'Hot Felon' Illustrates Culture of State Supervision, Incarceration



The booking photo of Jeremy Meeks became kind of a thing ("meme") on the Internet last week. Since then, his bail has been raised to $1 million. According to friends, Meeks' wife is upset with the attention his mugshot has gotten. "She's furious. Her man is in there and people are taking it as a joke, thinking it's funny talking about his looks, saying all kinds of crazy things," a friend told CBS Sacramento.

More interesting, however, is what led to Meeks being booked and what his arraignment hearing last week was about. Via CBS Sacramento:

Meeks was arraigned on eleven felony counts related to firearm possession, street gang membership, and violating his probation.

Stockton Police said he's not a good guy. Meeks is a convicted felon, having spent two years in prison for grand theft in 2002.

So the police label Meeks "not a good guy" based on a conviction more than a decade ago, for which Meeks has done his time. Now he is in the crosshairs of law enforcement largely because he has been before. None of the felony charges listed above are for violent crimes. Firearm possession is a Second Amendment right, street gang membership arguably a First Amendment right, while probation is largely a jobs program built on the backs of felons who have done their time but whom the state wants to keep under adult supervision anyway. One of the charges, not mentioned above, appears to be called "street terrorism." It's a dangerous perversion of the word "terrorism" to include not just politically-motivated violence by non-state actors but violent crime in general.

And yet in this case, Meeks is not accused of any specific violent crime, while Stockton apparently has a serious crime problem. The community may be better served if cops target suspects accused of specific violent crimes rather than engaging in the kind of pseudo-preventative law enforcement that leads them back to the same low hanging fruit over and over again while crime remains a problem.