Vice Squad
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Persona Non Grata in Parts of Reno

Nevada is a great boon to beleaguered vice policy bloggers. Since 2001, some
alleged prostitution law offenders in Reno have been given suspended
sentences in exchange for a guilty plea and an agreement to stay away
from the seedy side of town. The sentencing approach is called "vice
mapping," and it is now being extended to violators of alcohol and
panhandling codes, according to an article in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

A police officer claims that the program has reduced recidivism, and has avoided
shifting prostitution into other neighborhoods. Many of the prostitutes sentenced in
the vice mapping program are from out-of-state, and for them, at least, the creative
sentencing could be a very attractive option. That is, it might be an attractive option
in our nth best world, where we are happy to threaten our friends and neighbors
with jail if they engage in an explicit exchange of sex for some unapproved form
of consideration.

As it is Adam Smith week for me, let me note what Smith had to say about taxes so
excessive that they encourage smuggling. (The smuggling then encourages harsh
penalties -- and guilty pleas induced through the threat of harsh penalties? -- in a manner
addressed earlier by Vice Squad
.) At any rate, our current vice prohibitions similarly
create attractive nuisances for police and inner-city youth and others

"An injudicious tax offers a great temptation to smuggling. But the penalties of smuggling
must rise in proportion to the temptation. The law, contrary to all the ordinary principles
of justice, first creates the temptation, and then punishes those who yield to it; and it
commonly enhances the punishment too in proportion to the very circumstance which
ought certainly to alleviate it, the temptation to commit the crime."

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