminating (at least for the time being) with the potential approval of Proposition 47, which would further limit the amount of punishment that criminals receive for nonviolent and minor crimes.

The whole state has come a long way in that time, and even though our budget may not exactly be exemplary, our policy towards crime is certainly improving. For example, in 1998, an idea was being floated around to allow judges the right to sentence 14-year-olds to death for crimes they commit.

Ultimately, we're heading in the right direction with Prop 47. We shouldn't live in a lawless world -- but we also shouldn't live in a world where those laws ruin lives just for committing a nonviolent and minor crime.

Source: Reason.com, "A Welcome Softening of California's Tough-on-Crime Approach," Steven Greenhut, Sept. 12, 2014

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