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Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

If The Sign Fits…

Submitted by on March 11, 2007 – 7:42 PMNo Comment

Clearly, the penal code has some problems that it needs to work through. Take, just as an example, the recent hardware store shoplifting case.Some highly-evolved guy nicked a number of items from his local True Value, it seems, and got busted.But before we condemn this brilliant criminal mind for poor decision-making skills, let us take a look at the sentence; instead of the usual ninety days in county jail, the judge decided on a mere thirty days.After that, Black Market Nail Boy had to stand in front of the hardware store reading, "AM A THIEF."

Creative, eh?I kind of dig the Puritanical, put-'em-in-stocks-for-a-few-hours-Constable implications of that punishment.Plus, it circumvents prison overcrowding, the taxpayers only have to put out for cardboard and a Magic Marker, and the sticky-fingered genius learns a lesson he'll never forget.

"But neither will anyone else," protest the ACLU folk.The sign violates his civil liberties, they declare, because once he has served his unorthodox sentence, it won't end there; the locals will always remember him as the "I AM A THIEF" guy.The punishment will last not just for ninety days, but for as long as anyone remembers, thus defeating the purpose of justice.Never mind that Mr. Ace-Is-The-Place-Face deprived his fellow Americans of their right to Phillips screwdrivers!Never mind that he may in fact have tried to pass off the fourteen wrenches down his pants as an especially clanky case of elephantiasis!The American justice system has failed yet again, smiting innocent Ball Bearing Boy full in the face with the circular saw of its iniquity!

Can I puke now?First of all, jail tends to cut into one's civil liberties too; that's the whole purpose of incarceration, I believe, but maybe I've been watching too much TV.Second of all, everybody from the hardware brainchild's family and friends to his future employers will know he got busted anyway.Which leads me to my third point — it never ends, for anyone that does time.After they get out, law-abiding people (read: people who haven't gotten caught yet) don't want to hire ex-cons, or even associate with them.Part of punishment, according to the Puritan mindset much this country's law is rooted in, is stigmatized (and they wonder why they can't successfully rehabilitate criminals).Why not cut to the chase, then?The guy took things that he didn't pay for.If the sign fits, he should carry it.

And while we're at it, let's think up some other innovative punishments for petty criminals.Murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals post a danger to society and should serve their sentences behind thick steel bars — unless, of course, they can afford to hire Johnnie Cochran.With everyone else, judges and law enforcement officials should test punishments almost as irritating to lawbreakers as jail time:

  • 1. Appoint them a person that walks in front of them, just a little bit too slowly enough to pass, and stops periodically.
  • 2.Have them watch every Oliver Stone movie; assign them a paper on the symbolism of Indians in Stone's opus.
  • 3.Force them to eat nothing but prepackaged junk food — Spam, Twinkies, Doritos, Mallomars, pork rinds.When they beg for a vegetable, furnish them with a boiled turnip.
  • 4. Bar them from all reading materials except feminist writing from the 1980s.
  • 5. Arrange a work rehabilitation program for them on a Carnival Cruise.Promise them that Kathie Lee will come soon.Then make good on the promise.
  • 6. Release one mosquito into their living quarters each night; refuse them access to calamine lotion.
  • 7. Put them to work setting VCR and microwave clocks.
  • 8. Make them walk around with wedgies.Check in occasionally to ensure the presence of the wedgie.If the wedgie is lacking, administer one.

These punishments, bland as they seem compared to a jail term, would get old fast.Frankly, if I stole a car and the judge said, "Well, Sarah, you can go up the river, or you can live in a tiny apartment in Queens with a couple of yapping poodles that suffer from colitis," you would see my ass on the next boat, thank you very much.

Besdies, this alternative sentencing could prove a money-saving measure; mosquitoes are free, and how much could a wedgie cost?(The system would reserve the dreaded Kathie Lee for repeat offenders.)It could become a critical campaign issue, spicing up politics for bored voters.People arrested while protesting the new system could be forced to cut up Bob Dole's food for him, or trim the hair in Perot's ears.Revamping the penal code could revolutionize American justice.Just think what it could do for Court TV.

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