Friday, October 22, 2010

A modest proposal to end the funding crisis for public defenders

Mr. Gillette has convincingly established that Minnesota's system of public defense for indigents is in crisis.  He points out that neither candidate for governor has so much as acknowledged the problem, much less proposed a solution.  Notably, however, Mr. Gillette does not propose a solution either.  Times are hard.  Money is scarce.  Simply hiring more public defenders is not possible.  What can be done?

I have a solution, and it is virtually free:  fewer crimes.  I don't mean that people should commit fewer crimes (although that would be nice).  I mean that there should be fewer crimes.  With fewer crimes, there will naturally be fewer criminals.  And with fewer criminals, the crisis in public defense will disappear.

There are a lot of stupid crimes on the books.  But I've got a couple of categories in mind.  Let's start with drug crimes.  In particular, the simple possession of drugs--any drug--should be decriminalized, subject only to civil forfeiture of the contraband.  We can wait to decriminalize the production and distribution of drugs, and can pick and choose which drugs we want to do that for.  But for now, we should be arresting and prosecuting only drug dealers--not drug users.  Frankly, I think local, county, and state police authorities should entirely cede the field of drug enforcement to the federal government.  That way, only major operations are worth going after.

(As a side note, here's a depressing factoid about the international drug war.  Last year, 6,600 people died from drug-related violence in Mexico.  For comparison, there were 4,674 civilian deaths from violence in Iraq last year, and the US has lost just 4,500 soldiers in the entire Iraq war.   "The drug war" is not a metaphor.)

Prostitution is another obvious candidate for decriminalization.  From my brief experience as a city prosecutor in Minneapolis, I can confidently say that going after hookers and johns is about the biggest waste of government resources that one could possibly imagine.  Another benefit of decriminalizing both drugs and prostitution is that we'd likely have at least one more federal judge going to work on Monday.

Finally, and most controversially, here's one other idea for a class of crimes we should consider getting rid of:  drunk driving.


  1. One less fewer judge, but two fewer blog posts (this one and the judge one). Who can say which scenario is worse for society.

  2. I noticed this site makes no mention of judicial corruption. Like it doesn't exist. Fortunately, American's are finally starting to wake up to just what a sham the "just-us' system in America is. The proverbial dog and pony show. The corruption is so ingrained there is absolutely no credibility left in our courts, we have no due process, no right to a "fair" trial, or honest services. It's a criminal cartel, judicial terrorism, disgusting.

  3. Joe -- if you follow the link behind "federal judge" at the end of the second-to-last paragraph above, you'll find a post about some judicial malfeasance. Though overall I agree that we haven't spent much time discussing the ingrained judicial corruption you allege. Frankly, having worked for two judges myself, and around many others, I think the allegation is false. I'm sure there are corrupt judges in the United States, and the judiciary certainly has its institutional biases, but overall I believe it is an independent arm of the government that serves as at least a tiny bulwark for liberty and justice.


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