Across the USA, legislators are criminalizing such things as spitting on a school bus, wearing pants too low, missing school appointments and speaking on a cellphone while driving. Criminalizing bad behavior has become the rage among politicians, who view such action as a type of legislative exclamation point demonstrating the seriousness of their cause, writes Jonathan Turley in USA Today op-ed. As a result, new crimes are proliferating at an alarming rate, and we risk becoming a nation of criminals where carelessness or even rudeness is enough to secure a criminal record.
Legislators use criminalization to outdo one’s opponents on popular issues. In the federal system, Congress has been in a virtual criminalization frenzy. There are more than 4,000 crimes and roughly 10,000 regulations with criminal penalties in the federal system alone. Turley writes, “Our insatiable desire to turn everything into a crime is creating a Gulag America with 714 incarcerated persons per 100,000 – the highest rate in the world. Millions of people are charged each year with new criminal acts that can stretch from first-degree murder to failing to shovel their sidewalks.”