MEMPHIS, Tenn. — State lawmakers seem to be grasping at straws searching for solutions to the violent crime problem that is on everyone’s mind. But mostly, legislators are being reactive with proposed bills that stress a lock ‘em up and throw away the key approach to crime fighting.
Both Republicans and Democrats are coming up with bills to stiffen punishment for a variety of violent crimes. One Democrat is even calling for harsher sentences for shootings near hospitals – as if people willing to fire a gun really care whether a hospital is nearby.
There are also new proposals to get tougher on violent juveniles and punish parents who allow their underage children to ignore curfew laws.
What’s driving all of this is obvious. People are sick of the violence. From carjackings to assaults and homicides, the public is demanding more action from elected officials. And the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher followed just days later by a random shooting spree that killed three people ratcheted up the political response tenfold.
But longer prison sentences cannot be the only answer. Addressing the root causes of crime is equally important. That includes putting more money into mental health – and something conservatives never want to talk about – addressing poverty.
No doubt, some people deserve to spend long stretches in prison. The most heinous ones deserve life. But fighting crime cannot just be reactive. It must be proactive as well.