Taking Legislators Prisoner

Norm Pattis has never been one for the small idea.  It’s go big or go home.  I have argued that prosecutors should spend a few days in prison before being allowed to ask a judge to incarcerate a fellow human being.  You know, just to have some clue what they were doing.  But compared to Norm, I’m a piker.  Norm’s proposal makes mine look like kid stuff.


I have a proposal designed to improve the criminal justice system. No lawmaker should be able to seek re-election to a third term unless he or she agrees to serve six months in prison.

The benefits of such a system should be obvious to everyone.

He had me by the second sentence, but Norm gratuitously explains:


Lawmakers churn out additions to the penal code annually. When they are not adding new offenses, they are extending the length of sentences for offenses already defined. A congressman or a state legislator has great power to set the terms and conditions under which increasing numbers of Americans live. Indeed, the penal code is now so vast and complex that we are almost all criminals at least part of the time. When everyone breaks the law, the rule of law breaks down as prosecutors acquire the discretion to pick and choose whom to punish.

Lawmakers tinker with the penal code without much comprehension of the real cost of what they are doing. Let’s spread the pain a little, I say. Let’s make sure the good men and women so quick to throw the book at folks taste a little of their own medicine.

Now it’s not entirely clear why Norm would wait until third-term re-election for lawmakers to come to grips with what they do.  They get to vote from day 1, so why not start them out right rather than endure two terms of cluelessness before they learn what imprisonment means?  But Norm has thought this through fairly well.  Let them enjoy the perks of power for a while, so they come to feel all strong and important, comfortable in their job, powerful in their position, before pulling the rug out from under them.


So I say require lawmakers to live in the holes into which they consign so many Americans. It’s not such an onerous suggestion, really. No one is forcing a lawmaker to pack his bags for a stay in the Hotel Despair. A lawmaker can walk away from power and its perquisites after a few terms. But if the hunger for power remains, then let power face the stark reality of what it can do to a man or woman: put the lawmaker away and deprive him of the liberty to hug his wife, kiss his child or dream the modest dreams that console his constituents.
As much as they can do plenty of harm in their first two terms, their power increases dramatically the longer they stay in office, and that’s when they get to do the gravest damage to others.  And it would be so much more effective, pulling them away from the comfort of their homes, the love of their families, the adoration of their constituents, the perks of office, and let them live in the same hole to which they so happily send others.  Maybe then, as Norm notes, they will come to understand what ten years in prison means, and why their insane sentences, 30, 40, 50, are astronomically absurd.

Of course, the idea is absolutely crazy.  Nuts.  No one would ever go for it.  And if this was the requirement for a third term of office, no one but a person truly dedicated to public service, to serving others, would even consider suffering six months in prison.  And we certainly wouldn’t want that to happen.

9 comments on “Taking Legislators Prisoner

  1. T.Mann

    It might be nuts but it certainly would make them think if they are still capable of that. Seeing some of these ridiculous laws and sentences, I sometimes wonder what has happened to reason.

  2. Lorraine Sumrall

    Well, I’m obviously crazy because I think this is a perfect idea. Then after they serve their stint in prison make them choose an immediate family member to do another six months. That way they could pay a fee to send money to their loved one’s account so the family member could eat, pay an exorbitant amount to speak with their loved one by telephone, and then pay to travel and endure the discomfort of being searched and visiting in a penal institution. I think they ought to experience BOTH sides of the prison experience!

  3. Windypundit

    In keeping with Lorraine’s theme of keeping it real, if they’re federal lawmakers, send them to a federal facility at least 1000 miles away, and don’t let them self surrender. Start the humiliation right.

  4. Brilliant Marc

    And oncologists should undergo intensive chemo before prescribing it to others.

    Public defenders should have a family member murdered before they are death penalty qualified.

  5. Marc

    Naturally it should commence with them “resisting arrest” and falling on a curb 50 times after being tasered. Then being held in county lockup, sent to a receiving center, and then a 6 day jail tour until they reach their final home prison.

  6. SHG

    A fascinating counterargument, provided one is a flaming moron.  Oncologists don’t cause cancer.  Public defenders don’t cause murder.  But your comment was just too cute.

  7. REvers

    This idea would work better (in my state, at least) if they were jailed immediately after taking the oath of office.

    Get elected, go to jail.

  8. John R.

    Perhaps we can take comfort from the fact that an increasing number of lawmakers are already participating, though not on a voluntary basis.

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