More interesting crime coverage from The Tennessean, this time an editorial detailing the legislative proposals of the Tennessee Public Safety Commission, a coalition of police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys. Every state should take note of one of the get-tough-on-recidivists recommendations they’re making:
[Another] proposal of the group is for requiring each home burglary committed in a 24-hour period to count as separate cases. They would be considered separate previous convictions. Prosecutors say many burglars are aware that hitting several homes in one 24-hour period is considered only one case. That should change.
It’s not just burglaries committed within twenty-four hours of each other that get telescoped down to one charge. Look at recidivists’ rap sheets. One of the great injustices perpetrated by our justice system is the near-automatic dismissal of multiple crimes whenever a defendant gets charged with one offense. Break into five homes, get caught, get charged and sentenced on one burglary count. The other four burglaries are quietly shelved. And if the defendant is a first offender, he may get away with all five charges.
The same is even true of violent crime. By choosing expediency over actually responding to crimes, the criminal justice system is essentially saying to victims: your victimization doesn’t count. The person next to you; his victimization counts. The person on the other side: he is being ignored by the justice system, just like you.
There is no equal protection for crime victims.
This is the way it has been for so long that people who work within the criminal justice system would probably find the mere notion of demanding prosecution for every felony utterly risible. Not to mention impossible, since the courts have been calibrated (read: defunded, or starved) to have resources only to respond to a fraction of the crimes that are committed.
But why, precisely, should it be this way? Why, philosophically, shouldn’t non-criminals — law abiding citizens — have the same rights and access to equal protection as people who commit crimes? Why shouldn’t your burglary count in the same way as your neighbor’s burglary?
The short answer, cavalierly thrown out by pro-criminal advocates, is that the justice system would “grind to a halt” if all felonies were prosecuted. Note that these are the same people who simultaneously say that our justice system is “far to harsh on defendants,” and that “it is a great injustice that America has so many people behind bars,” as if this is just something that happens spontaneously, with no relation to the fact that America has so many people who commit serious crimes.
Appeals courts are clogged with complaints by convicts that they have been treated unfairly, compared to other convicts. And every single one of those cases, however frivolous, must be addressed, a process that costs taxpayers vast amounts of money. Imagine if non-convicts had the right to do the same.
Perhaps somebody in the Georgia General Assembly should look into emulating the Tennessee Public Safety Commission’s proposed recidivism legislation. If it had been on the books in Georgia (and properly enforced), it would have saved lives.