Joe Campbell

Take care if you aspire to be a criminal. A life of crime can be bleak and unrewarding, unless you go to jail. As long as you’re on the run, you have few options. Once you’re incarcerated, you have more than you can pursue. Like most criminals, however, you may never make it to jail.

If you do, opportunities abound. Among other pursuits, you can earn a university degree, learn a musical instrument, take martial arts training, use state-of-the-art gymnastic and sports facilities, watch multiple-channel cable TV, see movies every day, access the internet, enjoy fine dining, arrange conjugal visits, relax in residential-style accommodations, and visit the outlying community, all at taxpayers expense.

You can live better inside jail than you ever did outside. You can also live longer, thanks to creative judges. Why, not so long ago an American judge sent a serial killer to jail for ten consecutive life terms. Imagine committing all those crimes and getting to live ten times longer than normal.

Oh, I know this is impossible. The taxpayers wouldn’t allow it. They balk at supporting inmates through one life-term, let alone ten. You can penalize the taxpayers. You can’t subject them to cruel and unusual punishment.

Nobody knows for sure how much crime there is. I was taken aback when a legal scholar wrote, “Studies have shown that virtually everyone in society commits a crime at some point in their lives.” Now, that statement is just plain wrong. As anyone with a Grade 8 education should recognize, the pronoun “their” fails to agree in number with its antecedent “everyone.” This is a grammatical crime of the first order.

Though wrong in form, the statement may be right in content, because many crimes go undetected. I know many of mine have. I suspect many of yours have, too. Not only might we commit crimes without the police knowing it. We might commit them without our knowing it. This is the fault of legislators, who pass so many criminal laws we can’t keep up with them.

More laws mean more laws to break. If it weren’t for legislators, there would be no laws to break and no crime. The key to a crime-free world is not to detain criminals but to incarcerate legislators. Just don’t tell the taxpayers. They will not stand for another round of legislative perks.

We’re more aware of street crime than corporate crime. This is the fault of the police, who spend more time on the street than in corporations. As a result, street criminals go to jail more often than corporate criminals, and enjoy longer sentences. The difference is clearly discriminatory, as it disproportionately denies corporate criminals the perks of incarceration. If the imbalance offends you, we could rectify it by incarcerating the police.

Conventional wisdom has it that crime does not pay. Conventional wisdom is wrong. Legislators get paid for outlawing it, police for detecting it, judges for ruling on it, corrections officials for rewarding it, sociologists for redefining it, psychologists for excusing it, reporters for covering it, bureaucrats for covering it up, the television and motion picture industries for glorifying it – in fact, nearly everyone gets paid for crime, even criminals.

Not all conventional wisdom is wrong. Some is merely misleading. The wiseacres say that justice delayed is justice denied. But all justice is delayed. That is what courts are for. They say that an accused is innocent until proven guilty. They must have said it before we had human rights tribunals. They say that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. They do not say what a lawyer who misrepresents himself has.

After graduating from university, I got a job as a reporter and covered the police beat. That’s how I learned about crime and punishment. Or is it crime and perquisites?

It was not long before I noticed that a defendant named John Doe kept getting into trouble. Although he never appeared in court, he was continually cited in absentia for one transgression or another.

Despite my best efforts, I could not get in touch with him. I did, however, come across his name while skimming legal history. You can imagine how surprised I was to learn that John Doe has been running afoul of the law since the seventeenth century, in England and later in the United States and Canada .

I can only assume that some judge gave him consecutive life terms and he keeps getting paroled and re-offending. Wait until the taxpayers hear about that.