We think that laws are made because some act is immoral or harmful and thus needs to be legislated as a crime. We think legislators strive to protect us from crimes and thus make laws that do this very thing.
And we are completely ignoring the reality of contemporary America.
That reality is this:
1) Laws are made by people who are in no way demographically representative of us. Specifically, lawmakers are older, whiter, richer, and "maler" than the average person. That is, the law is largely made by rich old white males.
2) The people that vote for lawmakers are in most ways not demographically representative of us. Specifically, voters are are older, whiter, and richer than the average person.
3) Most people do not regularly vote.
4) Lawmakers spend a great portion of their time raising money to fund their political campaigns. In the case of winning US Senators this amounts to tens of thousands of dollars every day. And state legislators are also highly dependent on fundraising to win their seats.
5) The candidate who raises and spends the most money almost always wins.
6) Most of us do not give any substantial amount of money to political parties or candidates in any given year. Specifically, far less than 1% of American citizens give $200 or more in any given year.
7) Money for political campaigns largely comes from the wealthy, corporations, Political Action Committees (PACs), and the Citizens United unleashed "Super PACs."
So what does all this have to do with crime and criminal justice?
It means the law will often represent the interests of the wealthy and powerful rather than us.
Just ask the family of young Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by wanna-be cop George Zimmerman three weeks ago in Sanford, Florida.
Zimmerman told the police he acted in self-defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law (so he was not arrested and remains free as of today).
The law allows a person to use deadly force when “he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.” Thus, if you think you or someone else is in danger, you can shoot to kill, regardless of whether the shooter is the one who initiated the hostile confrontation. You can also use deadly force to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony, thus meaning you are authorized to pursue and confront others (including a black kid wearing a hoodie walking in the rain with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea).
Interestingly, now at least 21 states have passed these laws. Given that crime and even violent crime have declined for decades, one might wonder why such laws are needed in the first place?
Here is the shocking truth. The laws were written and promoted by a largely unknown group of rich people called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). As show in this article, the legislation was adopted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as model legislation and promoted across the country with the help of their allies in the National Rifle Association.
According to the article:
"Florida's statute on the use of force in self-defense is virtually identical to Section 1 of ALEC's Castle Doctrine Act model legislation as posted on the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). According to CMD, the model bill was adopted by ALEC's Civil Justice Task in August 2005 -- just a few short months after it passed the Florida legislature -- and approved by its board of directors the following month.
Since the 2005 passage of Florida's law, similar statutes have been passed in 16 other states. This was no accident. In a 2008 interview with NRA News, ALEC resident fellow Michael Hough explained how his organization works with the NRA to push similar legislation through its network of conservative state legislators:
"HOUGH: We are a very pro-Second Amendment organization. In fact, last session, I'll get off-topic here real quick, but some of the things that we were pushing in states was the Castle Doctrine. We worked with the NRA on that, that's one of our model bills that we have states introduce."
What has been the impact of these new laws? Since these laws were enacted, the number of justifiable homicides recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation has increased from about 200 per year to almost 300 per year, just as predicted by critics of the laws.
In other words, more people are killing each other, the very opposite of what was expected by its promoters. In case you think the only people being killed are violent criminals, think of Trayvon Martin, whose only crime was "walking while black." Or any of these people.
Amazingly, this is the same group--ALEC--that adopted, promoted, and wrote Arizona's tough "show me your papers" anti-illegal immigration law, a law that clearly will not end illegal immigration since it is supported by the private prison industry (who only makes money if it locks up people who enter the country illegally!). If immigration stops, they lose money, meaning the law clearly is not aimed at stopping immigration! PS, I blogged about this before.
So what does all this mean?
It is clear evidence that the criminal law often does not represent us or our interests. In the case of the laws promoted by groups like ALEC and passed by state legislatures--often with little or no debate and with little or no public support or influence--the laws often end up up literally killing us.
|Would you kindly take this money and consider this law for us? Thanks!|
So you think the mainstream media would be all over it, right?