Technology and Security, Crime and Punishment

I blogged this over on my computer security blog but it is worth a mention here also. The 25 year-old-kid who breached USC's online student application system in June 2005 and compromised 275,000 records, causing the university to shut down the site for 10 days, got sentenced to 6 months home detention.

Suppose he was a black kid who got pulled over by police who then found one twentieth of an ounce of crack is his pockets. What would the sentence be then? Home detention? Six months in jail? Try 5 years in jail. Mandatory. No discussion. That's the law in this country. It helps explain why 25% of all the world's prisoners are in America's jails.

Was the hacker let off lightly? I think so. What do you think? And do you think it is just to impose 5 years for less than .20 of an ounce of crack? If you're tempted to answer in the affirmative, I suggest you first spend some time with families whose loved ones are serving mandatory sentences for non-violent drug crimes. See the devastation first-hand. Look into the eyes of the kids who have lost their parents and their childhoods to the war on drugs. I think there's a good chance that you'll agree with me that there has to be a better way.

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