We Need To Stop Fighting Crime With More Crime

Alex Karakatsanis: “The two images that best describe the budget priorities of the U.S. police bureaucracy: Alabama cops celebrating a fun quilt they made from the signs of unhoused people begging for money and NYPD bragging about executing 23 warrants to seize shoplifted diapers.”

When Thatha was young, he hung his clothes out to dry. Someone jumped in, stole his clothes and ran off. Thatha chased the guy down and somehow got him to the police.

What did the police do?

The cops beat the guy to a pulp and took my father’s clothes as ‘evidence’. Thatha kept going to the station, but he never got his damn clothes back. That’s the criminal justice system for you. It’s just organized crime.

Billions For What?

The United States spends $300 billion a year policing and jailing people, ie beating and caging them. Cops are now the biggest robbers in America (they seize much more stuff than they ever return). The study I link here says all this and then misses the point. They say…

A criminal justice system is vital to ensuring laws are obeyed, the public is safe, and rights are protected. Key elements of such a system include incapacitating people who have broken the law, deterring others from doing the same, and rehabilitating offenders to prevent reoccurrence.

This is like saying unicorns are really good at flying and also poking stuff, and you need to feed them rainbow dust. OK, do we fucking have unicorns? Do they exist anywhere? What are we even talking about here?

The point they’re missing is that the system is working as intended. It delivers the appearance of vengeance and steady returns to an entire industry. Tweaking the system will not produce different results. You have to have a completely different model of justice, and luckily we already have one.

Just look at how justice works for the rich.

Prince Andrew

Prince Andrew was never even charged by his mom’s police service and instead just paid some money to a (then) child he raped. This is pretty normal for rich people. OJ Simpson, for example, got out of the criminal case and ended up losing the civil, ie paying blood money.

Rich people already have their own non-violent justice system where they pay blood money, if they’re ever charged at all. Hence the point is not inventing some brand new justice system here. It’s just treating everyone like they’re rich.

Billions For Other Things

For example, the $300 billion spent causing $1.2 trillion in damage to families and communities could instead be given to victims. Let’s take just violent crime and let the other shit slide. There are only about 1.3 million crimes in the US every year, so let’s say that’s one victim each.

You could give each victim $200,000. Wouldn’t they rather have that than the government spending that money just caging the perpetrator? The entire justice system is focused on the perpetrator, and the only person that benefits from this system is the capitalist industry that’s sprung up around it. It’s become a grift. It does nothing for victims at all.

Hell, you could give every American $1,000 a year. Instead the cops are arresting homeless people for stealing diapers. They’re getting overtime ripping up their signs and clearing tent cities. Instead of helping or educating people from really fucked up childhoods, they just feed them into a prison pipeline from their school days.

This isn’t a criminal justice system. It’s just a bigger system of crime. It’s just an eye for an eye, and we’ve all gone blind. Imagine being a victim in this situation. What do you get? If you’re lucky the ‘bad guy’ gets tortured for years at your expense. You get jack shit.

The core principle behind any real justice system should be not making situations worse. Lawyers should take the Hippocratic oath more than doctors. Do no harm. And yeah, that means letting some shit go. In truth this is what the criminal justice system does now, cops spend like 4% of their time on violent crime and rarely solve shit. But we’re just sold a story of vengeance to make up for the fact that we’re not actually stopping crime.

So give up on the pretense that this system works at all. Reorient justice around reducing societal trauma, not fucking industrializing it.

I was watching a Gabor Mate video where he visited people in jail, and a man was talking about how his mother used to cry as she stood him up and whipped him. As a child. That was the trauma of slavery continuing to this day. And today more Americans are disenfranchised as felons than were ever disenfranchised as slaves. It’s the same shit different day.

Even in our analysis of crime we act like eliminating crime is something we can do, and even should do. But that shit’s a unicorn. The only real crime is being poor, and that’s all that really gets enforced.

The point is not eliminating crime, it’s is increasing compassion. It is reducing trauma, it is helping children, helping families, helping the homeless, helping the poor. Jesus was right when he said turn the other cheek. He was right to correct the old emphasis on eye for an eye. And that was over 2,000 years ago. We don’t listen. Even after failing and failing, we can’t try the counter-intuitive thing that’s actually right.

When Thatha was robbed again as an adult they brought some skinny guy to him. He said he didn’t want to press charges, just let the guy go. And he made a donation to the police benevolent fund to just get his stuff back. Which worked. But this system obviously doesn’t work.

This is not a justice system, it’s just a bigger set of criminals. It’s literally criminaljustice. It’s worse crime. We can’t keep trying the same thing expecting different results. Vengeance isn’t putting children to sleep. Punishment isn’t improving life on the streets. All this blood money isn’t even going to you and me.

We need to stop focusing on hurting criminals and start focusing on helping human beings. And just letting some shit go. Then, slowly, surely, and imperfectly, crime will recede. We at least will not be committing more crime ourselves. If you think this is impossible just look at rich people. This is how they already be.

Further Reading:
- A Demand For Nonviolent Government
- Justice Means Treating Everyone Like They’re Rich and White