Pamela Lampitt must have been inconvenienced by some wayward pedestrians who were texting. For the rest of us, this would be a minor annoyance with perhaps some horn beeping or perhaps creative gesturing if we were particularly inconvenienced. Ms. Lampitt is no mere citizen however. She gets to put people in jail for doing what she doesn’t like, because she is a legislator. So when she is inconvenienced, we all better look out. She has proposed new legislation with a penalty of 15 days in jail for texting while walking.
“Distracted walking”. Seriously. Are New Jersey’s jails not full enough, that they need to create new laws to fill them? Are the streets throughout the Garden State really burdened with such people that we need put them in cages?
The world recoiled two years ago when we watched Eric Garner killed by the NYPD, on video, begging to breath. Begging to be allowed to live. The NYPD suspected him of a small infraction and that’s why they were taking him down. The same summer saw people in Missouri protest violently in the wake of Michael Brown’s death. As many have pointed out, much of the tension in that area between the citizenry and the police has to due with the incessant and back breaking nit picking of the police, who use the people as piggy bank and punching bag.
This is how they (the police and courts) get that power. By the Pamela Lampitt’s of the world who initiate and authorize it. Of course Ms. Lampitt, or her children, of leafy green Cherry Hill will not likely face bad outcomes from the bill. No, those will be borne by the black and brown people of Camden, Paterson, and Atlantic City. People for whom $50 is a true imposition, not a mere inconvenience.
Is there no solution that civil society can offer, Ms. Lampitt? Have you exhausted all other means of changing this behavior you find unacceptable before deciding to see your fellow New Jerseyans deprived of their precious liberty? You should. Perhaps you should spend a few weeks in jail before you condemn others to it for such infractions. When those who are otherwise upstanding citizens who happen to text while walking end up in jail, where many will be surely be sexually assaulted and otherwise brutalized, you are sowing the seeds of a more disaffected society.