Friday, December 4, 2009

Zero tolerance = zero sense

It started in the 80's because the "Law and Order" crowd was dismayed at the way that "lenient liberal judges" were "coddling" criminals. They were also upset that small-time offenders were summarily given probation or even a walk. The result was a slew of laws to "rectify" the situation.

To deal with "lenient judges": mandatory sentencing guidelines.
To deal with small-time crime: zero tolerance.

While zero tolerance in law enforcement didn't really catch on, the concept had a certain appeal to other authoritarians of all stripes.

Everywhere you look now, zero tolerance rules are popping up like zits on a greasy teen. Zero tolerance rules in schools have resulted in honor students being expelled for giving Motrin to a classmate. They've resulted in students being suspended for pointing a stick at a classmate and saying "bang". That's not the worst -- one little boy was suspended for the "crime" of drawing a gun! No, he didn't remove a weapon from its holster. He drew a PICTURE of a gun. That's right, an effing picture.

I thought that the suspension for drawing a picture was the biggest example of ass-headed unthinking zero tolerance up until I saw this story on HLN.

A birthday celebration that culminated in a trip to catch the blockbuster movie "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" could land 22-year-old Samantha Tumpach in prison for three years.

The Chicago, Illinois-area woman captured three minutes of the film on her videocamera while taping part of her sister's surprise party at a Muvico theater in Rosemont.

Theater managers contacted police, who arrested Tumpach. She spent two days in jail. Now she faces a felony charge of illegally copying a movie.

"The motion picture industry has encouraged theater owners to adopt a 'zero-tolerance' policy prohibiting the video or audio recording of any portion of a movie," Muvico Entertainment, which oversees the theater, told HLN's "Prime News."
Excuse me. Am I to understand that a young woman could spend 3 years in prison because the motion picture industry "encouraged" theater owners (read: told them in no uncertain terms) to exercise zero tolerance with ANY video filmed in a theater?

In a common sense world, the young woman would be reprimanded and sent on her way. Hell, in a common sense world, the motion picture industry wouldn't be dictating to private business owners and the judicial system how they should handles situations of this type.

The bottom line is this: zero tolerance = zero sense. It permits authoritarian types to throw their weight around like dime store Barney Fifes. Because zero tolerance takes all thought and reason out of the punishment process, mindless, robotic morons, acting in much the same way as a computer running bug-riddled software, simply process the instructions without regard or thought to the fallout or consequences.

It ain't right. It just ain't right.