Commentary, Criminal Justice

Jim Gray: Zero Tolerance Laws Make Zero Sense

“Zero Tolerance” laws and rules allow judges, bureaucrats, school principals and other officials to avoid having to make responsible decisions.  And they also frequently result in stark injustices.

For example, once a junior high school student went to a swap meet where he bought a sterile marijuana seed that was immersed in formaldehyde and encased inside a Plexiglas pen.  Then he took his purchase to school to show his friends.  But due to Zero Tolerance rules about bringing drugs onto campus, the student was suspended for a month.  Do you think that helped the students learn to respect authority?  Soon, however, the decision was revoked when his father showed up with an attorney.  What do you think the students learned from that result?

The better approach is to give people in responsible positions the discretion to make decisions based upon the laws or rules, the facts of the situation and the parties involved.  And then require them to explain their decisions.  Otherwise, we might as well put a judicial robe on a computer.

To state the obvious, life can be complicated, and we must not expect that “one size fits all circumstances.”  So we need the Liberty to use discretion at all levels of society and in almost all situations.  In summary, this means that arbitrary is incompatible with Liberty.  So keep this issue in mind when thinking, talking or voting about things like mandatory minimum sentences in criminal cases, and zero tolerance rules at home, your cities or schools or anywhere else.  In other words, think about and vote for Liberty.

(Photo of jailed female by Officer Bimblebury used with permission.)

Judge James P. Gray (Ret.) was a judge on the Superior Court of Orange County, California for 25 years, and was the running mate of Gary Johnson in the 2012 presidential contest, as well as the Libertarian Party’s 2004 candidate for the United States Senate in California. The author of multiple books and a play, he is a critic of current American drug laws.

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