(Original post by navarre)
Social consequences, threat of violence, restraining orders...
There are sooo many alternatives to being arrested. And even with the law as it is, it doesn't work very well. We still have racism, we still have bullying, we still have harrassment, we still have offensive things being spouted left, right and centre. The law as it stands doesn't stop people from speaking their mind
- it just arrests them for it, and is applied sparodically and inconsistently. Arresting people for speaking their mind wastes taxpayers money, distracts and wastes the time of the police from solving more serious crimes, and creates prisoners of thought and conscience, and even created martyrs.
People don't learn very well from being arrested. Are you going to change a racist's mind by throwing them in prison? More likely, you are going to make them even more resentful, and their views are not going to change.
This is where education comes in too. Also, you haven't considered this: the majority of people are good, and abhor discriminatory and racist thoughts. Most people not only will not partake in such speech, but they will actively laugh at it, ridicule it and marginalise those who practise it to the fringes of society.
There's also the problem of where to draw the line. A comedian telling a sexist joke may be seen as funny by me but could be seen as offensive to someone else. If someone was arrested every time something offensive was said, everyone would be imprisoned.