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
Reblogging of this or any other post on The M3 Blog is expressly forbidden.
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  1. I served on a grand jury one day a week for eight weeks. We heard all kinds of cases and it was extremely interesting. The cases we heard were violent, non-violent and “victimless” crimes.

    Here’s an example of a non-violent crime. (I have muddled the details here to prevent breaking my oath, and all the cases were settled years ago.) Over the course of two years, cashiers at a grocery store stole or assisted others in stealing more than 200,000 dollars worth of groceries.

    The scheme was simple and took advantage of three things. The first was a software flaw one of the cashiers discovered in how transactions that involved people who forgot their wallets or money were handled. The second was a very large inventory that hid the loss for a considerable length of time. The third was that the Point Of Sale (POS) data related to the theft was not readily available to the store’s management (another software flaw.)

    The store eventually realized that profits were not in line with sales. After some initial investigation, the software vendor that supplied the POS system was called in to analyze the data and the manner of the theft was discovered.

    One cashier was responsible for more than half of the stolen groceries. Another about one-quarter. One assisted in the theft of about 500 dollars worth of goods, testified against the others and got off without jail time. All of the others spent time in jail although I do not recall the sentence lengths.

    I cannot argue that these people should not have gone to jail. They hurt the store financially and in the long run cost everyone that shopped at that store more money.

    Why should these people not pay the price in jail time? What deterrent is there besides jail time for this type of crime? These people thought they could get away with it and did not. I think they deserved every minute they spent behind bars.

    Now, that’s not to say there are non-violent crimes that should not carry a penalty of jail time. To build on what John said, getting busted for a bag of weed obtained for your own personal use should not include jail time. I personally view marijuana as not much different than tobacco or alcohol. I don’t use it anymore, rarely drink and had to give up smoking tobacco. I think MaryJane could be a great cash cow for the revenue collected in taxes. Say charge twenty bucks for a pack of “Js” and another twenty for taxes. Goodbye national debt. Charge people a yearly fee to grow their own. If we’re going to allow people to possess and use nicotine and alcohol, why not marijuana?

    Victimless crimes depend on your point of view. The gambler who attends a backroom poker game and loses the rent and grocery money has committed a crime and his family are the victims. Another gambler in the same game that lost just as much and could easily afford the loss, feels his crime was victimless, but he contributed to the first gambler’s loss of rent and grocery money by being there.

    Should the gamblers end up in jail. Not in my view. I see the crime, but is jail appropriate? Maybe mandatory addiction counseling and community service. If the problem continues, then perhaps stronger measures are necessary.

    The guy or gal that comes home, smokes a joint and relaxes for an hour or so isn’t really hurting anyone. He could just as easily have a couple of drinks. Unless that person is causing harm to his kids or family, then who is he hurting?

    And please, I’m not arguing that marijuana is good for you, but let’s be realistic. Alcohol is certainly just as bad from many standpoints and tobacco kills you one cigarette at a time.

    If we don’t set appropriate penalties, including jail time for some crimes, either non-violent or victimless, then we as a society are endorsing criminal behavior and our communities will become lawless bastions of non-violent, but costly criminal activity. In the end, we’d all lose if people felt free to rob grocery stores, banks or even each other as long as no violence occurred. We’d be inviting criminals to enter our homes, steal our belongings and walk away with little fear of reprisal.

    • Your theft ring was the type of crime I was fighting when I retired. Theft, although it has the ability to be a non-violent crime, is certainly far-reaching, especially on the scale you describe. In the wake of a string of lawsuits, most major retailers no longer apprehend average shoplifters. This practice has led to more losses, increased prices and lower profits. While no one was hurt physically in the theft, society on the whole was (as in the grocery store case) when those purchasing with government assistance checks are spending more money to cover the company’s recoup of the stolen merchandise. Everyone pays in the end.

      Thank you, Mike. Red.

  2. Well Red, you had to go there. Well, to begin this discussion I must point out that I think I am very qualified to answer this question. Most people leaving comments here live sheltered lives, and could not imagine what the inside of a prison looks like. I on the other hand, being a convicted felon, understand it perfectly. In my personal opinion, the judicial and correctional systems both need major overhauls. The judicial system has to many loop holes that fancy lawyers know how to use to circumvent proper judgments. The penal system also has major issues. Lack of rehabilitation seems to be my major concern. At no point in time was I subjected to any type of rehabilitation. Serve your time and get out. I also think that our penal system, just like our school system, has lost something over the last 50 years. Work release is OK, but, it’s not enough. I feel that too many states have stopped using chain-gangs. It is a positive deterrent when you publicly humiliate a person for breaking the law, Also, like the Lee County Correctional Facility in Bishopville, SC, inmates should be made to farm their own food. Not real sure about the savings, but at least the tax-payers aren’t footing the whole bill. Anything’s better than just sitting around all day. Mom always said that idle hands tend to find trouble. As far as gun control, it’s like dead bolts, made to keep an honest man honest. Bank robbers, no pity, it’s posted on the door. 7 years minimum for robbery, armed or not. DUH!!! Another problem with the penal system is…….Y.O.U.!!!! Yeh, you. I can’t remember how many guys I met on the inside that couldn’t get a job when they got released, so they would do something to get another year or 2. Back on the inside, they would get a work release job and send the extra money home to support their children. If the normal everyday person would let them serve their time and re-enter life as a regular person, you would lose a lot of repeat offenders. Well, guess I’m just ranting again, so I’ll let you go for now, Grant

    • Rant appreciated. I have seen some of the recidivism rates based on the non-availability of jobs on the outside for felons. I think it plays into the entire picture of rehab. The Farm (Angola, Louisiana State Penitentiary) is a self-sufficient prison. The money spent on it is for maintenance (partial-labor comes from inside) and on salaries. Most of the employees live on campus in single family dwellings and working there is a family affair. They grow their own food, make goods for sale to procure the items which need to be bought (toilet paper) and host a rodeo to raise money each year. Lifers there know they will not be watching Maury all day.

      For the CI which houses short term criminals (5-15 years), I see the problem with lack of vocational rehab and securing suitable employment after release. But I think this is the system only considering its responsibility while the sentence is being served rather than preventing future crimes.

      No need for apologies,

    • Some of the Texas systems (not all) are self-sufficient but they have a long ways to go before they are pushed to job training sufficiency. I am 100% behind the idea of jobs / education training. Of course the problem we are always going to have in a depressed economy is offenders are going to be the last hired, they aren’t going to get breaks.

      • Am I being naive to believe an expanded job/ed program would (hold on) create jobs? Mayhap, create jobs which would move the unemployed felon away from future crime? (And that is not an accusation crime is only committed by the unemployed.)

      • Thanks for the info Val. We really don’t need to continue because I could go for days if I typed faster. But I’m to slow.

  3. bear

     /  December 11, 2011

    My head hurts will comment later mostly when the can of worms is all the way opened.Bear

  4. bear

     /  December 11, 2011

    There is no such thing as a victimless crime somewhere someone suffers. I have seen it all from both sides the average dope smoker to the full on raging lunatic cazy as a loon killer. There is a victim. Let’s say Johnny smokes dope he smokes alone in his room with his doritos. Johnny buys his dope right or grows it right illegal right possesion illegal. The victim is in this case John Q Public. We pay as taxpayers for the law enforcement officers the court system the corrections facility etc. In a way that’s stealing from us if he is caught and convicted. Is it a stretch? Maybe.

    There are several ways to look at Johnny’s dope smoking. Ok let’s say Johnny has kids and hey the kids watch to much tv or listen to their stereo. “I will trade it for a bag of dope.” Sorry a true example from someone I personally know. The truth is there are so many examples for both sides the debate can go on and on and I’m sure will.
    Our laws are somewhat outdated some laws should be changed or abolished. How about corpral punishment? Instead of jail time how about caning used in certain foriegn countries. It tends to stifle repeat offenders. Very painful I hear. What? That’s cruel, perhaps a crime? My guess somebody’s gonna say assault. Will the punishment fit the crime?. I can cite thousands of those cases it didn’t. And some that were overkill. Didn’t # 1 A close school buddy of mine went and robbed a guy. Shot and killed him for four dollars. That was in 1975. He spent less than 10 years in prison and has been in and out of prisons since.
    #2 My daughter was convicted of theft by using a store coupon where she worked,that was given to her by a customer for a 10% off on hair coloring. She was released from her job never to be allowed to work for them again,$750.00 fine which if she hadn’t paid would have ended in jail time…all for a coupon worth less than ten cents. I saw that as a bit over the top. Or am I just wrong?

    Our laws need to be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Make it equal make it fair. Victimless crimes are how you interpet victimless. No more no less. Statistics can be altered as well as facts. In true me fashion, the real fact is the victims are us. We all pay for it one way or another.

  5. I have read everyone’s thoughts and ideas on this rather interesting debate; I can see this one lasting a very long time might I add? I think out of everyone here that has added something, it is Mike. W that has offered the most realistic vision, and I enjoyed reading his account on this most controversial subject matter, I say controversial because there will be no end to the arguments as each one that chooses to debate here will offer a personal view related to how they individually see these problems, of which there are many and the solutions are not easily fathomed.

    I will be monitoring this posting as an observer and although I am offering this comment now, I will not be drawn into it at a later juncture as whatever any of us think of this theme it will always be out of our hands as a people of the democracies that endorse these laws, yes law is a rather complex animal that has many fractures and flaws, and often the sentences do not match the crimes committed and then again…

    Do you see how easily it is to be drawn into debating?

    It is quite fascinating that you should offer these questions to be pondered over my wickedly fine friend, and I can see that already this topic is producing some rather creative thoughts and in depth ideas but what of the solutions?

    Have a lovely rest of weekend Red 🙂

    Androgoth XXx

    • Certainly, Andro, do stay tuned and check out today’s late offering. It took me longer to assimilate all of the information from the discussion and the massive amount of email associated with this one. Perhaps, you shall find some genuine solutions in what I bring to the table this beautiful afternoon, my fine friend. Red.

      • I very rarely receive any feedback via e mail on anything that I publish, however I have had e mails on some of my comments upon other Spaces in the past, which sometimes have been taken totally out of concept 🙂 Mind you after a quick retort I have never had a second one on the same subject so I guess that is absolutely fine 🙂

        I hope that you are having a wondrously nice afternoon Red and thank you for your reply here. I will of course check out your most recent postings and see what your thoughts are regarding this debate, which I figured would be a much longer one, maybe there will be some late offerings? I know that mine was late due to not being online last evening.

        Okay I am waffling 🙂 lol

        Androgoth XXx

      • I guess that there will always be those moaning hectors 🙁 lol
        But you know, they are so easily repelled don’t you find? 🙂 😉 lol

        Be Good, Be Tactful
        and Above ALL behave Yourself 🙂

        Androgoth XXx

  6. Wow! Blew up my mailbox with the comments lol.

    1. Bank robbery was a bad example. I just meant a crime where guns were not used. As this is highly unlikely in a bank robbery. . .

    2. “uhhh that “eye for an eye”….”biblical” was only old testament.” We’ll save that for another day. The coming of Christ did not do away with the law, it completed it. Sin is still sin. The OT has it’s purpose still. That was not my point, however, so we’ll just let it go.

    3. I agree the person in above example -marijuana for self- seems like a victimless criminal. However, so many drug addicts cannot be thus assigned. They harm their children, their spouses, their families and so many more people.

    4. My main thing for this would be the need to have it determined that if a, then b. I know someone in for life with three strikes. It was totally not necessary to lock this person away for life based on what happened and extenuating circumstances. Others commit horrible crimes and are allowed to walk because they have good lawyers, the prisons are over-crowded, or the judge feels good that day…. I believe in the premise of our justice system, but the water has become muddied.

    The end for now:)

    • Glad you made it back! Yes, we burnt a bit of midnight (wee hours) oil last night over this one. Apparently, the next segment Try This On For Size is going to be not quite so hot, but still a good page turner! Come by and look at some of the changes I propose and the reasoning behind them! Red.

  7. I’ll try not to leave a novel here… but some “old sayings” have merit, and “Let the punishment fit the crime” is one that holds true. Breaking into someone’s home when they aren’t in and shoplifting are not victimless crimes – people are scarred (sometimes extremely, to the point of losing their jobs and sanity) and prices rise, costing the “honest Joe” more money every time they reach the cashier.

    Great challenge and poll, Red!

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