For the United States, there remains a constant struggle with most of us when it comes to deciding whether or not a fitting punishment for a crime committed is warranted.  When it comes to handing out life or death sentences, many judges grapple with this decision making process with mental anguish.  Regardless of the judge’s decision, not everyone is happy.


Not wanting to write about all the different laws that have been set up by each state when it comes to first, second, third, or class A, B, 1, 2, etc., or how our laws were originally set up that determines the perpetrator’s degree of guilt, I want to confine my thoughts on serious issues that have faced us for a long, long time – and it’s only going to get worse if not kept in check.  We do have grave issues in that we have to have earnest debate to determine the justification on deciding a fitting punishment for the crime committed.  Our present laws are not doing the job and this is evidenced by the growing crime rate throughout our country.

Going forward, in view of our economic problems, our prison population is exploding, to the point that officials who are now having to determine who they should, or should not keep.  It is fair to write that prison officials will not release those convicted of a murder.  In various reporting agencies, there are some interesting numbers that don’t seem to compute when you do the math.  For example, it’s been reported that we have approximately 148,000 murderers currently in prisons.  It should be noted that we had approximately 16,500 murders committed in the U.S. last year, down considerably from years past.  If less than 1 percent of felons whose death sentence is carried out each year and that the national murder rate increases 1 percent each year, this means we have either an extraordinary exoneration rate among those who went to trial or those reporting the numbers of those incarcerated are in error.

Again, if one does the math one can ascertain that we do not have enough prisons to house the rate of increase crime is being committed.  So where do we put them?  What do we do with them?  Another haunting problem.  The costs of keeping one prisoner for 10, 20, or 40 years, or for life is staggering, multiply that by the millions presently incarcerated and one has to wonder where are we going to get the money to keep the ever increasing prisoner population?  There are many possible solutions, one practiced many years ago is to employ the prisoners to do constructive work that eases the financial burden of cities, towns, etc., but we have a civil matter to consider.  Is this method brutal, unfair, slavery, or unjust punishment?  Or to see it as an enhancement, it just one avenue in which a prisoner can gain experience, giving him a trade that can only benefit him when he is out of prison.  

We are supposed to be a civilized nation, not a nation of barbaric people conducting business as usual through a Neanderthal state of mind.  It is a delicate matter of balancing what is right or the wrong thing to do.  Who, then, is to make that decision?  Our lawmakers or the people?

That said we nevertheless are facing a problem that is only going to grow not recede.  Not wanting to point out causes for pending failures, we need to seriously revamp our laws without violating the U.S. Constitution, unless amended by our Congress.  As evidenced by the sentencing guidelines, sometimes observed, sometimes not, one thing for certain, our Federal and State courts are on the path of systemic failure.  One does not have to see the forest for the trees to recognize that our law enforcement community is fit to be tied, and for good reasons.  Many perpetrators are turned back to the streets only to commit another crime - faster than the law can apprehend them.  The bottom line here is that no matter our profession one’s patience can only be tested for so long before something cracks, and the question we have to ask ourselves, are we ready to crack?

© 2013 James Ian MacIntosh all rights reserved