Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Take Britain. England and Wales have 85,000 people in prison. It sounds small to our American ears (we've got 2.3 million! Count 'em!), but it's become an unmanageable number for the British.
Keep mandatory minimum sentences instead of dumping them and, just for good measure, add a "two strikes and you're out" mandatory life sentence for "aggravated knife possession" (goodness gracious, for the price of a mandatory life sentence, that knife possession better include actually, intentionally, and maliciously killing someone!).
Apparently, Prime Minister David Cameron's government hasn't been paying close enough attention to California, which is under a federal court order to downsize because its prisons are so overcrowded they violate the Constitution. California can thank its infamous "three strikes" law for being a big part of that problem.
Our advice to Britain: think twice before creating more mandatory minimum sentencing laws and taking even more discretion away from your judges. The United States didn't think twice 25 years ago, and now we're paying over $60 billion a year for that lapse in judgment. That's too high a price for a country to pay so that its lawmakers can sound tough on crime.