Making the sentence fit the crime is an integral part of the
American judicial system. Guessing whether the judge is wearing anything under his or her
robe is another.
Crime. Its like the
weathereveryone talks about it but no one wants to be in the middle of it,
especially during El Niño.
Theres no question crime is one of our top concerns. And
well it should be. Right after education, illegal drugs, and whether there will be another
UPS strike before we can get our copy of "Jerry Springers Bloopers, Bruises,
and Black Eyes."
Were so sick of crime in the streets
we demand that the politicians do something to stop it. Politicians in turn vow to pass
legislation that will cut it in halfor they will as soon as they get out of their
minimum security cell. And judges bang their gavel and swear theyd start putting
criminals away for longer if only they were allowed.
Theres the keysentencing. If
its too light, the offender may not make the connection between having done
something wrong and paying the price. If its too harsh, you run the risk of finding
yourself shacking up with Spike because you kept your library book out too long.
Thats why making the sentence fit the crime is such an integral part of the American
judicial system. Guessing whether the judge is wearing anything under his or her robe is
The executive director of the Georgia chapter of the ACLU declared, "You cant
make people get married." Obviously shes never gotten a girl pregnant whose
father owns a shotgun.
Its not easy making the punishment fit the crime. Sure, virginity may be its own
punishment, but its not technically a crime like armed robbery, assault and battery,
or giving Tom Selleck another TV show. Thats why you never hear of anyone being
sentenced to ten years of virginity.
In some countries they try to make the sentence fit the crime by,
say, cutting your hand off if youre caught stealing. While this will certainly help
prevent the person from doing it againafter all, its not easy shoplifting with
a hookit becomes morally problematic when you extend the concept to other crimes,
like urinating in public, bathing topless, and jaywalking.
Thats why its good to hear that
some courts are working overtime trying to find sentences that fit the crime. In January,
a judge in Hillsboro, Ohio sentenced a man who had 18 drunk driving convictions to move
within walking distance of a bar or liquor store so he wont have to drive when
hes drunk. This is true.
Judge James Hapner (it rhymes with Wapner)
also declared that Dennis Cayse, who lost his drivers license years ago thanks to an
abundance of DUIs, spend the first week of each of the next five Januarys in jail,
be handcuffed to the passenger-side door anytime hes in a car, and wear a lampshade
on his head at all times. Okay, the last one isnt true, but the others are.
Not to be outdone, a judge in Canton, GA
recently told a man who threatened to kill his girlfriend and their daughter that he had
to marry the woman. This is also true. Judge Clyde Gober (it looks like goober) figured
the unusual sentence would give Darrell Meadows a legal obligation to support the child.
Not to mention more opportunities to actually carry out his threats.
In response, Theresa Nelson, the executive
director of the Georgia chapter of the ACLU declared, "You cant make people get
married." Obviously shes never gotten a girl pregnant whose father owns a
Anyone who wears miniskirts from now on will have her grades reduced by up to ten points.
Once the school officials stop drooling, that is.
The quest for fair sentencing extends beyond our shores. Thailands foremost college,
Chulalongkorn University, has banned miniskirts, claiming they attract sexual predators.
As if the posters they put up around campus showing a crocodile salivating at a woman
dressed in a miniskirt werent punishment enough (even though they sound suspiciously
like that classic Florida postcard of an alligator pulling off a womans bathing
suit), school officials say anyone who wears miniskirts from now on will have her grades
reduced by up to ten points. Once the school officials stop drooling, that is.
This is a case of creative sentencing going awry.
What does wearing a short skirt have to do with your grades? Its like the laws being
passed in some states that allow authorities to take away the drivers license of any minor
caught drinking. Gluing their mouth shut with Krazy Glue would be more appropriate.
Thats not the only fitting sentence
we could institute. Litterers could be made to clean up the street. Carjackers might have
to chauffeur their victim around. Purse snatchers could be made to carry an out-of style
mismatched handbag at all times. And people who sell swamp land masquerading as a vacation
resort would have to live there without any Deep Woods Off.
Now murder, thats a different
problem. Maybe we just need to force murderers to watch those same pitifully few episodes
of South Park over and over until they realize that just because their friend was named
Kenny doesnt mean hell return next week after hes been killed. After
all, South Miami and South Park are two very different places. If they learn that, then
our job is done.
©1998 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Now
that's getting away with murder.