Crimes of Pleasure
And the High Cost of Making Them Illegal
There is that ancient concept in our Judeo-Christian society that if something feels too good, it must be illegal. It goes back to the Book of Genesis where Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden for eating an apple. While most historians believe this allegorical tale used the symbol of the apple for knowledge, of course the nuns at the church I trudged to every Sunday as a child insisted that the apple was a symbol for sexual intercourse.
Since ancient times establishments have found they can wield power if they control both knowledge and pleasure. While governments controlled the ancient universities and did not allow peasants and serfs to attend schools, churches controlled sexuality and threatened hellfire to any that had sexual intercourse without the church’s permission through holy matrimony.
Our modern society still insists on regulating pleasures with laws. There are laws regulating nearly all our pleasures. I remember when I lived in Chicago going to the liquor store to get some beer for the football game and having to wait at the front counter until the clock struck 12pm exactly for the clerk to ring up the sale, then having to rush back home to the guys who were already watching the game.
Historical there have been many laws regarding pleasures such as alcohol, sex, and drugs. There are still several states where you can be jailed for having sex with someone who is not your spouse. Adultery Massachusetts is generally considered the most liberal of all states but adultery in Mass can land you in jail for up the 3 years! Mass Law
This all reminds me of a very old dirty joke about Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh. The Queen asked Sir Walter, “I’ve overhead some peasants talking about f***ing. What is this thing?”
“Well, your Majesty, if you will allow me, I can demonstrate.”
After a tumble in the Queen’s private quarters, the Queen said, “Well, I will have to make this illegal for all the peasants. This is too f***ing good for them!”
And ever since then we imprison people for having sex for the wrong reasons (according to us.)
Young folks may find this surprising, but up until 2005 it was illegal to have premarital sex in some states. Yes, 2005! It wasn’t until then that premarital sex went to the Virginia supreme court which ruled it a constitutional right under the fourteenth amendment. Premarital
And if you saw the film “Loving” even interracial marriage was illegal in the US until 1967. We just can’t have people making love to whomever they want!
Well, there’s prostitution. We have to make it illegal because it spreads disease, right? However, the evidence shows otherwise. Men who use the services of prostitutes are far more likely to practice safe sex than sexual encounters that are spur of the moment. And the legal sex workers in the US, namely Nevada are required to follow safe sex practices. Nevada
The actual evidence shows that prostitution is not even a significant factor in the spread of STDs. The most significant factor is youth. Youth sex
Well, making sex illegal for young people is not going to work. (As if laws against prostitution worked.)
But we have to make prostitution illegal because it destroys neighborhoods when there are prostitutes hanging around street corners. Some say the answer is to do like the Netherlands and their famous red light district. In the Netherlands prostitution is legal but highly regulated and restricted to a certain area. That solves most of the problems, but still, who wants to live near the Red Light District?
(And speaking of the Netherlands, marijuana is legal nationwide. So the Netherlands must have a staggering crime rate. Right? Wrong. The Netherlands has about half the crime per capita as the US. Netherlands Of course there are more factors than just drugs and prostitution but it is certainly one of the biggest factors.)
The state of Nevada has legal, licensed brothers in several rural areas. Despite this fact, it is illegal in the city of Las Vegas where there are no prostitutes whatsoever. Okay, maybe one or two?
The quirkiest prostitution laws can be found in Canada. While it is illegal to purchase sexual services in Canada, it is legal to sell them. So … if the cops bust a john with a prostitute, the john goes to jail and the prostitute goes home. Hmmm. And I thought our lawmakers were weird.
While researching for this article I found a very curious statistic. It seems arrests for prostitution in this country are steadily going down. It’s as if the various police departments either are looking the other way or have more serious crimes as a priority, which of course makes sense. What is truly odd is that in the entire state of Alabama, over a 3 year period, there has only been 1 prostitution arrest. That is one unlucky hooker. prostitution
Well what about drugs? The gangs that make millions from illegal drugs and kill thousands each year over drug turf is so similar to the bootlegger wars of the prohibition era that many people are talking about making drugs legal. We’re not talking about selling them in colorful packages at your local drug store. It’s about diagnosing people as drug addicted and providing them with legal drugs as part of a program to deal with the addiction. And I think dealing with addiction may be a more realistic approach than hoping to cure them all. Unthinkable? It would save thousands of lives every year and save taxpayers billions of dollars, so think about it.
This would greatly decrease the price of drugs and pretty much put the drug cartels out of business. There would be far fewer illegal drug dealers and it would be much easier for law enforcement to deal with. Legalize drugs?
This makes a lot more sense than jailing drug addicts. While in jail without access to drugs, they make parole, are released and, well, take drugs again, go back to jail again, and so on and so on. And while they are free, since most businesses don’t hire drug addicts, they are forced to commit illegal crimes to finance their addiction.
In fact about half of the people incarcerated are drug addicted. It would seem that drugs are an extremely important factor in all crimes. Drug crimes With this in mind, if drugs were made legal and regulated, could all crimes in this country be cut in half?
When 22 states decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, I was very pleased from a taxpayer’s point of view. Our jails are overcrowded and the country as a whole is racing to build new prisons to hold all the convicted marijuana users – to the point where they were, oddly, releasing murderers and rapists to make room for marijuana users. I thought all those people arrested and imprisoned for possessing even small amounts of marijuana would be released. Of course, I thought wrong.
There are over 574,000 people currently behind bars for marijuana. Marijuana crimes The average cost of keeping someone behind bars is $31,000 a year and in New York City it’s a whopping $168,000! NYC Jail Cost Doing the math, it’s costing taxpayers about 18 BILLION DOLLARS to keep people in prisons for marijuana crimes.
And there are advantages to going to prison. Many poor young men used to join the army to get a college education or a trade school certificate, but many who signed up for those reasons wind up with broken promises due to cuts in military programs. “Sorry – we sort of lied about that education thing. Get ready for Afghanistan.”
However, poor young men can still get free or nearly free college degrees from – you guessed it – going to prison. You can even get a bachelors in business administration and become a middle manager and be the boss of those poor souls who couldn’t afford college. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-zoukis/top-5-college-corresponde_b_14115742.html
With a federal deficit and politicians looking to cut needed services and hurting families in the process, how about adding an extra 18 billion in revenue just by releasing marijuana users? And this doesn’t even add in the cost of law enforcement, the courts, federal lawyers, administrative processes, etc etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if the real savings were double that amount.
Let’s do a little math. There are about 139 million taxpayers in the US. That 18 billion breaks down to $129 per taxpayer. Assuming the real cost is double that makes it $258 a year you are spending to keep marijuana users in jail. Could you use an extra $258?
The wise, wise people at thebalance.com are experts at all the reasons we have a deficit. They list them here: Federal deficit Oops! They forgot about the skyrocketing costs of imprisonment.
In fact, the overall cost of our incarceration system is estimated to be over ONE TRILLION DOLLARS! Costs of incarceration
It is larger than our entire national deficit! It’s larger than our defense budget! In fact, incarceration is the number one largest expense in our entire national economy. We are the prison capital of the world. (And damn proud of it, if you listen to some politicians.) About $7200 a year of your money goes to the prison system. And your current congress wants to increase that amount. You aren’t paying enough, dammit! We need more prisons!
After all I’ve said, one thing you can be sure of: your tax dollars and your elected officials are hard at work making pleasures illegal and spending billions and billions of dollars of your money doing so.