Taking inspiration from Shakespeare, a Boulder city councilman has suggested “banishing” chronic scofflaws creating a nuisance in parks around the city’s municipal buildings.
Councilman Macon Cowles said in an email to his colleagues that the idea came to him while “my mind wandered” and he wondered what The Bard had to say about crime and social misbehavior.
Quoting extensively from Romeo and Juliet, Cowles makes the argument that banishing people from Boulder for the same amount of time they might be incarcerated for minor crimes would not only save taxpayers money, but might be more effective at preventing future crimes.
“It seems a double hit that citizens should have to endure repeated acts of criminal behavior that are peculiarly offenses against the people who live here, and then, adding a financial penalty to the insult that has been afflicted, to pay the high expense of incarceration,” he wrote.
“Therefore, I thought that a less costly and more effective solution may be to banish offenders from the City of Boulder for the periods of time suggested in the memo [for penalties for such things as public urination and open container violations] rather than to sentence them to as many days in jail,” he continued.
“There are constitutional limits to banishment,” he wrote. “But I am not sure that those limits would prohibit us from using it here.”
Boulder police have issued 646 citations in the area in the past two years for infractions ranging from peeing in the bushes and brawling to failure to appear for court and contempt of court. According to a city staff memo, 11 percent of the defendants were responsible for 34 percent of the citations and arrests.
“This suggests a defendant population that may not care very much about legal obligations,” the memo reads.
Cowles thinks part of the problem is that the group feeds off one another; banishment would remove them temporarily from what he sees as negative influences.
“Send the offender packing — out of range of the support network that has countenanced the behavior–for at least a period of time,” he wrote in the email. “Banishment would clearly send the message: we do not find that behavior acceptable. Go to a different place where you will have to reform your behavior in order to get the things you need in life. Rejoin us when you have learned to behave.”
After all, he wrote, it worked for Romeo, who considered banishment from Verona to be worse than death.
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