The Willie Horton ad that ran against presidential candidate Michael Dukakis cost Americans hundreds of billions of unnecessary dollars and put hundreds of thousands of people behind bars for far longer than necessary – all lest future politicians be labeled “soft on crime.”
To no avail. Republicans always call Democrats “soft-on-crime.” That’s just what they do. In response, Democrats have ratcheted up prison sentences, built countless unnecessary prisons, and poured money into “corrections” that they’ve taken out of education, transportation and other social programs that actually better our collective quality of life.
Yet no one ever points out that all those billions, all that caged misery rotting the soul of America has occurred not because we as a nation are “tough-on-crime,” but because we’re dumb-on-crime.
Punishment without programs doesn’t work. Neither does retribution.
In the case of Maurice Clemmons, many of my fellow liberals have gleefully jumped on Mike Huckabee for pardoning Clemmons. Twenty years after Willie Horton, they are viciously re-paying the Dukakis slander. As a bonus, they hope to destroy Huckabee’s career, as well.
They are so wrong.
I applaud Governor Huckabee for granting 1,033 pardons. Yes, he should have vetted some of the applicants more thoroughly; maybe he was a bit gullible when applicants professed a similar religious persuasion. But the vast majority of the people he pardoned are now tax-paying, law-abiding, productive citizens.
I vote for more courageous governors to grant more commutations, more clemencies and more pardons. I vote for more elected officials who believe that compassion and mercy are as important a component of justice as imprisonment.
Here in Colorado mercy from the governor is about as rare as a sighting of Big Foot. Used to be that prisoners, including some violent ones, semi-regularly received pardons or commutations. In the 1960’s, a sixteen-year-old who killed his parents was pardoned and went on to become a doctor. We believed in redemption then. We believed people could change. NOBODY received a life without parole sentence and when they exited prison, few were ever heard from again. But now that we live in mindless fear of being murdered in our beds or clubbed outside a Starbucks by a toothless meth head or losing all our savings to the charming gentleman we met on an internet dating site, we want to lock up and/or execute the world.
In case you haven’t heard: we already lock away more people than any other nation and we remain more violent. Punishment DOESN’T work. And one more thing that isn’t mentioned: Maurice Clemmons was severely mentally ill. How about these warning signs: Family members reported that Clemmons said he could fly and that he expected President Obama to visit to “confirm that he is Messiah in the flesh.”
Sending somebody to prison as a kid does not do much for his mental health. And since we’re spending all that money on “corrections” we don’t have any left over for treatment of those with troubled or broken minds. Institutions have been closed. Programs curtailed. If a person is mentally ill, we all too often lock him away in prison where we won’t have to deal with him or think about him. We bury hundreds of thousands in a system that was never meant to handle the mentally ill – and then we’re surprised and outraged when we’re confronted by a Maurice Clemmons.
Our response is to lash out in yet more fear and yet more anger and demand yet more punishment.
But isn’t it strange. No matter how many millions we lock up, we still cower in our beds and look over our shoulders coming out of a Starbucks and we still get hustled by con men on-line and off.
Prisons are twenty-first century charnel houses of the soul. We don’t care. Those inside are moral lepers. They’ve broken rules. They’ve committed bad, sometimes evil deeds. Look, they’re caged. They must be lesser humans. But we on the outside have broken rules and have committed bad, sometimes evil deeds. Yet, we expect, nay, we demand forgiveness. Where we insist that “the other” accept responsibility for their transgressions, we insist that we must be excused.
And along comes Mike Huckabee, who believes all the tenets of the Bible, including, “Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Governor Huckabee did something unforgivable. He tempered justice with mercy for “the other.”
Now we will crucify him. Now, no other governor will even think about lessening a prison sentence, no matter how worthy the applicant.
We will waste more billions on prison, and the stench from the charnel houses will eventually pervade every corner of this once-great nation.
That’s what being tough-on-crime really means