Colson: Enough with the political posing, it’s time to take a stand | AspenTimes.com

Colson: Enough with the political posing, it’s time to take a stand

with John Colson

It has occurred to me that the most basic principles underlying the platforms of our two major political parties must be made of snowflakes — once the sun shines on them, they seem to simply disappear into thin air.

How else to explain how the Republicans — who have long championed themselves as the party for smaller government and less official intrusion into the private concerns of the citizens — want to vastly boost the state’s prison population by making a third drunk driving offense into a felony-level crime?

And how else to explain how so many Democrats, claiming the high ground of preference for treatment over imprisonment for social crimes, went along with this bald-faced, public relations sham?

Although it was the Dems who, thankfully, drop-kicked the bill to the sidelines toward the end of the 2014 legislative session in Denver, once again proving that they are the party of fractious behavior, strange twists of logic and a kind of legislative compassion for the little guy.

My main point of disagreement with this whole idea is based on the fact, and it is a fact, that there is no proof that threatening prison terms discourages people in the commission of certain types of crimes. Just take a look at marijuana use, which for decades has carried insanely long prison terms without discouraging pot smokers in the least.

Or simply take a gander at the case of drunk driving itself, which has as long a history as the very act of driving itself (whether motorized or otherwise). The discovery of alcohol certainly preceded the development of driving skills in human history, and while there are no records to prove it, observation of human behavior should be evidence enough that getting drunk and then driving somewhere has been a human foible for millenia.

And a drunk, as experience has shown, thinks nothing of getting behind the wheel regardless of the potential mayhem and grief that act poses for innocent victims of horrible accidents.

I should shamefully admit here that I have driven while thoroughly drunk, and typically did not think about it in any meaningful way before I committed this act of foolhardiness. This, despite knowing full well I might harm others or put myself in jail, although thankfully I’ve never done either.

But the point is that thinking is not part of drinking, and making laws to force us to think more clearly while drunk or put us in prison are completely pointless. Education and treatment are the better options.

To me, the bill mentioned above is just another example of grandstanding and political posing by legislators who somehow never seem able to tackle the serious, systemic problems facing this state, but who are always ready to primp and parade themselves on such “easy” issues as drunk driving, drug offenses of any kind and, oh, yeah, getting rid of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (known as the ACA or, derisively, as Obamacare).

As part of the time-honored sport of playing on voter apathy and ignorance, elected know-nothings love to find these “easy” targets and spout about them endlessly, thereby garnering media exposure that permits these supposed solons to act as though they were uttering the wisdom of sages.

Hence, Republican state Sens. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and Mike Johnston, D-Denver, offered a bill making it a felony to be convicted of three DUIs in five years, or four DUIs in 15 years. The sentence for this crime would be up to six years in state prison. The bill had already passed in the house, sponsored by Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.

Now, it seems to me, the constituency that would benefit most from this bill would be the prison-building industry, which already has made plenty of money building the 25 prisons currently operating in Colorado and presumably would love to make some more.

I’m awfully glad that Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, among others, pointed out that state money would be far better spent by working on the disease of alcoholism and the idiocy of drunk driving rather than locking more and more people behind bars.

Already, according to Wikipedia and other sources, the incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world. While the United States represents about 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, at an annual cost of $60.3 billion.

Do we really need to add to those disgraceful numbers by pretending the threat of a prison term will keep drunks from climbing behind the wheel?

jbcolson51@gmail.com


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