Opinion: Why Kirk's Gang Arrest Plan Won't Work

Illinois senator proposes mass arrest of 18,000 people

We're all for bold ideas here at Ward Room, but a pitch this week by Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk has us wondering if he's forgotten the U.S. Senate oath he took to "support and defend the Constitution."

"My top priority is to arrest the Gangster Disciple gang, which is 18,000 people. I would like to a mass pickup of them and put them all in the Thomson Correctional Facility," Illinois' junior senator recently told a Fox Chicago reporter.

Kirk said the gang members -- alleged gang members -- would be charged with "drug dealing" and "murdering people, which is what they do."

Yes, the state's Republican senator is proposing to round up people based on affiliation alone and toss them into confinement.

His "top priority" sounds a lot like plans pulled off by some of history's more infamous and nefarious statesmen, whom we don't have to name.  

Let's review the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

(Emphasis ours.)

Look, we're no fan of people who can't play by the rules, who infest neighborhoods with drugs that wreck people's lives with dependency and who murder and maim people, but the United States Constitution prohibits simply arresting people without cause.

Furthermore, there are logistical flaws in the senator's proposal. He wants to throw 18,000 people into a facility with a capacity of 1,600 inmates. And once they're arrested, then what? They'll face charges, see a judge, and many, in turn, will simply be released because they're completely free of guilt or there isn't enough evidence to hold them or prosecute them.

It all sounds like a massive waste of cash that might be better used to improve education and potentially lead people away from a life crime.

We all want a safer Chicago. But let's work together to do the things we can do. Lawmakers, that may mean increasing the mandatory minimum sentences for drug and gun-related crimes and passing the sensible gun controls that 90 percent of Americans want. And for the electorate: pay attention to prosecutors and judges and boot the ones who don't keep the bad guys locked up.

Contact Us