San Bernardino County, CA November 7, 2000 Election
Smart Voter

Get Real on Crime

By Gwyn E. Hartley

Candidate for United States Representative; District 42

This information is provided by the candidate
Decades of political posturing as tough on crime have not made our children safe, but have filled our prisons and wasted billions of dollars. There is a better way.
Decades of political posturing as "tough" have failed to give us safe neighborhoods. It has cost us billions of dollars. And it has cost us something much more precious than the money. It has cost us our human spirit. America now holds the abominable distinction of being the nation that incarcerates the highest percentage of its citizens of any nation on earth. How tough do we need to be? And for how long?

Harvard researcher James Gilligan traces this strategy back 3000 years in the western world, and concludes that throughout these millenia we've never gotten safe by getting tough. Indeed, if stern justice and harsh punishments could reduce crime by even a small fraction of a percent, wouldn't it have completely disappeared long ago?

Hawks on this issue point to the pitiable suffering of crime victims. Indeed, we ought to have compassion for the victims of crime. They deserve our concern more than the criminals, certainly, even though studies show that most prison inmates began life as the victims of child abuse crimes. As a practical matter, we need to protect ourselves against psychopaths and white collar scammers alike. As the citizens of a legitimate democracy, acting according to law, we may forcibly incarcerate criminals, and those criminals may not be able to regain their freedom. Depending on the frequency and severity of their crimes and the laws we enact, we may have to put them away forever. But wouldn't you, at least ideally, rather save the money? How about some compassion for the tax-payer?

If it seems that I'm drawing a contradiction and insoluable conflict, please don't worry, because I promise to get us out of it right now.

First, again speaking practically, we haven't the money to imprison every wrong-doer for life. It costs much more, for heaven's sake, than sending the same people to Harvard and hiring them special tutors to boot. Therefore, what comes second, is the obvious and current reality: nearly everyone in prison will get out, most of them within just a year or two. Third, and this completes our firm-grip-on-the-obvious course, most of the worst crimes committed in America are done by those who have passed through the prison system before. They've been to the university of crime and got their diplomas, otherwise known as parole releases. They're carrying more pain than ever before. They're ready to really mess someone up.

Now I ask for compassion for the victims, and the potential victims, of crime. Would you offer it? Please, this is an urgent appeal. And it comes at a time when self-syled liberals are locking horns with self-styled conservatives, battling over the same useless ground. Please walk away from their futile conflict and think about how we can join together to aid all those potential victims of future crimes -- you are among them!

OK, so I promised two paragraphs ago to get us out of the contradiction right now, and it begins to look as if right now would never come. OK, I'm sorry if there was any anxiety over the delay. Can you think of it as laying a foundation? My solution is so brief, you see, that if I don't build some kind of pedestal to put it on, almost everyone will not even notice that it is a solution. Natural law is like that, and we have been ignoring it for so long, expecting the instant fix, magic bullet cure for the problem we just finished causing (or are, perhaps, still in the act of causing), that we effectively reject what is simple, easy, and self-reliant, while dashing on to find some grandiose expert out there in the blue yonder who will charge us an arm and a leg, utter a mouthful of mumbo-jumbo, and convert our old problem into a new shape that he will not be responsible for. Got any experiences to verify this? If not, I can't imagine how you could be reading this, because you certainly haven't been following any other threads of politics in America. OK, so now I really owe it to you, and it had better be good, the simple solution to crime, with compassion for the victims, (and even some for the felons), economy for the country, and a better future for all of us -- all of that in one word: prevention.

Prevention is the Natural Law platform in a nutshell. If we can prevent crime, then victims don't become victims, and that is infinitely better for them than any petty, mincing satisfaction they could glean from the cumbersome, bureaucratic workings of penal justice.

Prevention occurs on three levels. The first is so far away from the question of crime, that most of us wouldn't make the connection, so I want to send you to my NLP Platform section on education to consider what the we want to do in that area. I just remark here that, considering US statistics, a college diploma and a good job are far and away the best preventatives for crime. Second level involves people at risk but not yet involved in anything really dangerous or damaging. Education plays the greatest role here, too. We want to fully fund Head Start, for instance, enhance the nutritional content of school lunches, and make drug rehabilitation readily available to anyone who needs it. I don't mean after a six-week wait and submitting a sheaf of application materials. I mean the street urchin stumbles through the door and won't even tell his name, but he wants rehab -- this is not pretty, and it smells bad, but we put him into detox right now, not after lunch. Studies show money spent this way is seven to ten times as effective for stopping drug related crime than police interdiction.

The third level is the most difficult, because here we have to intervene in prisons with people who may be genuinely dangerous. Jay Marcus, in his excellent book, The Crime Vaccine, has detailed a number of strategies readily, and cost-effectively available for use in prisons. The excrutiating point you'll gain if you read this, is that some of the best solutions have been side-tracked even after repeatedly proving their value, and for the most miserable of political reasons. We can't afford this kind of crap! It's too late in time to make our best ideas wait in the hall while we have a fight over who sits in the leather chair on Capitol Hill and hundreds of billions of dollars are leaking down the crime drain every year. By implementing proven, cost-effective techniques for prevention and rehabilitation we can reduce crime, improve the quality of life, and save tax money. Let's do it now.

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