Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Limits of the Criminal Sanction: School Districts and Education, Parents, Children and Teachers

One of the principal problems with the American legal system is the antiquated idea that criminal sanctions are the answer for everything, a position cogently criticized by the late Herbert L. Packer in The Limits of the Criminal Sanction, an essential book which should be required reading for every judge and legislator everywhere.

You CAN NOT solve society's problems by putting great numbers of people into jails and prisons for minor legal infractions and designating them as felons.

Rather, to correct a system gone astray, you have to work to solve the UNDERLYING problems, rather than their surface effects.

Here is another case in point:

Ohio Mom Jailed for Sending Her Kids to a Better School - TIME NewsFeed.

School districting is a hot potato politically and in urban areas it invariably falls along economic boundaries. Low income families living in low income neighborhoods have no choice but to send their children to the applicable "low income" schools where their lives may be put more or less in harms way due to violence, drugs and bad influences.

School life on the other side of the tracks may in fact be much better for ANY child, regardless of income.

So what is the solution?

Putting parents into jail who are trying to improve their children's lot is simply not the American way and misses the whole point of the American Dream. You DO NOT put people in jail for doing things that are essentially sensible. You DO NOT put people into jail for trying to improve the lot of their children.

If anything, YOU try to REWARD such behavior.

If such behavior runs foul of the laws, you CHANGE the laws.

No child should ever be forced to go to school in an environment which the children, parents -- and observers -- objectively would find to be harmful and for which school or other alternatives exist.

If this means that traditional ideas about school districting and financing have to be amended, then so be it.

It is not the Ohio mom who is error, it is the people who have permitted the current inequitable system of public education to develop who are at fault.

We think children and their parents should have the right to the following standard: normal schools for normal children, specially monitored schools for provenly violent, drug-afflicted and/or dangerous children. Do not forcibly send normal kids into school environments that are proven to be bad for them.

All normal children and their parents should have the right to select any public school they wish.

That would improve American education FAST, because the educational system would have to be revamped from the ground up. It would force school systems to figure out why some schools are favored and others not, and to improve the deficiencies of those schools not freely chosen.

Three U.S. Supreme Court Justices Play Hooky and Skip the U.S. President's State of the Union Address, thus Politicizing the Nation's Highest Court More Than Ever

The Boston Globe has an editorial justly criticizing U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scala, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas for actively playing hooky and not attending U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union message, in spite of the President's obviously serious and necessary push to promote bipartisanship on the national scene.

It was a juvenile "bush league" move by those Justices.

The Globe Editorial is titled:

By skipping Obama speech, justices bring politics to court.

We definitely agree with the Globe Editorial that these three Justices, who not only are arch-conservative in their views, but who also represent a minority of the U.S. population in many other demographic aspects, are doing the United States Supreme Court no service by acting as revengeful spoiled children, just because Obama criticized the Supreme Court in last year's State of the Union.

A man or a woman on the nation's highest court should be above pettiness in official matters, even if the Justice's person has great personal weaknesses. We have nothing against some Justices on the Supreme Court being conservatives, just as there should also be Justices who are centrists or more left-leaning liberals. But their first allegiance must be to the LAW and to the NATION, not to their personal political card or to their own flawed personality.

The Justices of the highest court of the land should in fact and at all times lead by example and should pursue conduct which is a model for us all, regardless of their own judicial or political views. If they are unable to do this, they are unfit for an office some consider to be the most respected in the land.

Such respect is not engendered by playing hooky. It is true that attendance at the State of the Union is of course not "officially required", but demonstrative political absence is a clear abdication of duty to America in general under the motto "divided we fall". Supreme Court Justices who actively promote political divisiveness in the United States of America are unfit for their office. We have enough politicians already doing that, thank you. We need no more.

Judges who hold the nation's people and institutions to the legal standards governing a system under the rule of law can not act "politically" as they like and do what they want. THEY ALSO are bound by the written and unwritten rules of the very same society which has awarded them their high position.

In fact, by "acting" politically these Justices are not only emphasizing the political side of the nation's highest court, but they are thus demeaning their own judicial argumentation in case opinions, solidifying the impression that many observers have that not LAW is being spoken in Supreme Court decisions, but rather political views are being aired, a deplorable situation which reduces respect for the law and undermines the nation's foundations.

We suggest to these men that they reconsider the importance of their official positions and start ACTING like impartial Justices of the highest court in the land, rather than like juvenile primma donnas.

Shame on you, gentlemen.

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