January 2011

Unlocking common sense

by Pitt Griffin on January 29, 2011 · 0 comments

in Politics

Pat Robertson and Newt Gingrich have seen the light. Pat Robertson announced on his 700 Club:

“I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot, that kinda thing, it’s just — it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people,”

Gingrich in an article ‘Saving money, Saving lives’ for the ‘American Enterprise Institute’ 1/7/11 commends “several states” for “intelligently reducing their prison populations”. This is quite a different philosophy from that expressed in his 1994 ‘Contract with America’. As part of that legislative exuberance the Congress passed the “Violent Criminal Incarceration Act”. Not just violent criminals were to be locked up, money was set aside to

“…build, expand, and operate temporary or permanent correctional facilities, including facilities on military bases and boot camp facilities, for the confinement of convicted nonviolent offenders…”

Gingrich used to know what was going to happen in the criminal justice system – “domination by secular Left-liberal judges will change America”. But now he is inviting Liberals to join with Conservatives to design a response to crime that isn’t ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’.

So why is now enthusiastically embracing the liberal position he has spent years thumbing his nose at? Answer – money.

It is a good thing that we have reasoned responses to crimes not just knee-jerk retribution.  It makes far more sense as a society that we turn non-habitual, non-violent offenders into productive taxpaying citizens rather than convicts.

(Make no mistake. I advocate that habitual or violent or major offenders should be jailed).

But while I am glad that Robertson and Gingrich have abandoned their antediluvian philosophy and seen a great light, I regret that it took money to finally show them the inefficiency and recklessness of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy of incarceration to combat crime. To show that jail breeds recidivism.  

The shame is that if Gingrich had put his 1994 credibility behind an enlightened approach then, rather than waiting 16 years to speak out, imagine how much taxpayer money we would have saved, how much more tax we would have collected, how many more productive people would have been created.

Better late than never.

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