The worst of it is that I am perpetually being punished for nothing; this governor loves to punish, and he punishes by taking my books away from me. It's perfectly awful to let the mind grind itself away between the upper and nether millstones of regret and remorse without respite; with books my life would be livable -- any life.
The difference between the past and the present is that individual freedom and security no longer fall to be protected solely through the D vehicle of common-law maxims and presumptions which may be altered or repealed by statute, but are now protected by entrenched constitutional provisions which neither the Legislature nor the Executive may abridge. It would accordingly be improper for us to hold constitutional a system which, as Sachs J has noted, confers on creditors the power to consign the person of an impecunious debtor to prison at will and without the interposition at the crucial time of a judicial officer.
Imprisonment is the form of punishment which may detrimentally affect not only the offender but also his family and his employment and because of its duration it can seldom be kept from becoming general public knowledge. It [..] can have a lasting demoralising effect on the character and personality of the offender. The loss of liberty, tedium, regimentation [..] which prison life entails, have a greater potentiality than a whipping for destroying the offender's self-esteem and the integrity of his character and for changing, for the worse, his way of life.
I am convinced that imprisonment is a way of pretending to solve the problem of crime. It does nothing for the victims of crime, but perpetuates the idea of retribution, thus maintaining the endless cycle of violence in our culture. It is a cruel and useless substitute for the elimination of those conditions--poverty, unemployment, homelessness, desperation, racism, greed--which are at the root of most punished crime. The crimes of the rich and powerful go mostly unpunished. It must surely be a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit that even a small number of those men and women in the hell of the prison system survive it and hold on to their humanity.
The views of the Courts in regard to imprisonment have however undergone modification in the last ten years. Imprisonment is seen more and more as a harsh and drastic punishment to be reserved for callous and impenitent characters. We wish to adopt a more enlightened approach in which the probable effect of incarceration upon the life of the accused person and those near to her is carefully weighed.
The bad parts of the statute are not judicially severable, I consider, from the rest of its provisions that deal with imprisonment. Their roots are entangled too tenaciously in the surrounding soil for a clean extraction to be feasible. The conclusion to which I accordingly come is that we are left with no option but to declare those provisions as a whole to be constitutionally invalid on account of their objectionable overbreadth.