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LONG JAIL SENTENCES NOT THE ANSWER


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5/18/2012
James W Harwood
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Doug Huneke, a retired Presbyterian minister recently contributed an op/ed piece to the Marin Independent Journal, which was critical to the piece submitted by Paul BurglinI praised Mr. Burglin in this blog for his call for rehabilitation over incarceration in driving under the influence (DUI) cases. 

Rev. Huneke claims that his 30 years ministering to victims of DUI gives him special insight into the best way to deal with mult-offender DUI cases.  He argues that “leniency” on DUI defendants is dangerous.  He urges “unequivocal penalties” for first offense DUIs, and “vigorous motivational enhancements” for subsequent violations.  These are euphemisms for substantial terms of jail or imprisonment in all DUI cases. 

Unfortunately for his argument, Rev. Huneke completely fails to show how substantially increasing jail or prison commitments will have any direct result in reducing recidivism.  I challenge him to produce any scientific study showing that there is a correlation between length of jail confinement and reduced recidivism upon release.  What I know from working in the criminal justice system is that the vast majority of first offense DUI defendants never reoffend, even without any jail sentence.  The expensive and humiliating experience of going through the criminal justice system is enough to get the point through.  As for the slight minority who do reoffend, such behavior is clearly indicative of someone who has a serious underlying dependency issue.  Throwing such a person in the slammer for a few months will have little if any effect on the underlying problem.  The fact of the matter is this:  You can’t keep him in jail forever.  When you throw an alcoholic in jail you will inevitably get an alcoholic walking out.  If you instead devote energy and resources to treating the underlying dependency issue you give the individual the opportunity to turn his life around.  If the individual rejects that opportunity, by all means, throw him in jail. 


Category: DUI and DWI Laws For California


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