November 26, 2005
Maybe it is the season, but I'm tired of holier-than-thou politicians handing out advice and long sentences for those convicted of crimes. They are not doing so hot as legislators, so extending their reach is not a confidence builder.
It is so darned easy to pile on that the likes of Alberta Darling simply cannot help themselves. She appeared on Wisconsin Public Television's "Here & Now" with Hal Harlowe, who had been a very good prosecutor in his day. Darling, with sanctimony dripping from her lips, repeated ad nauseum that "Wisconsin is opposed to sex abuse." No kidding, Senator. No kidding.
She and her colleagues--called legislators or prison-builders, depending on the audience--want a minimum sentence of 25 years for every person convicted of child sexual abuse. Harlowe bristled when Darling suggested judges and prosecutors do not understand the seriousness of this crime. As well he should. The difference between the doyen of River Hills and Harlowe is that the latter knows what he is talking about. Simply locking 'em up and throwing away the key is not sound public policy. It is a "look at me, I'm tough on crime" poster for election to office.
There is a mean spirit running amuck in Wisconsin. We want punishment and more punishment. Think about the loopy SuperMax in Boscobel if you doubt my assertion. We spend $65,000 per year per prisoner. Why? Ask Alberta.
We apparently don't really believe in judicial or prosecutorial discretion. Legislators don't trust our judges. They want a computer to sentence felons. Why? Legislators can program the computer and damn the consequences.
That brings me to Brian Burke and the issue of jail time. Those who say yes tell us it is important to punish with jail time. Why? One reason seems to be to protect our corrupt system with the appearance of punishing those who raise money on state time.
Hello? Want to clean up the system? Put all those who knew his actions were wrong but who contributed anyway into a cell with Burke for a weekend. Can't find enough room? Rent a place.
Will society be better off with Burke in jail? I don't think so. Would we avoid future Burkes with publicly financed campaigns? You betcha.
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