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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Too Many Laws

For John, BLUFToo right.  Way too many laws on the books.  You don't expect any change from the General Court do you?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is the sub-headline:

Donald Trump has supported the First Step Act to reduce minimum sentences, but more can be done.  For one thing, we need fewer crimes.

From USA Today, by Law Professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds, 7 August 2018.

Here is the lede plus five:

It’s time and past time to do something about the criminal justice system, as I’ve been arguing for years.  But with last week’s White House conference on criminal justice reform, it looks as if we might just see progress, though I think we need real structural fixes too.

Right now we have both an over-and an under-incarceration problem.  The over-incarceration problem is that too many people are sent to jail for things that shouldn’t carry much jail time, if any:  nonviolent regulatory crimes, low-level nonviolent drug crimes, etc.  Even crimes that are punished with fines can turn into jail time if the defendant can’t pay the fine, as is often the case with poor defendants.  (At the same time, people who commit serious violent crimes often get out too soon.)

Then, when people do get out, they have a hard time making it honestly.  Many people don’t want to hire an ex-con, even when the crime was a comparatively mild one.  And many ex-cons lack the skills to make it in the employment world, though the current booming job market is helping with that.

And here is how it ends:
One solution is to have fewer crimes.  There are — literally, as I noted in the Columbia Law Review a few years ago — so many crimes that not even the government can keep up with them all.  The more crimes we create, the more criminals we create.

And that’s bad, because enforcing the law, as Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter points out, is inherently violent.  The more laws, the more violence:  When New York made it a crime to sell loose cigarettes for tax reasons, Carter notes, it set the stage for Eric Garner’s death.

As Carter writes, “This is by no means an argument against having laws.  It is an argument for a degree of humility as we choose which of the many things we may not like to make illegal.”

I think we’re much too quick to criminalize conduct without thinking this through.  The next step in criminal justice reform should be to drastically prune the criminal law.

The old saw, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse" is worthless in the face of all the laws on the books, both Federal and State.  I fully agree with Professor Reynolds.

Further, passing more laws is the Legislators' lazy way of dealing with problems.  We don't need more laws, we need more understanding.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

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