MAD DOG: Throwing the Book at Them

Crime. It's like the weather -- everyone talks about it but no one wants to be in the middle of it, especially during El Nino.There's 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 Springer's Bloopers, Bruises, and Black Eyes."We're 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 half -- or they will as soon as they get out of their minimum security cell. And judges bang their gavel and swear they'd start putting criminals away for longer if only they were allowed.There's the key -- sentencing. If it's too light, the offender may not make the connection between having done something wrong and paying the price. If it's too harsh, you run the risk of finding yourself shacking up with Spike because you kept your library book out too long. That's 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 another.It's not easy making the punishment fit the crime. Sure, virginity may be its own punishment, but it's not technically a crime like armed robbery, assault and battery, or giving Tom Selleck another TV show. That's 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 you're caught stealing. While this will certainly help prevent the person from doing it again -- after all, it's not easy shoplifting with a hook -- it becomes morally problematic when you extend the concept to other crimes, like urinating in public, bathing topless, and jaywalking.That's why it's 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 won't have to drive when he's drunk. This is true.Judge James Hapner (it rhymes with Wapner) also declared that Dennis Cayse, who lost his driver's license years ago thanks to an abundance of DUI's, spend the first week of each of the next five Januarys in jail, be handcuffed to the passenger-side door anytime he's in a car, and wear a lampshade on his head at all times. Okay, the last one isn't 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 can't make people get married." Obviously she's never gotten a girl pregnant whose father owns a shotgun.The quest for fair sentencing extends beyond our shores. Thailand's 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 weren't punishment enough (even though they sound suspiciously like that classic Florida postcard of an alligator pulling off a woman's 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? It's 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.That's 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, that's 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 doesn't mean he'll return next week after he's been killed. After all, South Miami and South Park are two very different places. If they learn that, then our job is done.

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