355 to 40: Felicity Huffman’s Jail Sentence and Other Clues We Jail Way Too Many Damn People in America


The title of this piece isn’t supposed to infer that I’m somehow okay with what Felicity Huffman did.

The entitled, rich, elite in life always get away with doing shit the rest of us can’t, or at the very least when they’re caught, they can afford the lawyers they need to  reduce their punishment down to a slap on the wrist, or less. Huffman should be ashamed of herself. Not because what she did is as bad as, say, kidnapping migrant children from their parents and putting them in concentration camps, but that’s not saying much. There’s a pretty big scale of injustice and what she did still probably screwed over a kid — or kids — just as deserving of a good education as Huffmans’ are.

So now that she’s been released after serving just 11 days of the 14 day sentence she was given for bribing college officials to get her kid into a prestigious university, we see her case won’t be any different than the myriad other times someone with a shit load more money than the rest of us got caught breaking rules. And you know what? I think the biggest take away from it is what a crock of shit scam jailing people is, at the end of the day.

The fact is that for being the “land of the free” we sure do have a lot of un-free people behind bars in this country, and that has simply got to stop.

Think about it — what really got accomplished in all this bullshit with Huffman? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

She went to jail for a few days, probably cried a lot, and well, she’s still rich as fuck and can do whatever the hell she wants for the most part. Wouldn’t it have been way more satisfying for her to have to fund the college educations of like 30 kids for the rest of her life? She can afford it, probably, so why not think way outside the box and punish her in a way that actually relates to her crimes? 

Oh right, because America is kinda sorta super-duper stupid.

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Don’t get it twisted, I’m not suggesting we legalize rape and murder. Violent criminals should be kept away from society at large until such time as we’ve figured out when and if they can be rehabilitated. But for the vast majority of the crimes committed in this country, does it really make sense to lock the offender up in a cage? Are we really such big fans of vengeance, which isn’t justice by the way, that we think every single person who breaks every single rule should forfeit their freedom and spend time in a jail cell? 

That seems really preposterous to me. Even assholes like the bastards of Enron, and the banksters who willfully and intentionally played with fiscal fire and burned our economy to the ground in 2007…I know a lot of us were clamoring to see them with a pair of handcuffs slapped on them, but now as I get older, I’m starting to wonder if there aren’t much better ways to hold them — and every other criminal “accountable.”

I’m not saying that we don’t punish people when they break laws. I’m saying that since we live in a society where money is so important, that maybe financial penalties should be the norm. Break the law, pay a fine. If the fine is too steep for you to pay, you agree to have a percentage of your wages that doesn’t leave you destitute to literally repay your debt to society garnished each paycheck. 

We could also have more community service-style punishments. If you can’t afford a fine, then you have to clean up your streets, beaches, and parks for a few months or years on your spare time. Fail to do that, and the fines come back in the picture. This way, we’re spending a lot less money on jails — public and privately funded — and a lot more time on actually making our lives better while those who break the law are dealt real life consequences for their actions.

As lazy as we all are, I’m pretty sure forced labor will be a pretty good crime deterrent, too.

Think about how much better life in general would be right now if we hadn’t thrown a bunch of people in jail for drug possession. Granted, I happen to think legalizing and decriminalizing all drug use is the actual freedom-tastic solution to that problem, but I’m just trying to draw a picture for you all in terms of how drastically different things could be if we got it out of our hearts and minds that the only and best way to deal with criminals is to lock them up.

As someone who spent a good amount of time kicked out of classrooms in his high school career, let me tell you — permanently putting someone on timeout doesn’t really solve the underlying problems that got them kicked out in the first place. To me, it seems like we’ve started kicking people out of class, metaphorically speaking, for things that a simple reminder from the teacher about the rules would cover. 

I’m not saying that all jails everywhere should be emptied of all their prisoners. That there are dangerous people who want to hurt others, and that they need to be kept away from the rest of humanity at least for some time, is not a new concept, nor one that bothers me. All I’m saying is that if we drastically re-thought how we think of “crime and punishment,” we might come up with punishments that only suit the crimes better, but that also do a lot less collateral damage to families and society in the long run.

Until tomorrow, thanks for reading.

Catch up on the rest of the year’s entries HERE.

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Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook, Spotify, and Instagram, but not Twitter because Twitter is a cesspool.


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