Friday, December 4, 2009

The Exception Often Becomes the Rule

This is something that most criminal justice professionals know, and the high profile exception of a certain case is matched by many others that occur daily throughout the country, but do not, for whatever reason, reach the level of mass media coverage.

Broken windows policing and three strikes sentencing are two of the most effective public safety measures developed over the past century and deserve continued support and enhancement—when appropriate—rather than censure, as this article from the Christian Science Monitor attempts.

An excerpt.

“The case of the ambush and killing of four police officers in a coffee shop near Seattle on Sunday is exceptionally troubling – emphasis on exceptionally.

“Four police officers shot, execution-style. Their families struggle to recover as they mourn. The suspect, Maurice Clemmons – released from jail just days before the ambush, despite a long history of violent crime and known mental problems. After a massive manhunt, he's dead, too, shot early Tuesday by a policeman investigating a stolen car.

“The extraordinary nature of this crime is why it's captured the nation's attention. But it's also a reason for caution. High-profile crimes have a tendency to rank emotion over reason when it comes to the criminal justice system.

“Remember, for instance, the wrenching story of young Polly Klaas, kidnapped from a slumber party in her California home in 1993 and then murdered. The case served as a catalyst for the state's "three strikes" law, the nation's toughest law for repeat offenders.

“The law has netted violent offenders, but also nonviolent ones, and it has helped swell the state's prison population. In August, with California prisons at nearly twice their capacity, a panel of judges ordered the state to significantly reduce the number of inmates.”