A Public Official Saves California Money But…

Finally! A public offiicial takes bold action to protect California taxpayers.

The only problem? That public official is Swiss.

Yes, the Swiss justice minister’s decision this week to decline a U.S. request to extradite film director Roman Polanski back to Los Angeles was a victory for California taxpayers.

Now, of course, there are all kinds of moral and legal questions raised by Polanski’s case. Was the punishment he was receiving, before fleeing three decades ago, sufficient for the crime of having sex with a 13 year old? Should Polanski be penalized more for fleeing the country? Should it matter that the victim in the case wants the matter dismissed? Or that the judge in the case seems to have violated his word and ethics?

These are important questions, but we don't answer them here. Our concern at Prop Zero is the fiscal health of the state, and, by this measure, the fact that Polanski is not coming back to California is very, very good news.

Why? Put simply, the last thing California needs is another 76-year-old prison inmate.

In fact, one reason why the state is in such dire fiscal shape is that it incarcerates far too many old people who aren’t much of a threat to anyone other than taxpayers, who must foot the bill for their expensive health care needs. By keeping Polanski in Europe (he’s a French citizen and also has a home in Switzerland), the Swiss justice minister likely saved California taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in court and prison costs. (It’s possible that if he had returned, Polanski would have been sentenced to time served).

As one of those California taxpayers, I’m tempted to ask European governments if there are any people in their 70s in the state prison system they’d like to take off our hands. For cash-strapped California, the harboring of elderly criminals by other countries isn’t a problem. It’s a solution.

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