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The Geography of Justice: Aspen's Pitkin County Jail vs. Maricopa Tent City in Phoenix

Matthew Seyler's picture

Philosophies at Maricopa Tent City and Pitkin County Jail are mutually exclusive, to put it mildly. But is there some proper middle ground between pseudo dog kennels and resorts? Does sending a criminal to a cushy place in Aspen differ much from putting an unruly child in his toy palace of a room as punishment? Actually, for an average person being sent to Pitkin County Jail, a more fitting analogy would involve upgrading the child to an even nicer room than he already has (Playstation3, candy, internet—the works), providing him with no practical need to leave, and the parent simply pointing at the lock on the door when asked which part of the charade is supposed to be punishment. If indeed “persons are sentenced to jail as punishment, not for” it, at what point do we begin actively rewarding crime? In other words, confinement seems like a low cost for criminals to pay in exchange for safety, shelter, and amenities which wouldn't otherwise be freely attainable, and which further release him from the burden of responsibility.

On the flip side, is going out of the way to cause humiliation just gratuitous insult to injury? Do pink outfits bring any value beyond mere publicity? If we grant such power to courts, knowing they are run by people (and are thus inherently flawed), we all become accessories to a crime the moment an innocent man is wrongfully sentenced to subhuman treatment.

Awareness of the conflict itself says nothing of what is correct, but you need to identify a problem before it can be rationally dealt with. Is Pitkin better than Maricopa, or do both miss the point completely? Should every county in America independently decide what brand of justice suits them best? What do you think? Let us know. In the meantime, if you have to break the law, or are just strapped for cash and need a good workout, do what all savvy delinquents ought to: get nabbed in Aspen. You may not get much street cred, but the grub alone will make up for it.