Friday, April 19, 2013

Assault With a Shaming Weapon

I've long argued that hate crimes criminalize perceived thought. If you punch someone, that gets a sentence of a certain length. But if you say mean things while you punch someone, that gets a longer sentence. Even if you don't say the things, but I think you think the things, you're going to jail for longer. So part of the jail sentence is for the action, and some is for what I think you were thinking when you did the action.

For some reason, government prosecutors argued the Amish beard-cutting crimes were hate crimes. As a result, mothers and fathers are serving up to 15 years in prison for cutting someone's hair. And since the Amish are such notorious prison gangsters, they are being broken up, serving in prisons from Louisiana to Massachusetts. Given the travel limitations of the Amish community, this is like sentencing them to prison without visitation.

In what possible sense is this the product of a "justice" system? Courts are to impose sentences commensurate to the damage caused. It is called "justice" for a reason. If we wanted a "deterrence" system, we'd give impossibly-long sentences for relatively-minor infractions, like five years for stealing a loaf of bread. All readers recognize the injustice in Valjean's sentence, which is why Hugo used it. Justice has been over-served here, which isn't justice at all.

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