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Law is written, interpreted, and enforced by "normal" people. When I say normal, I mean people who are within a certain range of the median in terms of all dimensions of personality and mental health. So for example, you have a state legislator who may have narcissistic personality disorder, but who is otherwise normal, writing the law. You have a judge interpreting the law who is basically the most boring, non-controversial person you can imagine. You have a police officer who has passed screening tests for mental health issues. What happens when all three of these people write, interpret, and/or enforce the law?

Law as a pervasive system of control

The normal people are in charge, and normal people don't like surprises, ambiguity, or risk. So the legal system has evolved to discourage surprises, ambiguity, and risk. But this has the effect of extinguishing creativity and intelligence and rewarding all the boring people in life.

Law as a reward system for normal people

Let's say you're a high school student. Your options are (1) join a gang or (2) stay in school. What do you choose? Well, when your incentive is tons of money, social status, "power," love, a family, etc., you're going to choose school almost every time. Because you want to avoid what I call the "cascade" into a ruined life, which happens when an offender commits the first felony in his life and his normal life is over. The entire legal system appears to have the byproduct or design of rewarding normality and punishing the abnormal.

Law as a punishment for the abnormal

Let's say you're schizophrenic and homeless. It is literally impossible for a person like this to lead a normal life or raise themselves from a street level existence. The irony is that the law punishes people like this by (1) making their lives miserable when they offend, and (2) offering them no support whatsoever for as long as they "decide" not to seek treatment. This is really unfair because a person with schizophrenia simply cannot make decisions the way a normal person can. What the law should be doing is putting untreated schizophrenics into treatment and/or conservatorship so that this scourge of society is addressed instead of magnified.

Law and impossibility of compliance

It is impossible for someone with certain mental health conditions to follow the law. How should the legal system treat such a person? I have no idea, but I can tell you that the current "catch and release" system for career felons does not work. The "three strikes" law was supposed to curb the practice of releasing violent felons, but there are so many exceptions and decisions restricting its scope that I would say it's not as effective a deterrent as it should be. Obviously, someone who commits three separate armed robberies is not going to reform, but what about someone who commits one armed robbery, one burglary, and writes one bad check over $500?

Last updated: July 6, 2018

© 2018 Andrew G. Watters