A/N: This piece was written March 16,1990, for a high school English class, shortly after reading A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift for the first time. I certainly hope my writing has improved in the last fourteen years, but I thought I'd share this anyhow.
Our great democracy is currently facing many difficulties, including the serious problem of prison violence. Due to the very nature of prisons, this is easy to understand. The very idea of grouping hundreds of violent offenders together and confining them within a small area is completely ridiculous. This situation is undoubtedly prone to outbursts of violence.
The solution is painfully obvious. We simply shouldn't confine violent criminals. Of course, American citizens would oppose this, demanding justice. The voters want the satisfaction of seeing someone pay for whatever wrong has been done. Fortunately, however, this obstacle is easily overcome, since our research shows that most Americans really aren't too particular about whom it is that pays for that wrong, so long as they do not themselves. This fact is further proven by many everyday facts, including, for example, the inventive methods used by Americans to escape jury duty. Therefore, we can avoid the confinement of violent criminals while simultaneously satisfying the psychological need for justice with one simple solution:
Only convict the innocent.
This plan will work for a number of reasons. First of all, the innocent tend to cause very little trouble in prison. Obviously, they are less prone to violence than are those individuals actually guilty of violent crimes. Many of these people, when arrested, also tend to be naive, and therefore believe that the judicial system really will work eventually. Therefore, they spend great amounts of time thinking about their legal cases, or making plans for after their release, leaving no time for the contemplation of anything mischievous.
The innocent usually prove remarkably easy to convict. Since they are innocent, they tend to believe that they cannot possibly be convicted. Therefore, they put less time and money into their own defense. A guilty individual, fearing conviction, tends to hire a better lawyer. Also, the guilty, knowing that they are guilty, usually put much thought into such things as alibis; things that the innocent individual has not even considered. The guilty also have knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the crime in question, while the innocent do not. Therefore, the guilty individual will know what questions to expect from the prosecuting attorney and will have thought about the answers they will give. The innocent do not have this advantage, since they usually were not present at the scene of the crime. By attempting to convict only the innocent, district attorneys can expect their conviction rates to rise dramatically.
It is also cheaper to prosecute the innocent, since when the accused has a good defense, the trial itself tends to take more time. Time is money. Another factor which contributes to the difference in cost between the trial of an innocent individual and the trial of a guilty individual is the criminal investigation itself. In the trial of a guilty man, facts are needed to contradict his lies. This requires work. In the trial of an innocent man, lies are needed to contradict the truth, better known as his testimony. Lies can be easily fabricated, and changed if necessary. This does not require work. As you can see, it is much easier, as well as much cheaper, to convict an innocent individual than it is to attempt to convict a guilty individual. Therefore, in order to save tax dollars, we need to concentrate on accusing the innocent, rather than the guilty.
The legal tools necessary for this proposal already exist. For example, legislation created to protect the victims of crime can easily be turned against the defendant. After all, much of the legal case often depends on the testimony of a victim. If the defense attorney's cross examination is limited, the credibility of that witness remains in tact. Even hard evidence obtained by the defense can be supressed by stating the simple fact that the victim is not on trial.
So, with this proposal we have solved a number of problems. First of all, prison violence is reduced, while successful convictions increase, improving the image of the American justice system in the eyes of the world. Secondly, both time and money are saved in the courtroom. Tax dollars can therefore be used for more important things, such as nuclear weapons, or further development of high-tech lighting systems for the Smithsonian, which are needed to avoid damaging famous documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.
Copyright 1990 Spiletta42.