There Should be a Law Against All these Felonies

Glenn Reynolds has an interesting piece at TCS today arguing that legislators interested in demonstrating how “tough” they are on crime have elevated many comparatively minor offenses to the status of felony, thereby devaluing that label.

Where once “felony” meant things like murder, rape, or armed robbery, now it includes things like music piracy, or filling in potholes that turn out to be “wetlands.” As the title to a recent book edited by Gene Healy notes, we’ve achieved the criminalization of almost everything.

Which means, in fact, the criminalization of almost everyone, too — if you haven’t been convicted of some felony or other, it’s probably because no prosecutor has tried to put you away, not because you haven’t committed one, whether you realized it at the time or not.

With felonies created so promiscuously, it’s no surprise that people are upset that in the process we’ve created so many permanent outcasts. Separating a few people from society may be salubrious, but as the numbers grow, so does the stress, and the numbers have grown a lot.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. NJvoter says:

    How can we direct these felonies toward our minority party constiuencies??

    Just being honest…