Cook County Public Defender Amy P. Campanelli thinks that a “war on guns” is a pointless exercise and says so in an opinion piece at chicagotribune.com. Well, not exactly. At no point in her editorial does Ms. Campanelli address civilian disarmament (a.k.a., gun control). Instead, she shoots down the idea that incarcerating residents who possess and/or use firearms illegally will stop “gun violence” in the Windy City. Like this:
A war on guns that focuses solely on punishment sounds like an easy fix, but it will fail just as did the war on drugs. Increasing prison terms while failing to address the causes of gun violence will serve only to, once again, demonize and incarcerate another generation of mostly young African-American and Latino men. An old adage states that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Following the same failed path will have the same failed results.
While I agree with Ms. Campanelli that a ounce of prevention is worth a pound of dead flesh, the Public Defender somehow forgets that Chicago’s gangs – “mostly young African-American and Latino men” – are responsible for bulk of Chicago’s current record-breaking firearms-related death toll.
There’s no reason that Chicago can’t address the causes of gang affiliation at the same time as putting the bad guys behind bars for a long, long time. Or is there?
Some suggest that mandatory prison terms are needed in order to strip judges of discretion at sentencing. But locking up everyone without consideration of his or her background or the facts of each case is fundamentally unfair. Discretion is necessary, since every person is different, as are the facts underlying every charged offense. Serving time in prison, in fact, often exacerbates the problem. Instead of rehabilitating, it often hardens individuals and sets them further back when they re-enter society.
Despite the inflammatory rhetoric, no one grows up wanting to shoot or kill. People from distressed communities have often endured horrific trauma in their lives, and make bad choices. Increasing minimum sentences will not stop violence; it will merely incarcerate one generation while another generation steps up and continues the violence.
Ms. Campanellis’ solution? “More police on the street,” “linking at-risk youth with neighborhood groups, such as CeaseFire,” “involving at-risk youth with mentors, treatment facilities, faith-based groups, community centers, job training and police-involved programs” and increasing employment opportunities.
As we’ve reported many times, CeaseFire — ex-cons as paid interventionists — and their ilk are an unaccountable scam perpetrated on the public purse. As for the rest, why not? Sure! But put the bad guys behind bars. Otherwise, fuhgeddaboutit.
Of course, you wouldn’t expect a public defender — especially one in Cook County — to argue for incarceration. But you’d hope that she’d come out of the closet for a war on gangs. That’s what’s needed.
But don’t hold your breath. They’re part and parcel of the Chicago political machine. Until that changes, nothing will.