$100,000 Per Year to Lock up a Cheese Thief? The Perverse Logic of "Three Strikes"

That a man with unpaid-for cheese in his underwear could ever have faced essentially the same sentence as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is an absurdity.

In an era of savage budget cuts to the most basic of public services, does it make sense for a state to spend $50,000-$100,000 a year to lock up a cheese thief for the rest of his natural life?

The obvious answer to that question would be "no." After all, $100,000 could keep one or two teachers employed; could pay the home-health care costs of disabled low-income Americans; or could keep an after-school program afloat. And yet, that is precisely what a grandstanding California district attorney's office earlier this month suggested was an appropriate solution for the problem that is Robert Ferguson: a mentally ill, drug-addicted 53-year-old habitual offender who has cycled in and out of prison for most of his adult life and found himself on the wrong end of a three strikes prosecution for the monstrous crime of stuffing a $3.99 bag of shredded cheese down his underpants and hot-tailing it out of a Nugget supermarket without paying.

Read on....

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