In the 1960s, a key mantra of the day was “Don’t judge me.” Mostly, that had to do with long hair, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
Fast forward to 2021. We are urged to not judge criminals. Instead, criminals are themselves considered victims of racism, social inequity, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.
Accordingly, California has passed laws to effectively empty jails and prisons. It is called the decarceration movement.
We reduced many serious crimes from the status of a felony to a misdemeanor, and misdemeanors to infractions, to lower the penalty for these crimes. The goal? Divert criminals from incarceration to counseling, rehab and vocational training. Hence, few people go to jail or prison, and fewer still serve out their full sentence.
One rationale behind this movement is that there is a disproportionate number of people of color who are arrested and incarcerated as compared to white people. Supposedly, this proves the justice system is a function of systemic racism.
One thing I will grant the social justice warriors? Some innocent poor people do get arrested and are forced to plea because our public defenders are overloaded, and in some cases, inexperienced, if not incompetent.
Regardless, we can’t disregard the fact that an inordinate number of crimes are committed by gang bangers, career criminals, members of MS-13 and the Mexican drug cartels, drug addicts and the chronically homeless. They’re people who are living a life of crime and who deserve to lose their freedom accordingly.
Nevertheless, the decarceration activists have now turned the tables on law enforcement and our criminal justice system making them out to be the bad guys. Cops are routinely suspected of racism, excessive force, and in the original words of Colin Kaepernick, “getting away with murder.”
Accordingly, it is the cops who are considered guilty unless they can prove their innocence. Ultimately, we are conditioning cops to become reticent while encouraging criminals to resist and flee. Inauspiciously, cops know that passivity and reticence can get them seriously hurt or killed.
Another thing lost in this debate? The victims of crime.
Instead of blaming cops for doing their job, we should rather hold public defenders, district attorneys, judges and parole boards, not to mention the soft-on-crime politicians, accountable every time they let somebody off the hook only to see them re-offend time and time again, up to and including subsequently killing cops and innocent civilians.
Santa Barbara County Public Defender Tracy Macuga wants more transparency in our criminal justice system, presumably to help divert even more people from jail. She should stay in her lane and make her case(s) in court. That is, her woke tolerance for criminal activity should not eclipse civil society’s need for justice, law and order.
Meanwhile, we would like transparency about the people getting away with crime.
We would like every crime report to include the immigration status, gang affiliation, and status of homelessness of every person arrested and convicted. We also want to know their rap sheet histories. Add to that, the names of the people who continuously fail to appear in court because they have lost any and all fear of repercussions. Reports should also include the recidivism rates of people who have been “caught and released” only to reoffend.
Finally, how many unsolved crimes have been committed in our communities?
To be clear, I am not saying that we should lock people up and throw away the key, as I spent seven years as a volunteer at the Lompoc Federal Prison trying to help reform prisoners.
What I am saying is that coddling criminals as if they are victims, while ignoring the real victims and making criminals out of cops, is a recipe for mayhem, including a future shortage of cops and no shortage of authentic victims.
Andy Caldwell is the executive director of COLAB and host of “The Andy Caldwell Radio Show,” weekdays from 3-5 p.m., on News-Press Radio AM 1290.