As you'll no doubt agree if you're a regular reader of this column, I've been rather wrapped up in myself the past couple of weeks. I've been yammering away so much about my play -- which has two more showings, by the way -- that I've totally neglected my important role as arbiter of what is and what is not stupid in today's society.
So self-engrossed was I, in fact, that I completely missed a story so dumb it couldn't not be a column. Here's the 2-week-old headline from the Trenton, New Jersey, Trentonian, just so you know what we're dealing with: "Weapon charge dismissed for man with no muscle control in arms."
I know on the surface that seems innocuous enough, but perhaps we could let the man's attorney sum it up in a more straightforward way. As she said, "Really? It took this long to dismiss a case against a guy who can't use his arms? It's beyond belief. It's the tip of the iceberg, but shows you what's wrong with this system."
Here's what happened: A year ago, a man from Salem, New Jersey, who couldn't move his arms due to a spinal injury was riding in a car with three other men. The car was pulled over for a moving violation, and in the back seat police discovered a bottle of prescription codeine and a 9 mm handgun that had been stolen in Anchorage, Alaska, of all places.
No one would admit to ownership of the pistol or the codeine, so the police charged all four of the men, including the guy who couldn't move his arms, with possession of an illegal gun. I'm going to assume the cops thought the guy planned to fire the gun with his toes, because I'm not sure how else he could have manipulated a firearm.
All of the other men in the car told police that the gun didn't belong to the man with no arm control -- a fact that I would think would seem obvious -- but the cops weren't buying it, and the guy ended up spending four months in jail before common sense and public outcry prevailed. The charges were eventually dropped due to "insufficient evidence," and the man was set free.
I found the man's attorney's comments about the whole affair interesting, but I think I disagree with some of her points. For example, whereas she says, "It's beyond belief," I would argue that it is entirely within the realm of belief. In America today, we are governed and policed in such a cockamamie fashion that the only surprising part of the no-arm-control man's story is that he isn't going to spend the rest of his life in jail.
But you still have to wonder what the point was of arresting the guy, putting him through a costly legal process and then paying to keep him in prison for four months when he was clearly not guilty of the crime. What did that accomplish?
The easy answer is to say that it was just a stupid procedural hiccup and a waste of time and taxpayer money, but I think there could be a more nefarious reason behind the actions of the police and courts. This is purely speculation, mind you, but I think the state of New Jersey might have actually done it to save taxpayer money.
My theory, which is unsupported by any evidence or research, is based off another ridiculous story I just read, although the issue has apparently been around for years.
Did you guys know that many states have contracts with private prison operators that allow the prison operators to sue the states if the prisons don't stay filled? So even if crime goes down, as it has in New Jersey, the state is still responsible for incarcerating enough people to fill privately-run prisons, otherwise it can be sued for millions of taxpayer dollars.
Is that the worst idea you've ever heard of or what? How on Earth could any state sign a contract like that? Just so you know, I have no idea if New Jersey has signed such a contract, but it would help explain why the guy who couldn't use his arms spent four months in the hoosegow on a weapons charge.
The no-arm-control man's story is certainly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bureaucratic stupidity, but I have to disagree with the attorney's final point: It doesn't begin to show all the things that are wrong with the system.
Todd Hartley's prehensile toes are further proof of how little he has evolved from our simian forebears. To read more or leave a comment, please visit zerobudget.net.