Time for new year’s resolutions. Mine take the form of wishes and hopes focused on how to make our crime and justice system safer, saner and more evenhanded for all.
I know some of my wishes are unlikely to come true. But I also know many of them could if we were all determined to make society work better.
I hope that the coach Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University gives strength and solace to the millions of victims of child sexual abuse everywhere, no matter how old they are now. May each of them understand that society condemns every person who preys on children and that the shame isn’t theirs, it rests solely on the molester.
I wish for all returning veterans to find understanding communities and open-armed employment opportunities. The warriors who gave so much of themselves over these last years of war are likely to find readjustment to civilian society difficult. May we never forget what they and their families sacrificed and never balk at their earned lifetime of benefits, and may our specialized veterans courts step in to help if they should falter.
I hope no law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty in 2012, but sadly, that seems unlikely. In 2011, we lost an average of two dozen officers — men and women — each month. The most common on-the-job cause of death was from gunfire.
Noting that Americans bought a record-breaking total of 129,166 firearms on just one day — Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) — I hope none of them are fired during the new year. I keep wondering how so many law-abiding Americans come to decide they need a gun. And then I remember Jared Loughner, who went on a murderous rampage in Tucson about a year ago and killed six people. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., survived to remind us that evil madness exists.
During 2011, America saw a 6.4 percent drop in overall serious crimes. The FBI says that during the first half of the year, robbery reports were down 7.7 percent, and murder and rapes were lower by 5.7 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively. There is no way to know for sure what caused the year-to-year decline — maybe the nation’s aging population — but let’s all wish for the trend to continue!
I hope Washington finally takes smart action about our economic, immigration and overcrowded prison problems. In fact, now that I think of it, I hope the upcoming national election sweeps out all partisan politicians in Congress and installs only those lawmakers who act for the good of the country.
I wish for wise leaders who will firmly reject moronic government programs like Fast and Furious, which caused thousands of American firearms to illegally flood into Mexico.
I still hope — as I have for years — that those who engaged in the criminal acts that caused the crisis in the banking, housing and insurance sectors be prosecuted for their financial crimes. Bernie Madoff’s conviction was not enough.
I hope prosecutors also focus on bad doctors who overprescribe narcotics and have now caused this nation to be more addicted to prescription drugs than street drugs. I wish for the Obama administration to stop interfering with states’ rights to legalize medicinal marijuana. As regular readers know, I think legalizing and regulating pot — much the way we do with alcohol — would solve myriad costly problems.
I hope no one tries to get out of jury duty during 2012. And I hope no jury reaches a fast or frivolous verdict (as I believe happened in the Casey Anthony murder case) simply because they want to hurry up and go home. We also need to rethink sequestering juries, as it may do more harm than good.
I wish judges would strike a blow for judicial ethics and report any lawyer — be it a defense attorney or a prosecutor — who they believe has misled or lied to a jury. Perjury is perjury, and unless the law is enforced, it makes a mockery of the system.
I wish states were allowed to spend the $34 billion in Homeland Security funds that have been doled out since 9/11 on hiring more officers and rehabilitating worthy prisoners. Instead, they had to spend it on anti-terrorism equipment.
The Center for Investigative Reporting reveals Des Moines, Iowa, bought two $180,000 bomb-defusing robots. Tiny Augusta, Maine, where no officer has died in the line of duty in more than a century, acquired several $1,500 tactical vests. I’m not sure why Fargo, N.D., thought it necessary to buy a $256,643 armored truck with a rotating turret. It all seems like crazy economic logic when police departments across the country are crying for operating funds.
Finally, I hope consumers of news don’t stick to just one source of information. It is no secret there are conservative and liberal sources of journalism out there. Mix it up, folks, so you can come to more informed decisions about what you support and what you don’t.
I’ll do what I can to help you with that.