Friday, December 11, 2020

Andy Young: Reforming the justice system, one misdemeanor at a time

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

The death penalty creeps me out. Assuming my parents were correct about two wrongs not making a right, government-sponsored killings combine ghoulish vengefulness with hypocrisy in a way that’s quite literally toxic.

However, if a death penalty proponent asks me if I’ve got a better idea of what to do with remorseless serial killers, terrorists who blow up crowded buildings, or other unrepentant, convicted sociopaths, I’d have to confess I do not.

That’s because capital punishment, like so many other issues, is complicated. Few of society’s problems have easy solutions. If they did, they’d have already been solved.

Thankfully, some everyday issues can be ironed out expeditiously. The key is making the punishment fit the crime.

In a perfect world, courageous public servants would formulate and implement the legislation necessary to eliminate society’s imperfections. But since courageous public servants have been in short supply lately, I’m going to selflessly use this space to make a few modest proposals aimed at reducing more common (albeit less violent) crimes. With luck maybe one of these suggestions will get the legislative ball rolling.

Littering is an everyday scourge that cries out for enforcement of appropriate yet reasonable penalties. My proposal for reforming detritus-tossing environment despoilers is three-tiered. For first-time offenders: two hours of supervised trash pickup, preferably at or near the very location where they committed their misdemeanor. A second-time violator would be fined $100, be required to do four hours of picking up litter, and have to do so while wearing a neon-yellow t-shirt with the words, “I’m selfish and lazy” emblazoned on it. A third offense would result in a $1,000 fine, plus eight hours of picking up trash while wearing a bright orange jumpsuit. Nothing would be printed on that garment, since the matching dunce cap the miscreant would have atop his head while publicly beautifying the environment would provide ample evidence to passers-by that the individual sporting it is, on top of everything else, not a very fast learner.

Another group of people desperately needing limits are those who think it’s okay to make their neighborhood sound like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway while doing yardwork early on weekend mornings. I propose that anyone lawn mowing, leaf blowing, or snow throwing on a Saturday or Sunday will be fined $10 for every minute before 8 a.m. they turn on their machines. In addition, every adjacent neighbor will be allowed to dump any and all of their snow, leaves, or grass clippings anywhere on the offender’s property, without fear of reprisal.

And then there are those who refuse to turn down their high beams while driving at night. I’ll admit to having forgotten this basic law of decency once or twice. However, my proposed reform for this driver-blinding crime is aimed at willful and habitual violators of vehicular protocol.

Vigilant police officers would hand out a written warning to first-time violators of the “turn down your high beams when someone’s coming in the other lane” statute. But more significantly, the offender’s name would be entered into a national database that would compile a permanent record of such things. A second violation would result in a nominal fine, say $100. But on the third offense, the peril-creating driver would have his car’s headlights removed for a period of six months. Half a year of night driving prohibition would, in my view, effectively teach a hard but necessary lesson.

But what should the penalty be for someone who, for whatever reason(s), decides to drive headlight-less and after dark anyway, thus putting countless other unsuspecting drivers at risk? 

Oh, that’s an easy one. 

Death.  <

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