Author Topic: Is there a point where enough small arrests deem you unfit for society?  (Read 617 times)

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Offline Chino

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Pretty shitty thing happened to a guy in his late 70s in the city I work in.

http://patch.com/connecticut/hartford/convicted-felon-charged-west-hartford-home-invasion-0

A 37 year old man, who had 27 prior arrests, broke into this elderly man's home and ended up beating the shit out of him.

At what point do we decide to not let a guy like this back out into society? Granted, none of his crimes have been life sentence worthy, but once someone is arrested FOR THE 28th TIME, wouldn't it be safe to assume that it's only a matter of time until something really regrettable happens, especially if he's demonstrated that he's heartless enough to kick the ass of a dude who's almost 80?

Just curious what others think about this.

Offline Calvin6s

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Only if the pattern of crimes include violence.  Unfortunately, I know some less than reputable people.  They do stupid illegal things, but they have never been violent.  A few eventually found a good job and that past was just a bad dream.  Others feel jobs are for suckers when they can go scam or do some greyish market stuff totaling 2 hours a week of work and live modestly.  They aren't innocent, but they aren't violent either.

Just charge them with the appropriate crime in that case.

But somebody that punches (as an adult) a stranger there.  Then violently threatens an elderly person here.  Well.  Those people are very likely on their way to graduate to a truly serious violent crime.  Other than receiving the max sentence for that particular crime with less parole options had it been their first or even second violent crime, I don't know if I can swing the other way to handing down a sentence well above the max sentence for that particular violent crime.

And in that particular case, I even have to take into account he didn't come to beat the grandpa down, but escalated based off the circumstances (of which he solely created though).  Now if that was my grandpa, I'd feel differently.  Having just finished the OJ TV series, it reminded me that I thought Fred Goldman might actually try to gun down OJ shortly after the verdict.
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Online El Barto

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There really isn't a good answer for this. When I saw the topic I assumed it was about this guy. The opposite situation where some idiot is facing 20-life for steeling some Snickers bars. It seems we get stuck between maximum-minimums and laws which ignore priors. The obvious solution would be to exercise some discretion, but that opens the door to natural human biases and the iniquities of wealth and circumstance.

My solution is an overhaul of the CJ system, but our propensity for locking up our citizenry makes it too unwieldy at this point. The problem as I see it is that our idea of prison tends to ruin people for good. Putting your Connecticut knucklehead in prison for 2 years ain't gonna turn him into a law abiding citizen. Yet we have no real concept of rehabilitation, and the idea of it is antithetical to the wants of a large segment of society that favors the "let them burn" approach.
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Offline Stadler

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There really isn't a good answer for this. When I saw the topic I assumed it was about this guy. The opposite situation where some idiot is facing 20-life for steeling some Snickers bars. It seems we get stuck between maximum-minimums and laws which ignore priors. The obvious solution would be to exercise some discretion, but that opens the door to natural human biases and the iniquities of wealth and circumstance.

My solution is an overhaul of the CJ system, but our propensity for locking up our citizenry makes it too unwieldy at this point. The problem as I see it is that our idea of prison tends to ruin people for good. Putting your Connecticut knucklehead in prison for 2 years ain't gonna turn him into a law abiding citizen. Yet we have no real concept of rehabilitation, and the idea of it is antithetical to the wants of a large segment of society that favors the "let them burn" approach.

It's kind of a different question, though, isn't it?  I negotiate for a living, and I got into a little argument with an old boss on this point:   when you negotiate, you have a circle, a small universe of possible, acceptable answers.   And the other side has theirs.  If those circles don't overlap at least at one point - no matter how small that point is - you will NEVER get to a signed contract.  So why bother?  My boss was always "well, you have to TRY! You can't win if you don't PLAY!"  Yeah, sure, who knows, but after a point you're just delaying the inevitable and throwing good money after bad. 

I think this is kind of like that.   There is a cost to society for 28 arrests, and while the bottom line number may be less than the bottom line from 30+ years of prison, that's also not a complete accounting.   The real problem as I see it is that in this society it is an extremely unpalatable discussion to even consider 'writing off' someone, even if that someone has expressed no interest in being a participant in the system.   Frankly, I think after 28 tries we should know full well if that person has any interest - or ability - in participating in the system and if they don't, we should be changing the answer to a circle that overlaps theirs. 

Offline cramx3

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I'm fine with it. 20 petty crimes, regardless of what they are but they have to be crimes, not a speeding ticket.  You get locked up for 5 years or whatever is deemed appropriate. 

Like Calvin said, someone can actually survive and live life by petty crimes and not a real job.  That is not right.  Eventually there is a point where you aren't going to learn from your punishment and the only result is to give stiffer penalties. 

Offline kaos2900

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I'm all for a 3 strikes rule.

Offline Calvin6s

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Rehabilitation sounds good, but I can tell you that most of these petty criminals love the joke that is rehabilitation.

I've seen the pattern.  Get arrested.  They stare at a long (for that crime) sentence and start to see God.  Not faking.  They literally sound like they've hit rock bottom and swear they are going to get their shit together.  They are scared of the possible consequences that they really are having an epiphany.  This isn't worth it any more.  If I had just stopped to consider this could actually happen to me.

Then they get a short sentence or a rehabilitation/probation program.  And they still are talking like it is serious this time.  No more of this.  Then the foot eases off them a bit.  Maybe they are now just checking in with the probation officer now and then.  They test it by missing a few.  If the parole officer is a bleeding heart, they *understand*.  Six months later, they seem to go right back to what they were doing before.  In fact, they met a few people at the rehab that helped them up their game this time.  I mean, if you can go a couple years smoking dope all day (or much heavier) and then go do some bigger (but still not violent) crime for the month, buy a new X-Box and other fun crap while they all hang out at a cheap house.

Honestly, a tougher sentence up front might have helped them.  The problem is that the tougher sentence goes from so easy it is ineffective to a living hell.  Waking up to another race gang beating you to within an inch of your life.  Now you have to consider the racist thing just so you aren't a target without backup.

Seems very easy.  Make violence the determining factor.  Not just for the sentence, but where you have to serve your time.  If you stole $50 to $5000 worth of crap, you shouldn't be serving a few years with somebody that just beat their victim into a coma.
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Offline Calvin6s

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I'm all for a 3 strikes rule.

To what level do the three strikes have to be though?  This was a problem in California concerning that law.
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Online El Barto

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I think this is kind of like that.   There is a cost to society for 28 arrests, and while the bottom line number may be less than the bottom line from 30+ years of prison, that's also not a complete accounting.   The real problem as I see it is that in this society it is an extremely unpalatable discussion to even consider 'writing off' someone, even if that someone has expressed no interest in being a participant in the system.   Frankly, I think after 28 tries we should know full well if that person has any interest - or ability - in participating in the system and if they don't, we should be changing the answer to a circle that overlaps theirs.
All good points. You raise an interesting one that we frown on the concept of writing somebody off. I certainly find it distasteful. At the same time we frown on "coddling" troublemakers even more. The problem is that the end result of our attempts to be tough on them is that we punish ourselves in the process, since most of the people who go away will eventually be returning.

And I don't think I understand your negotiation analogy, though it's an interesting observation. For what it's worth, you're both right. The problem with negotiating in a civil setting is that neither side is clear where their circle sits. You sell it as much further away than it actually is. You have to play the game just to burn through the deception and find where you both really stand. Once both sides are known then you're correct that you're just wasting time, but when money is involved you only learn that vital datum by participating. Why I don't follow as it relates to this discussion is that in a criminal justice framework the circles are well defined.
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Online El Barto

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Rehabilitation sounds good, but I can tell you that most of these petty criminals love the joke that is rehabilitation.

I've seen the pattern.  Get arrested.  They stare at a long (for that crime) sentence and start to see God.  Not faking.  They literally sound like they've hit rock bottom and swear they are going to get their shit together.  They are scared of the possible consequences that they really are having an epiphany.  This isn't worth it any more.  If I had just stopped to consider this could actually happen to me.

Then they get a short sentence or a rehabilitation/probation program.  And they still are talking like it is serious this time.  No more of this.  Then the foot eases off them a bit.  Maybe they are now just checking in with the probation officer now and then.  They test it by missing a few.  If the parole officer is a bleeding heart, they *understand*.  Six months later, they seem to go right back to what they were doing before.  In fact, they met a few people at the rehab that helped them up their game this time.  I mean, if you can go a couple years smoking dope all day (or much heavier) and then go do some bigger (but still not violent) crime for the month, buy a new X-Box and other fun crap while they all hang out at a cheap house.

Honestly, a tougher sentence up front might have helped them.  The problem is that the tougher sentence goes from so easy it is ineffective to a living hell.  Waking up to another race gang beating you to within an inch of your life.  Now you have to consider the racist thing just so you aren't a target without backup.

Seems very easy.  Make violence the determining factor.  Not just for the sentence, but where you have to serve your time.  If you stole $50 to $5000 worth of crap, you shouldn't be serving a few years with somebody that just beat their victim into a coma.
This is a reasonable observation. The problem is that the "living hell" paradigm is the one we currently have, and until that changes I find the lenient approach better. Better for the bad guy and better for society as a whole.

And violence is certainly a useful criterion; probably the best we can conjure up. However, I don't think it's quite the bright line people make it out to be.
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Offline cramx3

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Rehabilitation sounds good, but I can tell you that most of these petty criminals love the joke that is rehabilitation.

I've seen the pattern.  Get arrested.  They stare at a long (for that crime) sentence and start to see God.  Not faking.  They literally sound like they've hit rock bottom and swear they are going to get their shit together.  They are scared of the possible consequences that they really are having an epiphany.  This isn't worth it any more.  If I had just stopped to consider this could actually happen to me.

Then they get a short sentence or a rehabilitation/probation program.  And they still are talking like it is serious this time.  No more of this.  Then the foot eases off them a bit.  Maybe they are now just checking in with the probation officer now and then.  They test it by missing a few.  If the parole officer is a bleeding heart, they *understand*.  Six months later, they seem to go right back to what they were doing before.  In fact, they met a few people at the rehab that helped them up their game this time.  I mean, if you can go a couple years smoking dope all day (or much heavier) and then go do some bigger (but still not violent) crime for the month, buy a new X-Box and other fun crap while they all hang out at a cheap house.

Honestly, a tougher sentence up front might have helped them.  The problem is that the tougher sentence goes from so easy it is ineffective to a living hell.  Waking up to another race gang beating you to within an inch of your life.  Now you have to consider the racist thing just so you aren't a target without backup.

Seems very easy.  Make violence the determining factor.  Not just for the sentence, but where you have to serve your time.  If you stole $50 to $5000 worth of crap, you shouldn't be serving a few years with somebody that just beat their victim into a coma.
This is a reasonable observation. The problem is that the "living hell" paradigm is the one we currently have, and until that changes I find the lenient approach better. Better for the bad guy and better for society as a whole.

And violence is certainly a useful criterion; probably the best we can conjure up. However, I don't think it's quite the bright line people make it out to be.

There is rehabilitation for crimes like serial robbery or scamming?  That example sounds like drug addicts, which I would not lump into the 20 strikes you are out type of deal because those are victimless crimes and also there is chemical dependencies involved.  Crimes that actually hurt people are the ones I am talking about and the ones that, to me, after a certain thresholds of getting caught, should be punished more severely with a long jail sentence.  I'm not sure where rehabilitation comes into effect here considering the crimes, but maybe I am just not aware of such types of rehabilitation.

Offline Calvin6s

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And violence is certainly a useful criterion; probably the best we can conjure up. However, I don't think it's quite the bright line people make it out to be.

It is probably the sharpest line that most affects the *general population* of criminals.  So it is probably the fastest way to get to reform affecting the most people.

Beyond that, there is a line of causing irreparable harm to another party, but not necessarily directly physical.  Scamming an old couple out of their retirement and leaving them in conditions that might eventually result in being destitute.  Maybe the husband is so ashamed that he was talked into the scam that he kills himself.  Technically, the scammer didn't do the physical harm themselves.  But they created the conditions that even their own prison sentence isn't going to repair (and they don't have the assets to make whole).

This is more of a blurry line.  Because losing $1 million to one couple might be emotionally stressful and financially difficult, but not a road to homelessness.  But maybe stealing that $500 from the other couple set events in motion that compounded until a demise was inevitable.

Maybe it was the difference between a kid going to college, but not financially devastating in the small picture.  But that kid's life could have just changed dramatically.

So there are some "non-violent" scenarios that require heavy consideration.  And if we don't consider them, we will hear about how it isn't fair - the real crooks are on wall street but they get off with a country club sentence (or no sentence at all).  And that has merit.  Just harder to define.
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Offline Calvin6s

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There is rehabilitation for crimes like serial robbery or scamming?  That example sounds like drug addicts
You are right.  Unfortunately, it is very common for serial robbers and scammers to have a drug problem.  And there is consideration that had they not had that drug problem, they might not have taken that scam/theft/deal route.  So they are getting drug rehabilitation, which becomes time served.  You could say the drugs created the situation, but I've seen it both ways.  And usually if the drug created the situation, the crimes are more spur of the moment petty theft because it isn't about planning a lifestyle of kicking back for a little risk here and there.

And some of these people are real dicks.  They will brag about it to young impressionable kids (brothers, cousins, nephews) and gloss over the time they were beaten badly in prison simply because of race divisions (very common here) and talk about *the good life*.  They don't talk about all the responsible people that eventually got tired of covering for their shit.  "Yeah.  I have to do a bit of time here and there, but it's a cakewalk and it is better than a lifetime of a shitty job that feels like prison instead of 1 to 5 years of fun and then 6 months to a year of *vacation*.  They aren't trying to sell the lifestyle.  They just don't want to admit they made a bad choice.
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Offline cramx3

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There is rehabilitation for crimes like serial robbery or scamming?  That example sounds like drug addicts
You are right.  Unfortunately, it is very common for serial robbers and scammers to have a drug problem.  And there is consideration that had they not had that drug problem, they might not have taken that scam/theft/deal route.  So they are getting drug rehabilitation, which becomes time served.  You could say the drugs created the situation, but I've seen it both ways.  And usually if the drug created the situation, the crimes are more spur of the moment petty theft because it isn't about planning a lifestyle of kicking back for a little risk here and there.

And some of these people are real dicks.  They will brag about it to young impressionable kids (brothers, cousins, nephews) and gloss over the time they were beaten badly in prison simply because of race divisions (very common here) and talk about *the good life*.  They don't talk about all the responsible people that eventually got tired of covering for their shit.  "Yeah.  I have to do a bit of time here and there, but it's a cakewalk and it is better than a lifetime of a shitty job that feels like prison instead of 1 to 5 years of fun and then 6 months to a year of *vacation*.  They aren't trying to sell the lifestyle.  They just don't want to admit they made a bad choice.

More reason to just send these people to jail, not because they are users, but they resort to violence or theft to get the drugs which becomes a serious problem to society. 

Online El Barto

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More reason to just send these people to jail, not because they are users, but they resort to violence or theft to get the drugs which becomes a serious problem to society.
For the rest of their lives?
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Offline cramx3

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More reason to just send these people to jail, not because they are users, but they resort to violence or theft to get the drugs which becomes a serious problem to society.
For the rest of their lives?

I suggested 5 years in an earlier post, but honestly just an extended period of time, longer than a year IMO but honestly I would think it would depend on how bad the series of crimes were.  I feel like a couple months isn't long enough regardless though.  Im also talking at a 20 crimes threshold.

Online El Barto

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More reason to just send these people to jail, not because they are users, but they resort to violence or theft to get the drugs which becomes a serious problem to society.
For the rest of their lives?

I suggested 5 years in an earlier post, but honestly just an extended period of time, longer than a year IMO but honestly I would think it would depend on how bad the series of crimes were.  I feel like a couple months isn't long enough regardless though.  Im also talking at a 20 crimes threshold.
Alright, fair enough. I think five years is about the very worst thing you can do, as society is harmed more than the bad guy, but at 20 crimes I'm not terribly opposed to a very long sentence.
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Offline cramx3

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More reason to just send these people to jail, not because they are users, but they resort to violence or theft to get the drugs which becomes a serious problem to society.
For the rest of their lives?

I suggested 5 years in an earlier post, but honestly just an extended period of time, longer than a year IMO but honestly I would think it would depend on how bad the series of crimes were.  I feel like a couple months isn't long enough regardless though.  Im also talking at a 20 crimes threshold.
Alright, fair enough. I think five years is about the very worst thing you can do, as society is harmed more than the bad guy, but at 20 crimes I'm not terribly opposed to a very long sentence.

Im just thinking out of my ass without serious thought.  I just figure at 20 crimes, even if they are small, 20 is a large enough number where by you've been convicted of enough crimes and caused enough harm and it's a long enough pattern where you "aren't getting better"  I mean maybe the real number is closer to 10 or in reality closer to 30, I'm not totally sure.  I guess that's where some statistics would be helpful to determine what makes the most sense.  Just ideally, a large amount of small crimes should equal a penalty that is much larger than the single crimes, and for me, it would mean an extended period in jail.

Offline Calvin6s

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Im just thinking out of my ass without serious thought.
Perfectly fine.  Sometimes it is good to bounce ideas and get feedback and you shouldn't have to pass a bar exam or have served a 20 year sentence yourself to have some opinions on the matter.

Knowing low level miscreants, good and bad cops, public defenders that care and PDs that don't ... sometimes I feel like "screw all you guys".  Every now and then when I'm about to just totally give up on cops completely, I see a good cop do some good work.  But bad (or lazy) cops really deserve the scorn.
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Offline kingshmegland

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We all hope for people to have the opportunity to rehabilitate but there has to be a cut off point. It can't be a hard number but at some point, we have to look at each individual offense and make a reasonable judgement.
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Offline Calvin6s

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I wish death upon Mitch McConnell and Pat Robertson in comment sections all the time. I'll admit that I'd be thrilled if either one of them died of a stroke tonight.

Offline kingshmegland

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Online El Barto

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More reason to just send these people to jail, not because they are users, but they resort to violence or theft to get the drugs which becomes a serious problem to society.
For the rest of their lives?

I suggested 5 years in an earlier post, but honestly just an extended period of time, longer than a year IMO but honestly I would think it would depend on how bad the series of crimes were.  I feel like a couple months isn't long enough regardless though.  Im also talking at a 20 crimes threshold.
Alright, fair enough. I think five years is about the very worst thing you can do, as society is harmed more than the bad guy, but at 20 crimes I'm not terribly opposed to a very long sentence.

Im just thinking out of my ass without serious thought.  I just figure at 20 crimes, even if they are small, 20 is a large enough number where by you've been convicted of enough crimes and caused enough harm and it's a long enough pattern where you "aren't getting better"  I mean maybe the real number is closer to 10 or in reality closer to 30, I'm not totally sure.  I guess that's where some statistics would be helpful to determine what makes the most sense.  Just ideally, a large amount of small crimes should equal a penalty that is much larger than the single crimes, and for me, it would mean an extended period in jail.
And I'm just thinking that there probably comes a point where a person just doesn't give a shit if he gets busted. That guy is a real problem and after he spends what would presumably be much of his life in defiance of the social order I'm not particularly sympathetic to him. At the same time, as I stated in my first post, there isn't really a mechanism for sorting this out. Neither setting a hard line or allowing 12 emotional citizens decide his fate is really a good answer.
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Offline Calvin6s

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Speaking of juries (seeing what might be the dumbest of all time - the OJ jury), have there been any popular studies about if they seem to be getting better, worse or averaging out.

Most of the stuff we are talking about never goes to a jury though.
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Offline Cable

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Re: topic question, yes. I have seen it first hand by nature of my career. The way a lot of jails and prisons are set up reinforce criminal thinking. Plus it basically fits in line with the definition of Antisocial personality disorder. Society makes it hard for people arrested, especially with felonies, to obtain pro-social employment. So many say eff it, nothing else I can do but petty crime.

That is not to say a few change, and a huge majority are not super risky.
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Offline Stadler

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I kind of posited a "negotiation paradigm", by which I meant that at a certain point you have to decide whether someone is just antisocial (whatever that is) or is really just a square peg in a round hole (that is, isn't antisocial but is having some difficulty in fitting in for whatever reason).

None of this is to say that we should make excuses - I'm still the libertarian, "you make your own path" guy - but I'm surprised no one said yet that being "antisocial" isn't in itself a crime.  Philosophically, if someone IS just committing petty crimes, what's the harm if they're willing to pay the cost?  I experienced this in Philly (see the TV show "Parking Wars").  I had almost $1,000 in parking tickets over three years, and my ex-wife always yelled at me, but some people were playing twice that in a year for a parking spot; I just paid it over time and to the PPA.  As long as my car wasn't towed or booted, what's the problem?  To me it was worth the $30 ticket for that parking spot at that time.   Is that a jailable offense?  Do 20 (or 30 or whatever) of those equal "one murder charge"?  How do you decide that?

Online El Barto

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I kind of posited a "negotiation paradigm", by which I meant that at a certain point you have to decide whether someone is just antisocial (whatever that is) or is really just a square peg in a round hole (that is, isn't antisocial but is having some difficulty in fitting in for whatever reason).

None of this is to say that we should make excuses - I'm still the libertarian, "you make your own path" guy - but I'm surprised no one said yet that being "antisocial" isn't in itself a crime.  Philosophically, if someone IS just committing petty crimes, what's the harm if they're willing to pay the cost?  I experienced this in Philly (see the TV show "Parking Wars").  I had almost $1,000 in parking tickets over three years, and my ex-wife always yelled at me, but some people were playing twice that in a year for a parking spot; I just paid it over time and to the PPA.  As long as my car wasn't towed or booted, what's the problem?  To me it was worth the $30 ticket for that parking spot at that time.   Is that a jailable offense?  Do 20 (or 30 or whatever) of those equal "one murder charge"?  How do you decide that?
That's an interesting take on it. I suppose the problem is that in your case there really is no loss. In fact, there would actually be a slight gain for the city. In the case of candy-bar dude, there's loss all over the place. Even if he is willing to "pay the time" for his quick chocolate fix, the time actually costs us lots of money. In the end it would probably be a net benefit, since locking him up for 6 month stints with a breaks in between would be cheaper than locking him up for 5 straight years, but it becomes a much tougher sell.

Makes me imagine Otis the town drunk being sentenced to 9 years hard labor in some North Carolina prison for being a repeat offender.
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Offline cramx3

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I kind of posited a "negotiation paradigm", by which I meant that at a certain point you have to decide whether someone is just antisocial (whatever that is) or is really just a square peg in a round hole (that is, isn't antisocial but is having some difficulty in fitting in for whatever reason).

None of this is to say that we should make excuses - I'm still the libertarian, "you make your own path" guy - but I'm surprised no one said yet that being "antisocial" isn't in itself a crime.  Philosophically, if someone IS just committing petty crimes, what's the harm if they're willing to pay the cost?  I experienced this in Philly (see the TV show "Parking Wars").  I had almost $1,000 in parking tickets over three years, and my ex-wife always yelled at me, but some people were playing twice that in a year for a parking spot; I just paid it over time and to the PPA.  As long as my car wasn't towed or booted, what's the problem?  To me it was worth the $30 ticket for that parking spot at that time.   Is that a jailable offense?  Do 20 (or 30 or whatever) of those equal "one murder charge"?  How do you decide that?

But these are essentially victimless crimes.  I guess the city in this case is the victim, but illegally parking (unless blocking someones driveway) is not really a big deal and to me, no matter how many offenses, doesn't really deserve jail time. 

Everyday on my home commute there is a ton of traffic at this one spot and I drive along the shoulder, into the rest stop, and then out and bypass all of it.  Saves about 15 minutes a day and is clearly illegal, totally worth the cost of whatever ticket I may get at some point so similar to your scenario, but that's because we are playing the system and not really committing crimes with regards to being "unfit for society".