When Vice Enforcement is a Capital Crime (Will Grigg)
Monday July 8th, 2013
Alexa Hamme of Salt Lake City was 25 years old when she died in a jail cell. She had been arrested four days earlier on suspicion of drug possession and endangerment of a child or adult. That last charge is a sentence enhancer often tacked on to a drug arrest as a way of escalating the potential penalties and extorting a guilty plea to a lesser charge.
According to Hamme’s father, the young woman had long struggled with drug addiction, which is a familiar affliction but no less tragic for being so commonplace. She needed treatment for her addiction, which she obviously wasn’t going to receive while being cattle-penned with other inmates, some of whom might have committed actual crimes.
Using drugs is unwise and self-destructive. It can and often does lead to addiction, which in turn often leads to disruption or destruction of families and actual criminal behavior. The same is true of other personal vices, as well. But government has no moral or legal mandate to punish people for indulging vices. Doing so is itself a crime – and as the tragic death of Alexa Hamme illustrates, it is frequently a capital offense.