Jail Time for Petty Larceny Should Be a Humanitarian Concern

There was quite a bit of criticism recently, over the escape of a shoplifting suspect while in police custody. People snickered and made snide remarks that accused the cops of being negligent. Furthermore, the authorities shut down the subway system for a couple of hours to hunt for an adolescent in handcuff that posed no danger to them or anyone else. I do not condone stealing however the sad thing about this was that no one saw this from a humanitarian point of view. The fact is that the job market today is very tough which contributes to many people being unemployed  and therefore unable to sustain themselves or their families financially. As a result, some brave sole might think that stealing is his only option to feeding himself. Everyone was concerned that the suspect got away. In my opinion this man was being treated like someone who had committed a more serious crime.

As someone with humanitarian values, I question why he was put in handcuffs to begin with. I think there is an imbalance in the criminal justice system when cops slap speeding drivers with a ticket, but give petty larceny offenders a record by making them do jail time. Who poses more of a threat to your well being a shoplifter or a speeding driver? Then there is the question of the thousands of dollars that it might cost taxpayers to keep someone locked up for stealing a $20 item. The only individuals that benefit from this is for profit prisons. Indeed, the neoliberalism capitalists who owns them get to fleece the government through subsidies in the form of monies paid to keep them locked up. Moreover, they also  profit from the  outsourcing of the labor of their prisoners. In contrast,  prisoners are paid only  pennies on the dollar for their labor. As Michele Alexander puts it: it is the “New Jim Crow.” Indeed, when analyzed from  the other end of the spectrum, you see  that the life of someone has been ruined over a petty larceny. The offender will now have difficulty in finding work after his eventual release, and will not be able to provide for himself or his family. You have rendered him useless to himself and society and in a way have set him up to become a repeat offender.

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