Saturday Evening Post

I have spent the majority of this week in safe subject zones (not that you can tell from Sex is Overrated). I just have my mouth set for controversy.


Is this really where we are?

Where have I been hiding?

For those of you who travel in my blogging circles, you may have seen me at Val’s blog discussing chastity (With a week full of sex, whodathunkit?). Or did you see me at Lorre’s commenting on child bondage? Then again, we all went to see Grant’s rainbow, but did you catch the super villains? I did.


I have been viewing the world through some strangely shaped lenses this week. Truly, a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I made a monumental, life-changing, terrifically joyous decision (You will have to wait until all affected parties are brought abreast before the press release.) and on the other, came to grips with some hard truths about humanity.

And now for something completely different…
or is it?

In all the Pearl Harbor Day reflection I did, I kept circling back to the nasty things we do to one another, personally, nationally, clique-ishly, socially. At the bottom of the vortex, I decided to reexamine a question posed to me long ago, which recurs through my inbox or in person periodically. It plumbs the depths of justice and injustice.

US Navy 101207-N-7498L-354 Survivors of the De...

How did we get here?

Touched off by my own reminiscence, fueled by a conversation with my mother and then jet propelled by one of the most egregiously ignorant statements I have heard, possibly in my life, I am compelled to ask my esteemed audience for its opinions.

The Rules

Before I decided to bring this to you, I thought about how I felt years ago (when I first documented my opinion). Then I took into consideration the societal impact of some of the following:

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near i...

  • Abject poverty
  • Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Joblessness
  • The state of education
  • The War on Drugs
  • Aging and retirement
  • The American housing bubble burst

No, this post is not for the faint of heart.

The Boundaries

For everyone who inveighs about my obfuscation,  I am going to divulge my source. Merriam Webster, my go-to guy for what not to say, provides the definitions which pertain to this discussion:

Violent: 1. marked by extreme force or sudden intense activity; 2. a: notably furious or vehement b: extreme, intense; 3. caused by force : not natural; 4. a: emotionally agitated to the point of loss of self-control b: prone to commit acts of violence

Crime: 1.  an act or the commission of an act that is forbidden or the omission of a duty that is commanded by a public law and that makes the offender liable to punishment by that law; especially: a gross violation of law; 2. a grave offense especially against morality; 3. criminal activity; 4. something reprehensible, foolish, or disgraceful

This is a chart showing trends in violent crim...

For this brief instance, we will limit “crime” to the first definition, as it is the only one which applies to this query. And we will also acknowledge “non” to mean “opposite of”.

I want to know what your answer is. And I promise to reveal my answers through the comments and tomorrow’s noon post. But I suspect many of you have already guessed my answer. Can you imagine why?


Should criminals convicted of non-violent crime face jail/prison time? Why or why not?

© Red Dwyer 2011
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  1. awarewriter

     /  December 10, 2011

    I’m going to say no, non-violent criminals should not face jail time. I see three distinct types of crime: 1) Violent crime, 2) Non-violent crime that causes harm to others and 3) Victimless crime.

    1) Get them off the streets. Isolate them from society.

    2) Restitution for the victims.

    3) Stupid laws should be repealed.


    • Thank you for jumping in. I could not possibly agree with #3 any more! Just to be clear, what are your victimless crimes?

      • awarewriter

         /  December 10, 2011

        Drug use (the illegal kind) is probably the most obvious example. A general definition of a victimless crime would be an illegal act that does not cause direct or indirect harm to another.

        The so called war on drugs has caused untold misery and extreme violence all over the world. The only people who benefit are the drug dealers, the pharmaceutical companies, the politicians and the host of drug enforcement agents. The war on drugs has put more people in US jails than in any other country in the world.

        How about gun control laws? Such a crock. These laws are people control laws. I’m sure I could come up with a larger list. Oops, I just thought of another one — lying to the cops.


        • I think the whole gun control issue is another example of a ten-cent lock keeps an honest man out. And before the lynch mob starts, I do not mean it should be OK to sell an AK-47 to a twelve-year-old. I mean the endless paper trail which is easily avoided at the pawn shop or by simply unticking the box which says you went on the two-week all-expense-paid vacation to the butterfly farm.

          How do you think all the people in prison has affected the graph at the end?

          Really curious,

  2. “Should criminals convicted of non-violent crime face jail/prison time? Why or why not?”

    YIKES! I could go all biblical on you – eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth – kind of thing, but I won’t (well, not all the way). I would say that many non-violent crimes should involve restitution, but jail time would depend on what they did exactly. If you rob a bank, you may get some jail time, for example (and did it non-violently). Prison time is another matter. If someone is not a danger to society, putting them in prison makes no sense at all. I won’t get into the drug war because I’m not for legalizing drugs (they are not victimless) but I agree the drug war needs some major overhauling. This may get me lambasted, but I’m not a fan of three strikes you’re out either. Then there’s the fact that some people get way too much time and others don’t get enough – it’s all over the place! I will leave it at that for now and think about it overnight:) Nice discussion starter.

    • Three strikes has proven a wretched failure. And I doubt many of us would wholeheartedly accept the legalization of most Schedule II drugs, strictly based on the addictive nature of them. But that is another post entirely.

      Interesting, your take on bank robbery. Have to think on that one. Do come back now, ya hear? Red.

  3. awarewriter

     /  December 10, 2011

    I don’t know Red. I mistrust statistics and the graph stops eight years ago. There have been something like 16 murders in Camden, NJ in the past few weeks. There’s talk about bringing in the National Guard. Violence in some places has gotten out of hand.

    The same government who created the chart publishes the consumer price index and their bogus inflation numbers. I don’t trust either one. Governments lie, the talking heads repeat the lies and people believe those lies.


    • I think that is a big part of my point in asking. The localized nature of crime necessarily means an aggregate solution may be beyond the national scope, especially given the state run penal systems (and their insidious differences in punishments). So, is this more a matter of handle it locally or give up the state crap in favor of a uniform, albeit Federal, code of justice? And if so, should the Club Fed mentality be scrapped in favor of more rigid state laws? (Strictly talking non-violent crime here.)

  4. Too much for me to answer. Yes and no. There is always a gray area and each case is different. I’m married to a cop so I hear a lot of stories that scream…”Go to jail” and a lot that don’t.

    • I hear you about being with a LEO, Lorre Lee. So if we narrow the field, try one non-violent crime: Tax Evasion.

      • I guess I would have to say perhaps. At some point, there has to be accountability, consequence and a deterrent to crime. If I evaded paying my taxes, then I should be fined. Although, if you aren’t paying them, are you really going to pay the fine? It would be nice to say you immediately have to pay in full, but this again could be futile. Perhaps some time in jail would make someone pay their taxes.
        Without consequences, we would all run around crazy.

        • True, without consequences no one ever contemplates the effect they have on others. While I see the logic in not paying a fine if they are not paying taxes, this falls into the argument against jailing deadbeat parents…from jail they can pay nothing.

          Since the crimes we are discussing are mostly money based crimes, you may be interested in the follow up to this conversation. Red.

  5. Ted Atwell

     /  December 10, 2011

    Should criminals convicted of non-violent crime face jail/prison time? Why or why not? I really did not want to get into this one because there is such a variance between jurisdictions both in the punishments and what is illegal. Since Red asked me personally to join the discussion i will put in my 2 cents worth.

    In general I answer yes to this question. The bank robbery mentioned in another post is not a victimless crime. Nor is it a nonviolent crime. If a threat of force is used to carry out the crime then to me it is a violent crime. How does the teller know if the person committing the crime will carry out his threat. If there was not threat made then the crime most likely will not be carried out. What kind of mental violence is done to the teller that receives the note saying put all your cash in a bag or I will blow everyone up?

    When I was on the HS debate team we had a “victimless crime” argument prepared for that years subject. I believed there truly where victimless crimes. Prostitution was one of our examples. Prostitution has many victims. Many of them are violently forced into the business. Many families suffer from monies being spent on the bussiness, some to the extent that the family breaks up.

    How about the person that embezzles public monies? Certainly they deserve time in prison. They are stealing from you the public. I personally know a person that was told by a city official to write checks falsely, cash them, and (supposedly) then turn the money over to city officials to be used by the city for unintended purposes. Honestly i am not sure they turned the money over to the city but for the sake of argument lets assume they did not lie to me. 1. This was grant money designated for a specific purpose. 2. The city used it in ways that it was not intended making the city guilty also. 3. This person should have said no but feared for their job. 4. This person did get caught and confessed. They no long lived in the same state but they did not point fingers at the city officials. They received probation because it was a first offense. They were required to go through a counseling program that then took the offense off their record. They did repay the money out of their own pocket. Since this was a first offense I think the punishment was appropriate. 5. If they get caught embezzling money again should they go to prison? YES!!!

    Ok that is enough babbling The bottom line for me is it depends on the crime and the history of the person that commits the crime. It also requires judges to enforce all the laws and handle out verdicts in a fair and impartial manner.

    • Thank you for stopping by (even under coercion). I am often met with the idea of victimless crime, but often argue if there were no victim, how is there a crime? The bottom line is always the money and the implications of the money lost, redirected or misappropriated. Whomever should have received the money is necessarily and by definition the victim.

      So just for the sake of argument, John brought up drug use (not sale, not distribution, merely use). Does this qualify as a victimless crime? Before you answer, think about who you would portray as victims and if they actually suffered legal loss.

      I love where this is going…

      • Ted Atwell

         /  December 10, 2011

        You do want to draw me in dont you?

        Drug use should initially be treated as a social issue. If you can get a drug user clean and keep them clean then it is a win win for every one.

        The problem comes when the drug user does not want to get clean or does not stay clean. A friends son has had a drug problem. He has been to several treatment programs. The bottom line is they did not work for him. He was already on probation, not for the drug use but for the stealing of other peoples property to sell so he could by the drugs. He is now in a long term treatment program in the prison system. When he completes it (about a year) he will go back on probation. Should he fail again he ends up in the general prison population.

        I do thing the way to fight the drug war is to cut the demand for the product. That means people have to quit using the product. I dont know how to do that. Generally I am in favor of tougher penalties as a way to reduce the crime. I don think that will work when it come to drug addicts. Part of the solution may be to legalize some drugs. I know many want to legalize marijuana. I have seen a lot of interview with addicts that said they started with marijuana. What you dont see are people that have used it recreationaly and never had a craving for more or stronger drugs. I wonder how the numbers compare to alcoholics?

        How many people that drink regularly never become alcoholics? How many people smoke marijuana that never become drug addicts. Do the numbers compare.

        There is always a victim. Many times they are family members affected indirectly but there is always a victim.

        • So much of the time, drug users are the proverbial thirsty horse standing in the water. When it comes to numbers, I am not seeing anyone willing to (as in it does not pay to do it) find out how many are graduates from prescriptions to illegals and how many are abusing prescriptions (which is just the same thing but not prosecuted until it goes hand-in-hand with another directly related crime).

          I do not see a viable way to draft legislation to address the “every case is different” mentality because frankly every case is different, not just in this limited instance. Do you then see for the case of drugs a viable solution in monitoring (ankle bracelets, drug tests, probation meetings, rehab) as a viable alternative to non-violent drug users?

      • A guy lives alone and works from home. He obtains his groceries at a store he walks to a block away and does his banking online. He grows a pot plant in his basement and occasionally smokes some of it. Who exactly is the victim in this crime?

        • In that scenario, I do not see one. Provided the story ends there. In many cases, that is where the story ends, which I think was John’s point.

      • Ted Atwell

         /  December 11, 2011

        If that is the case then I agree there is no victim. That is the point I tried to make with comparing it with alcohol.

        As far as monitoring drug abusers, under our present political climate and our present court system it will never be approved. It will be a violation of their civil rights.

        • Under what portion of the law? Monitoring is considered the alternative to residential incarceration. Drug testing is mandated as a condition of probation and parole in all states. And remove the political climate from the discussion. There are currently programs in place which are trying this to alleviate prison populations. Not seeing the civil rights violation here… They are expected to behave in the manner of prisoners (re: 4th Amendment).

  6. talley H talley

     /  December 10, 2011

    as to non-violent criminals facing jail time?,think about this,do you know if you face charges such as a bounced check and you go to court on it,and i am talking bout even a $30 check ,that it will make it hard on getting a job?,yes,so i say to non-violent crime,i.e. misdemeanors,let me do jail time and keep that off my record;otherwise i say no

    • Where do you live? Diversion programs are everywhere, especially for misdemeanors. Many you can take advantage of more than one time as well.

  7. talley H talley

     /  December 10, 2011

    i live in texas,dallas area,you just deal with it,after a period of time you can hopefully get an expulsion,or keep it hid,but moist of the time it involvrs spending money for a lawyer among other fees

  8. I am likely not the best one to weigh in on this one given my perspective.

    1. There is no such thing as a victimless crime – no such thing.
    1.a There are such things as bad laws that create victims however.
    2. It depends on the crime itself whether a non-violent crime should result in a prison sentence.
    2.a Was there intent or not. If there truly was not intent the answer is no, restitution and community service is sufficient.

    Given my perspective on violent crime, there are simply some people who need to be locked up and stay locked up. Our system of justice doesn’t work today. Not for the victims anyway.

    • I think quite the contrary, Val. Your opinions are more poignantly valid. I agree there are some crimes which you should forfeit everything once committed. You are in the majority for the “bad law” issue. And intent is relevant every single time.

      While many want to put mitigation on the same level as intent, I tend to not. (Non-violent crime only) Do you think pink and white collar crime should result in lower standards of punishment based on mitigation?

      • Mitigation is an entirely different issue that doesn’t ever apply (imo) to white and pink crime.

        There are so many gray areas it is often difficult draw lines. The Bernie Madoff’s of the world are the perfect example. Did he kill anyone? Physically harm them? No, but the long term and sustained damage he did to hundreds of people, some of whom will never recover means that even when all of his worldly goods are taken they will never be made whole. There is something to be said for Punishment being included in the process. Sometimes Victims deserve both Restitution and Retribution.

        On the other hand Intent during a home burglary has a great deal to do with the outcome. The burglar who has never caused personal injury, doesn’t carry a weapon and robs empty office buildings and warehouses is likely not a high risk to do humans harm. Do I still dislike him? Yes, he is a costly element within society and at some point continuing to return him to his job of choice after repeated arrests will be problematic for the community, despite his non-violent intent and record.

        Certainly our drug laws are a joke. The War on Drugs is just that a war that created the violence and created the victims. We now have generations in prisons. Families sharing the yard. The highest prison population in the world. Most of those in prison on drug charges are non-violent and shouldn’t be there.

        But that leaves me with that all important what to do with the rest. The woman who kills her violent husband – mitigating circumstances? Yes, but is she a danger? Will she do it again?

        There are always shades. Our justice system no longer serves us because it is abused by those in positions of power and ignored by those who could change it.

        • I doubt the husband-killer will remarry another she would also kill, although stranger things are the subject of current late-night programming.

          Drug laws classify as the “stupid laws” group. Another argument against lobbyists (IMNSHO). It was purely a political fabrication at its onset and remains a farce today, doing little more than fueling a trillion dollar industry (government employees included).

          Your burglar should hang by this toes. Should I let him pick his own switch?

          Pink and white truly have no excuse. In short, it is theft. Plain and simple, regardless of if it is wearing a $3,600 suit and Italian loafers. For those who deserve retribution as well, does the non-jail standard apply? Or is this a matter of taking the pound of flesh behind razor wire?

    • i am speaking of it being on your record,do not matter of public defense,which is another story,but if you have money to spend,there is a possible way,i am stating the fact that non violent misdemeanors and some felonies,a person should at least have the option to do jail time and keep them off thier record

      • I need some clarification here. In fact, the programs exist to do both: Keep it off your record AND keep you out of jail. Am I understanding you would rather do jail than restitution and community service? Or are you talking about repeat offenders?

  9. Red, I believe the ultra- violent/ malicious/ sadistic/murderous/socioapathic/human traficking /rapist/ pedophile/ physical attempted-murder/ type crimes should answer with severe jail time, lockup, non-pardonable, no parole, removal from society, you do the crime, you do the time, no bones about it treatment. No dirty deals between crooked lawyers allowed.
    Non-violent crime should be non-prison time with punishment of PREDEFINED public service with direct supervision equally applied depending upon the severity of the crime committed –until that perpetrator is clearly shown to be an impossible case defined by repetititve increasingly intolerable behavior. If that did occur, the punishment would have to be ratcheted up somehow.
    In all cases, victims and society should be repaid by the perpetrator no matter how long it takes. Such punishments might be vigourously enforced.
    Doing away with the rather myopic, stupid and ineffective drug laws would eliminate a great deal of the ‘illegal’ activity society wastes it’s policing effort upon. Government could generate a lot of revenue providing safe, VERY cheap drugs–which would put the drug trade out of business, period.
    Victimless crime? There is no such thing. If a specific victim is not an individual, it is a collection of individuals or society itself.
    Other than those categories, it seems there are far too many intertwined issues and hybrid types of crime to address them all together. Gun control laws in Canada are now officially being scrapped (the long gun registry) because not one single criminal registered his guns, yet the Registry cost the Canadian taxpayer over a Billion dollars.
    As usual, quickly-devised legislation that addresses gun control, drug control, and other specific types of crimes is often ill-thought out, knee-jerk reaction to an event, or series of events.
    Bottom line, there has to be a lot more common sense built into justice, period. One interesting punishment that should be returned for crimes against society is exile from that society–to a ‘far less comfortable’ environs.

    • I can think of a few (hundred) dozen people I would like to see on a slow raft to anywhere but here. Community service has gotten a bad name from too many hours spent dusting or doing things unnecessary and inherently without value. Could you give some viable examples of appropriate community service?

    • How do you force someone to pay someone else back for the crime? If I steal two million dollars from a pension fund and blow it all on wine, women and song, who is going to give me a job that earns that much money so that I can pay it back? And what motivation do I have to work that hard and that long? If I make 50k a year, it will take me 20 years to pay it back.

      • If Grant does not ask, I will. Where does a felon get a $50K/yr job?

      • There are many people who did just that and returned to positions of similar “trust” when they left prison. It is an unfortunate truth of our system.

        In many states now by the way, Victims of violent crime can sue the offender and restitution is made part of the parole. This means they must work while in prison to start making restitution to demonstrate their understanding of their crime and their remorse even before the Parole Board will even consider their request. Upon release they must continue to work and make restitution to remain on the outside as a condition of their parole. In some cases where the state paid for medical care of victims they become part of the lawsuit and their costs are included in the award, thus the offender must repay those costs plus any award given to the victim(s).

      • Exactly my point. He’s not going to find that job (unless he’s an accountant who learned from the mistakes that got him caught.) Demanding restitution from someone who is neither sorry or wanting to pay back what is due, is pointless. They probably can’t do it, and probably won’t do it if they can.

        I am not saying the convicted felon is not hireable, I think quite a few are and if given the right opportunity, they might well become productive and trusted employees. In the real life scenario however, that is unlikely to happen and therefore, restitution is an unlikely demand, punishment or possibility.

      • 4 years after my release, I returned to the area where my crime was committed. Though the crime only involved my family, the state intervened because it was a felony. Old neighbors don’t forget. If it wasn’t for a gentleman( employer) who told others that I had paid my debt, I don’t know where I would be. Through countless years of low paying jobs, I finally learned enough to go into business for myself. It’s been 8 years and I am finally grossing 60K. If given a chance, convicted criminals can, not necessarily will, be productive citizens. I can’t imagine having a job that pays good enough to pay back $ 2 million. Give me 10 years and let’s revisit this subject. Maybe I’ll have some answers then.

  10. Val…

    Another example of victimless crime is using your own money to play poker online. I won’t go too much into this but before the Feds had completely shut it down, WA State made it a Class C Felony.

    On the other hand, it my not be a victimless crime if it threatens a group’s way of life.*

    *Not in this case though. The people who were/are threatened by online poker are Native American Casinos and the politicians they pay off. (That group donated 2 million dollars for Christine Gregoire’s gubernatorial campaign.)

    • Can we class that particular one as a “stupid laws” example?

    • Not entirely a victimless crime truthfully. Those that play are victims of a fraud. There are plenty of sites discussing this. But that is an entirely different discussion.

      I will always say this, there is no such thing as a victimless crime. Stupid laws but no victimless crimes.

      • Val, how so? I know about a couple of sites in particular and I know that’s not an inclusive statement. It also depends how a site is run. But I wouldn’t generally say that all–including myself–would be victims or fraud.


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