Between 2.3m and 2.4m Americans are behind bars, roughly one in every 100 adults. If those on parole or probation are included, one adult in 31 is under “correctional” supervision. As a proportion of its total population, America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan. article in the Economist (July 22, 2010) entitled “Too many laws, too many prisoners”
Yea that’s right you heard me. Our criminal justice system is careening off the rails at an alarming rate. America has so many laws that, according to civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate, the average American breaks an average of 3 laws a day. And we’re blissfully unaware of that fact.
Silverglate’s book Three Felonies a Day is at the top my reading list. From time to time I’ve posted lists of silly laws on the books of various states. 2 of my personal faves are 1) In Kansas City it’s illegal to drink beer out of a bucket while sitting on a curb. I mean really, who cares? 2) In Washington State it’s illegal to have sex in a shopping cart. My take on that is I don’t really care where or in what conveyance one chooses to have sex as long as I don’t have to see it. The making whoopee in a shopping cart sounds rather uncomfortable anyway. Is the purpose of this activity the result of our ever increasingly busy lives? Kill 2 birds with one stone, go shopping and please the significant other at the same time.
But in all seriousness (and I have a great deal of trouble being serious) what the hell is going on? It’s getting to the point where I am more afraid of the government than “criminal elements.” Statistically, my chances of getting a ticket or arrested are greater that getting mugged when I leave the house.
Enforcing laws selectively is another concerning aspect of this overabundance of laws in our country. A good example is the whole tax audit mess going on the news. Don’t like the political views of the opposition? Well audit them! That will show them who is boss! Trouble with this activity is that it can turn on a dime. One day you’re in, the next day you’re out.