Some sentences ridiculousPublished 11:57pm Friday, January 10, 2014
The issue of state’s rights as defined in the U.S. Constitution, and debated vigorously since then, is well beyond the scope of this column. Let’s just say the definition of State’s rights have been – rightly or wrongly – argued and applied in various ways since the Constitution. There are so many cases in point, I can only name just a few: The Civil War, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and 1964, and in our time today, include the legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, and Obamacare. I am not gay, don’t use drugs, and have health insurance through my decorated service as a military officer; therefore, I am writing this article for those who may be less fortunate.
In the great 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” it can be argued that the performances of Academy Award winners S. Poitier, S. Tracy, and K. Hepburn helped validate the almost simultaneous Supreme Court decision that interracial marriages that were illegal at the time in 16 Southern states violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Interestingly enough, the only state governor referred to in the movie was Lurleen B. Wallace, then governor of Alabama. This was an example of the federal government correctly exercising the rights of U.S. citizens, as was the integration of Arkansas schools, as well as many other, Southern schools in which the U.S. military had to intervene.
On Jan. 1st, anybody in Colorado, even if you are visiting, can buy marijuana legally from any store or supplier. This makes about 20 of the USA’s states that permit essentially the same, either through decriminalization or through medical use. On the first day of legalization, lines were wrapped around the block at several stores. In Mormon Utah, a state that when I lived there, I never thought there was a gay or black person in the entire state, gays lined up to get married the first day the gay marriage law was passed. This was an example of State’s rights being paramount over the Feds, because no constitutional issues were involved.
I personally agree with state’s rights as long as they don’t conflict with the Constitution. If, for example, Alabama continues to jail people for victimless crimes at the cost of the rest of their population jailing people by increasing state income and sales taxes, go for it. Right now, citizens of Covington County are apparently paying for a new jail, along with the cost of housing additional inmates. The Legislature of Alabama does not agree. Evidence of this is the revised sentencing guidelines issued by the state which drastically limit sentencing for victimless crimes. I would ask “Why should somebody who does no harm to anybody else or society be sentenced to an Alabama prison, which spends only an average of $ 26 per day per inmate versus the national average of $ 62, with Alabama’s expenditure on medical care for inmates being virtually non-existent, the lowest in the entire U.S.?” It is inhumane. We treat terrorists held at Gitmo better. Furthermore, Alabama’s jails and prison systems are designed to hold only half of what they currently hold and are causing harmless people as well as the taxpayers to pay for these victimless crimes. Instead of jail, sentence people convicted of victimless crimes to work for free and wear an ankle bracelet. We shouldn’t pay a single tax dollar for keeping government buildings clean and the streets clear of trash, as these tasks should be done those people. Texas has both reduced costs for prisons and inmate recidivism by $ 2B per year by alternative sentencing and closely monitored public service, drug testing, and counseling.
If Covington County wants to continue the age-old path for sentencing people to ridiculous sentences, then continue to vote that way. If you want progressive change, you have the power to vote for such. I will always believe in the Declaration of Independence that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as long as they don’t bother anybody else.