Monday, March 17, 2008

March 17, 2008 If you do the crime you have to do the time

Last week I read a headline that said, “Senate Committee Approves Death Penalty for Sex Assaults on Kids.” The senate committee said in effect that anyone who sexually assaults a child under the age of 12 should be executed. I think that the committee that passed that bill needs to rethink what they did.

I was a police officer for most of the time from 1964 to 1995. I will assure the committee and anyone else that the seriousness of the sentence has little or no impact on whether or not a criminal will commit a crime. They just never think about it. If it were true then there would be very few crimes committed.

I worked in the Fifth Judicial District Office of the District Attorney in 1976, 1977 and 1978. Even the District Attorney at the time did not know what the sentence was for any particular crime. The DA, his deputies, the complaint clerk and I as Chief Investigator did not know the penalty was for any crime. We always had to look it up. I am sure that the judges do the same thing. I doubt if any criminal ever looks up the penalty for his or her crime before he or she commits the crime.

Yet there are some people who delude themselves into believing that criminals are deterred by a severe punishment for doing a crime.

Colorado does remain as one of 36 states with the death penalty. That is also a major waste of time and money. I am sure that in the remaining 14 states without the death penalty that their murder rates are not necessarily higher.

I have interviewed several criminals who had been convicted of murder and I will assure you that none of them ever considered the degree of the punishment when they committed the crime of murder. None of them ever thought that they could or would be executed for murder.

Colorado today only has one person on death row. Nathan Dunlap killed several people in a pizza restaurant many years ago and his case remains under appeal.

Another issue of course is that the appeal process takes 15 to 20 years. Fifteen to twenty years of very expensive legal process eating up valuable resources. Fifteen to twenty years of housing the convicted criminal at considerable expense on death row.

A major issue for government is always the costs associated with running a prison system. Right now the annual bill for our prisons in Colorado is $743,815,793 and is the 5th largest expenditure in Colorado State Government. Corrections has the second largest number of employees just after Higher Education. 12% of our State Employees work for Corrections. Just who is being punished? It looks like the taxpayer to me.

There is no data to support putting a lot of people in prison and a reduction in the crime rate. Most recently they have been able to correlate the sale of crack cocaine and the supply of crack cocaine to crime rates. Not how many people we are warehousing in our prisons but the availability of some types of drugs.

I am a strong advocate for the punishment of criminals but the death penalty does not work and prison does not always work.

In the past twenty years a new monster has emerged in sentencing. It is a mandatory/minimum sentence that can be imposed for certain crimes. Judges cannot reduce the sentence in these instances and must sentence the offender to the mandatory minimum stated it the law.

This has created some other problems where first offenders must go to prison in certain cases. Recently sentence reform groups have recognized that some drug cases should not have received prison sentences and now some jails and prisons are releasing first time offenders if possible.

In the case of the sick degenerate men and women who molest children under the age of 12 the correct response is to incarcerate them. Not in prison but in a mental health facility. They are the sickest of the sick people in this world and need to be removed from society but they will never change their behavior in prison. Prison will probably only make their behavior worse.

Criminals seriously do not believe they will ever get caught so therefore they never consider the punishment for their crime. However they do know that if they get caught doing the crime they will have to do the time.

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