Wouldn't it be wonderful if the commandment to "Love Thy Neighbor as Yourself" was the only law we needed?
Strictly adhered to that would be enough to curb crime in a big way. There would be no murder, assault, fraud, burglary... well, you get my drift.
But as this New Year dawns we all understand that we're way past biblical pronouncement at this point. Today society must have laws and rules and regulations. But I often heave a big sigh and wish they worked better to get crime under control!
In years past I've used this first column of each New Year to list my wishes for the crime and justice system. For 2011 the list is pretty simple.
First, I wish Americans had more faith in our system. That they don't can be blamed in large part on the system itself. When manipulating lawyers help someone famous get away with a serious offense without punishment it only goes to foster contempt. If someone in, say, New Mexico gets a prison term for holding his wife at knifepoint while threatening to kill her, shouldn't actor Charlie Sheen get the same punishment if he commits such a crime in Colorado?
And if a judge sentences someone to ten years in prison why are they often out in five and a half? I wish our laws were more uniform state-to-state, that they were applied more evenly and that a sentence reflected reality instead of giving convicts the feeling that they can play the system.
I wish that in 2011 no judge releases a criminal who will repeat his or her crime. I know it will never come true.
I hope we launch a Manhattan Project type effort to figure out how to safely reduce our prison population. First on the agenda, I would think, would be to identify and treat debilitating addictions. Think how many fewer prisoners we'd have to house if drug and alcohol addictions could be curbed!
I wish we'd explore that along with legalizing marijuana. It could cause our prison budgets to plummet.
And, don't get me started listing my wishes for changes in our immigration situation. Our decade's long lackadaisical attitude on illegal immigration has added to our overcrowded prison problem and massively increased the possibility that terrorists have sneaked in to plot against us on our own soil.
Maybe the folks at the new Manhattan Project could ponder this problem too.
I wish that in 2011 all victims of sex crimes could be as brave as Elizabeth Smart was when she recently testified against the man who kidnapped her and held her for 9 months. Brian David Mitchell said he was commanded by God. I hope that in the year ahead -- and beyond -- the public and law enforcement comes to completely understand the pervasive criminality festering nationwide in the name of religion and that we finally figure out a way to deal with the perpetrators who hide behind the doctrine of separation of church and state.
I wish I'd never get another e-mail from a desperate person looking for help in locating a missing family member. But I know I will.
I wish to abolish reality TV shows that mindlessly highlight criminal activity as in TLC's Sister Wives polygamy program. Especially sickening are those TV producers who exploit the young children of spotlight-clamoring adults.
As in years past I will again wish that this will be the year we finally process the backlog of hundreds of thousands of DNA rape kits sitting in crime labs all across the country. Get that information into a national data base! Since a single rapist can victimize dozens of people the sooner we can identify, convict and put away these predators the better. Why don't we make this a priority?
I wish every Governor would set aside serious time to look at the stack of potential pardons in their in-box. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has just decided to vacate the life sentences for two African American sisters I wrote about earlier this year. Gladys and Jamie Scott have been in prison for 17 years. They always maintained their innocence but they were convicted for a 1993 armed robbery that netted a paltry eleven dollars.
For that they were sentenced to an unbelievable two life sentences each among rumors that the local former sheriff had a long standing beef with their father.
Gladys' release is conditional. She can get out of prison only after she donates a kidney to Jamie who requires daily dialysis to survive. I'm sure she'll be glad to do that.
I also wrote about the citizen revolt sweeping several American cities as voters got fed up with corrupt politicians and called in the cops. I fervently wish for this trend to continue.
I also hope this year brings an uptick in doctors who have their licenses yanked for deliberately over-prescribing narcotics. It's not just the Michael Jackson or Anna Nicole Smith types who can overdose and die. It's your elderly parents, your kids or your spouse.
As I write this I think about the difference between wishes and hopes for the future and the courage and conviction needed to actually change things.
A wish is a dreamy bubble you optimistically release into the universe. Courage is often wrapped in the pessimism of suspected failure and is rare to find. In the field of crime and justice we can't afford not to back up our hopes with the courage to change the way we do business.
Look, I'm no Einstein. I don't know how to make all these wishes come true. I only have enough courage to write them all down, put them out there -- leading with my chin and bracing for the inevitable criticism -- and hope those smarter than me will lead us.
Diane Dimond can be reached through her web site: www.DianeDimond.com Her latest book is "Cirque Du Salahi" available at Amazon.com
More:Legalizing Marijuana Governor Haley Barbour Diane Dimond A Crime And Justice Wish List For 2011 Missing Family Members
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