Tag: victimless crime

Morality Should Not Determine Legality

By Ian Brzeski | United States

For many people, morality is relatively subjective. To some, sex before marriage is a sin, and to others, it is perfectly reasonable. Some people love taking drugs, and others are appalled by them. People of all kinds differ in their values on these issues and on many others such as access to guns, homosexuality, and prostitution. Whether or not committing a particular act falls under someone’s values, everyone should realize that committing victimless “crimes” should not be punished by the state.

What are Victimless Crimes?

In essence, a victimless crime is a “crime” under the law where there is no identifiable victim. It is performed when no other person or party is involved in the action taking place beside the perpetrator or consenting adults. Consuming drugs is a prime example of a victimless crime. The only party that person would potentially be harming in that act alone would be himself. He or she willingly chose to engage in this act; thus, there is no victim. The same goes for that person when they engage in obtaining the drugs through consensual means. These means include joining into a contract with his “dealer.” The two adults here both agree on terms in this exchange. The dealer provides the drugs, and the consumer provides a means of exchange for his desired goods, presumably money.

Freedom of Choice

Locking people up like caged animals for committing victimless, nonviolent crime is complete nonsense. It does not matter what a person’s morality says about drugs. One could think that they are awful and downright immoral, but that does not change the fact people can do as they please as long as no other person is harmed or brought into unwanted affairs. Those people, out of their own free will, chose to engage in that exchange and then go on with their lives as they please. Nobody was hurt, and everything was purely consensual. Fundamentally, it is not that much different than going out and buying groceries.

If you do not like drugs, don’t do them. Nobody forces you to take them, and if somebody does force you, then that is a crime in itself as it takes away your freedom to make those decisions for yourself. Just as people want the freedom to decide to say no to drugs, others should also have the freedom to take drugs without fear of being imprisoned by the state. It is inconceivable to think that drug abusers belong in a prison cell. Drug abusers need help, not prison time.

While incredible amounts of funding have gone towards decreasing drug use, the drug addiction rate is the same as it was about 40-50 years ago. Instead of spending over a trillion dollars in incarcerating these people, spending should be focused on helping these addicts. Portugal decided to do this about 17 years ago, decriminalizing all drug use and focused their spending on rehabilitation for drug users. At one point, about 1% of Portugal’s population were drug abusers, and now that number has been halved.

The same decriminalization practices should be used for prostitution, pornography, owning guns, and any other victimless crime. If you do not like any of these things, then don’t partake in them- it’s as simple as that. Not to mention that decriminalizing and accepting all of these would make them safer. No more back alley pimps who abuse and drug their prostitutes to make a quick buck. No more sketchy and untrusting drug dealers who may lace their products. No more massive cartels as the majority of their products would be legally imported in the country; thus, losing the majority of their funding. Everything listed here would run as a legitimate business which would then promote competition, naturally making these businesses safer. Interdiction on all of these things is no different from the prohibition of alcohol, and we all know how well that went.

Legalization in Amsterdam

I recently went to Amsterdam where marijuana, certain psychedelic drugs, and prostitution are all legal. The prostitution is all kept in one sector of the city, known as the Red Light District. The Red Light District was bustling with people and seemed as if it were just another business center. These businesses are basically “forced” to care for the health of their laborers as they would have an incentive to because it would be horrible for business if one of their workers had some disease such as an STD. One could find drugs anywhere, but nobody is forcing others to take them. If you want to smoke a blunt, then you can, and if you do not want to, then you do not have to.

The overall cleanliness of the city was surprising. One would think that by allowing drug use and prostitution, the city would be pretty dirty, but that is not true in the slightest. Homeless people and garbage on the streets were not to be found, at least from my experience. Amsterdam has experimented with decriminalizing some of these victimless crimes, and it seems to be going pretty well for them.

Victimless crimes are not real crimes. People should not be punished for doing things that do not harm others or their property, and we must put an end to decades of government control over people’s choice of how they treat their bodies.


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A Pledge of Allegiance is a Communist Dream

Glenn Verasco | Thailand

The first semester of the Thai school year is a few weeks from completion. Unlike the US, the Thai school calendar is divided into two college-like semesters. The first begins in mid-May and runs through September. After an October recess, the second term starts around November 1st, and the school year culminates in early March.

This has been one of my least favorite aspects of my seven years teaching English in Thailand. As it takes place in the middle of the first semester, I have not had the pleasure of coming home for an American summer since residing abroad. The same goes for Thanksgiving and all but one Christmas. This is beginning to weigh on me, and plans for my wife and I to transition home for good are in the works.

Another aspect of teaching in Thailand that I dislike (though I mostly love what I do) is my students’ morning ritual. When the 2nd or 3rd attendance bell rings (depending on the school), the entire student body stands in rows (either in the halls or an assembly area), sings the national anthem, chants a few Buddhist prayers, and sings or repeats a jingle or hymn unique to each school.

Each step of this routine is undertaken mindlessly and unwillingly by the average student. Social pressures and faculty commands guarantee that they stand in line without protest, and the Buddhist prayers are spoken in Sanskrit that few people, let alone children, even understand. And ever since the Royal Thai Army’s 2014 coup d’etat, I’ve noticed an even greater dip in enthusiasm.

As the US school year is set to be underway, I am reminded of my own mindless chanting as an American schoolboy. Every morning, I put my hand over my heart and pledged allegiance without ever thinking about what pledging or allegiance even mean. I was not persuaded to stand through reason or understanding, but instead through the same social pressures and faculty commands that my students in Thailand are subject to. I do not recall any instances of a fellow student declining to stand, but I know I would have hated that student for doing so. I embodied the social pressure I was subjected to.

Now 12 years removed from high school and 7 years removed from university, I have had ample time to begin my education. And as a now somewhat-educated critical thinker, I can look back at the words I was all but forced to say throughout my youth and see them for what they truly are: BS.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America

A free country like the United States should be above archaic symbols like flags, monuments, and other images of state worship, so pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth (especially one whose design has been altered several times throughout US history) is a backwards idea from the start.

Admittedly, I often get teary eyed when I see the stars and stripes waving in the wind as our national anthem plays before a baseball game. But I want that feeling for myself, not as a part of an obligatory chant among an unthinking cult.

If anything, we should pledge allegiance to the Constitution or, better yet, to the individual human rights and constraints on government it espouses. And we should do it when we feel like it, not force the youth do it in a supposedly educational setting.

And to the republic for which it stands

As the Constitution lays out a framework for a republic (and certainly not a democracy), I am least butthurt over this line.

Pledging allegiance to the republic itself, however, contradicts the character of a free country. If our so-called republic veers off course by, say, plunging its people $21 trillion in debt, establishing a destructive interventionist empire abroad, founding an alphabet soup of unauthorized federal agencies, and imprisoning 2 million of its own people often for victimless crimes, should we continue to commit ourselves to its agenda?

Again, pledging allegiance to our Constitution or our rights would be a more unconditionally honorable promise. The state should commit itself to us, not the other way around.

One nation

The United States of America is not meant to be one nation as much as it is meant to be 50 states. The United States in singular form represents what was intended to be a small legislative body that manages the few, constitutionally-enumerated responsibilities the 50 states are unfit to manage independently.

In plural form, the United States are Alabama, Wyoming, and everything in between. The states are supposed to have tremendous authority as they are far more aware of what is best for their inhabitants than a faraway field of castles in Washington DC. Instead of recognizing one nation, we should recognize the 50 sovereign states.

Under God

God is a subjectively manifested concept that each of us has the liberty to deal with in our own way. I was once an Atheist who scoffed at religion, and I had that right. I am now far more open-minded to the existence of God and have gained some respect for religious discipline and spirituality. But that’s up to me.

Instead of under God, we should exclaim that our nation is subservient to each of our natural, individual human rights: one nation, under us.

Indivisible

This is just plain wrong. Although the process is not easy, states are free to leave the union if they so choose. We should remind ourselves that unification is a choice (which, if you ask me, continues to be a wise decision despite the gross encroachments made by the feds), not that secession is impossible.

Instead of pledging allegiance to enslavement of the states by an out of control federal government, we should pledge allegiance to our free will to remain in the union or leave in accordance with what suits our preferences.

With Liberty and Justice for all

I certainly love the sentiment here, but it is simply not true. Compared to other nations in modern times and throughout history, the liberty and justice that exists in America is arguably on the more preferable end of the spectrum. But this is only in a relative sense and often a result of technological advancements, not good government.

Wholesale liberty and justice do not exist in America, and we should stop saying that they do. The more you say an unaccomplished goal is accomplished, the more you believe it is accomplished, and less energy you put into accomplishing it. A better alternative would be to say that we intend to establish liberty and justice for all or that liberty and justice are a work in progress.

Though it certainly fails to flow off the tongue, here is my revised Pledge of Allegiance for the 2018-2019 American school year:

I pledge allegiance,

To the Constitution,

Of the United States of America,

And to the inalienable rights of myself and my fellow man,

For which it stands,

50 Sovereign States,

Under their people,

Striving for Liberty and Justice for all.

Feel free to comment with a catchier version, and have a great school year!

***

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The Best Way to Stop Crime Before it Happens

Thomas Calabro | United States

Perhaps one of the most polarizing debates in our political environment is how to prevent crime from happening. This is a legitimate issue to debate as we desire security from threats against us. But the fear of crime usually leads us to the inclination of sacrificing our constitutional freedoms for “security”. For most of these cases, the inclination is utilized by politicians who harp on these emotions to instill a greater requirement to implement their policies. They wish to be the heroes that stopped crime and saved our society violence by providing more tools for the local and federal governments, and seizing our rights to privacy, to bear arms, and to live peacefully.

There are those who oppose these policies and call for protecting our constitutional rights, these so called “heroes” rebuke by delegitimize the rights and liberties being violated. Those rights are portrayed as a risk for flourishing more crime, and are not even protected by the constitution. If this tactic of disparaging their opponents argument fails their next move is to simplify the argument to this context to either preserving liberty or obtaining security. But rather than using more direct approaches that sacrifices our rights, we should focus on the indirect approach of not creating the crime in the first place.

We should not support policies that create instability in the world, and lead to insurgency groups retaliating against us for creating chaos. It is easier to understand why radical groups rise up to attack an intruding country when you think in terms of China invading the US. This is a point that many view as equating the US to terrorists, but should be seen as an acknowledgment that many will react to situations in similar ways. Viewing those in the Middle East as different from us detracts the ability to fully understand their actions as very similar to what ours would have been if we were in that same scenario. We would not end terrorism by detracting from our current interventionist foreign policy, as that would likely not be the case. However, reducing instability in the world would prevent more groups from rising from power vacuums, especially those that are provided arms by the US, that will be used later against our troops.

We should start asking “Why” a perpetrator would commit a heinous crime rather than “How.” Looking at the psychological, social, and cultural issues of a group, and understanding why people from this group commit violent crimes, is a reasonable way to notice a pattern that ultimately leads to violence. Yet many refuse to look in this way and instead focus on the tools used in the process. The idea of prohibiting the use of this item from some, or even all, and hoping to stop a plotted attempt has grown popular in todays society, providing a “quick fix” that will supposedly save the day. But this not only threatens the individual liberty of each law abiding American, it also may have unintended consequences, simply leading some to find other ways to obtain these goods and perpetrate acts of evil. By looking at the causes of acts of violence, we may find a more disturbing fact in our society that drives people to take the lives of others, and create new strategies to fix this permanently.

Finally we should question whether the crime is really harmful. We should be a country  with citizens that abide to the laws, but the laws that we follow must be reasonable and follow the very principles of our country. We must understand that not all laws truly follow the principles of this country, and to keep them around is to approve of their purpose in our country.  If we are to uphold the principles of our Country to make the US a symbol of liberty, we should look at our past mistakes of infringing on American’s freedoms to make sure they are corrected in our present and will never happen again in our future.


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It’s Time To Start Talking About Bail Reform

By Francis Folz | United States

Criminal justice reform is often a precarious topic of American politics. Although Americans by and large recognize our criminal justice system is broken, they often dispute which solutions are best to mend our system’s innumerable quagmires. Political inaction, or worse, further detrimental actions, only exacerbate our system’s woes.

The land of the free is the home of the brave. However, it is also home to 21 percent of the world’s prison population, but only 4.4% of the world’s general population. The United States has between 3 to 4 times as many citizens behind bars in comparison to other developed nations. And what’s worse than locking citizens up for victimless crimes is that 34% of defendants are kept in jail because of their inability to post bail.

From a fiscally responsible perspective, bail reform is a no brainer. A recent study revealed that as of 2014, almost 63 percent of local jail inmates have not been convicted. That statistic is calamitous for two reasons. First, that the state assumes 60 percent of prisoners are innocent, but still detains them without a verdict. Second, housing inmates isn’t cheap. On average, the United States spends $33,000 per year for every inmate. These costs range between states, with Alabama spending nearly $15,000 per inmate and New York spending $69,000.

A majority of Americans support the idea of bail reform in a number of ways. For starters, 57% favor removing people from jails who cannot afford their bail, except in the most extreme circumstances. Furthermore, 70% of Americans believe public safety should be the deciding factor as to whether someone stays in jail before their trial or not. Clearly, Americans broadly support altering the merits of whether individuals walk free before their trial, and for good reason.

Although the concept of reforming our bail system may be new to public discussion, the concept of bail has great historical precedent. In fact, bail has been a part of the Anglo-Saxon justice system for a very long time. Our founding fathers dedicated the 8th amendment to ensure the government could not levy excessive bails against the accused. The purpose of a bail system has always been to assure the accused return to court for their trial.

Regrettably over time, combined with diminutive oversight, our bail system has transformed into a trap for lower income individuals. For example, police accused one man in New York City of possessing drug paraphernalia for merely carrying a soda and straw from the local convenience store. Although the man had a prior criminal history, all of his offenses were low-level and non-violent. Despite the man posing no threat to his community, the state set his bail at an incomprehensible 1,500 dollars. For someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, that is an absurd amount of money, especially when your crime was possessing a plastic straw.

Unfortunately, like so many other issues we currently face, our nation has strayed from the Constitution’s limitations. And as a result, we now find ourselves in a crossroads where change is necessary to avert further dilemmas. At a time when it is imperative to reign in government spending and reduce the amount of citizens behind bars, ameliorating our current system is one of America’s most rational and promising chances at bail reform.


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Arvin Vohra Will Pardon Snowden and Ulbricht of Victimless Crimes as President

By Arvin Vohra | United States

A few days ago, I announced that on the very first day of my presidency, I would take on the role of Pardoner-in-Chief. I would first pardon Edward Snowden and Ross Ulbricht, then continue to all those in prison for non-violent offenders. That includes all in jail for drug use, sales, or networking (like Ulbricht), cryptocurrency law violators, those with only gun possession charges, sex workers, clients of sex workers, and many other victimless criminals. I have also declared my intention to encourage others to use the power of the jury for similar purposes, by saying “not-guilty” to cases involving victimless crimes.

The response has been about what I expected. Many have furiously declared that such large scale pardons would violate the will of the courts, the Constitution, the will of the people, and even moral principles. On each of these areas, my detractors are wrong.

Today, ill-considered mandatory minimum and three strikes laws block the will of the courts. Judges have lost the legal ability to give comparatively reasonable sentences. Many have spoken out against the harsh sentences that the state legally forces them to hand out. In the current legal climate, government ignores the will of the court and replaces it with bizarre, draconian penal requirements.

Also, my plans for large-scale pardons are in no way unconstitutional. In fact, the Constitution directly grants the president the legal ability to pardon. Our past presidents have used this power. Perhaps they have done so on a much smaller scale. Still, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution grants this power without limitation.

In fact, I would argue that the Eighth Amendment nearly creates a constitutional requirement to pardon. This amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Today, those in prison for victimless crimes are in danger. They face the constant and all-too-common threats of assault and rape at the hands of other inmates. While this is not the legislated punishment, it has certainly become a de facto one. The existence of this environment, in my eyes, is a clear and blatant violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Do large scale pardons violate the will of the people? Absolutely not. I have made my intentions clear, over two years in advance of the election. There is no bait and switch here. If the people elect me, they will do so knowing that I will pardon those the state convicts of victimless crimes.

Ultimately, however, this is a question of conscience. I cannot, in good conscience, stand by while the state unjustly imprisons my fellow Americans. I cannot, and will not, do nothing while those who have harmed no one are locked in cages under a constant threat of sexual assault.

In the eyes of many, those people are the bottom rung of society. Perhaps they are. But, that doesn’t mean that their rights matter less, that their freedoms matter less, that they matter less.
While I am not a religious person, I draw great inspiration from the world’s religions. I do believe that whatever the state does to the least of us, it does to all of us. I have no intention of doing nothing while the state unjustly imprisons people in my name, with my money.

To those of you currently imprisoned wrongfully: I don’t seek your vote, as I know you cannot vote. I only ask you to keep fighting, to not give up hope. I know you feel that most of America has abandoned you. Believe me when I tell you that there are more of us than you can imagine, working to set you free, to let you live with dignity. We are going to keep trying. It is not over until we win, until every one of you is free.

To those who enjoy freedom, I ask you to become Pardoners-in-Chief in your own right, but using the power of the jury. As a juror, you have the ability to say “not guilty” if you believe that a law is unjust. Such a process is called “jury nullification” and is a fully legal option for all juries. Essentially, this means that the jury declares the person on trial guilty, but the law unjust. Thus, there is no sentence. That idea isn’t new. It’s the reason we have freedom of the press in America. The famous Zenger trial was decided based on judging the law itself: the defense admitted that John Peter Zenger broke the law, but the law itself was wrong.

As St. Augustine said, “An unjust law is no law at all.” I stand by my pledge to pardon those convicted of victimless crimes on my first day, and ask you to apply the same principle through jury nullification.


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