Category Archives: criminal “justice”

Come, let us gloat over the beast in the cage.

 

 

 

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

 

— Matthew 2:40

 

 

This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

 

— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

 

 
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“I would love for Harvey to have a restorative justice process in which he could come emotionally to terms with his wrongs. The criminal justice system is a distant second to a more humane kind of process. This is what he has created for himself: prison, lack of remorse, lack of accountability. The man is going to prison for sex crimes.” — Ashley Judd

 

“Harvey Weinstein needed to be held accountable. But sex offenders have a horrible time in jail. It is going to be terrible, state-imposed suffering and torture. I have a hard time feeling happy about that. If accountability can only come through decades in horrific conditions in jail, I don’t love that. Not for anyone.” — Aya Gruber

 

QUOTED IN “ ‘Finally’: Ashley Judd and Other Weinstein Accusers Respond to Verdict; The women, other key figures in the #MeToo movement and legal scholars shared their thoughts with The New York Times.” by Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Grace Ashford, Catrin Einhorn and Ellen Gabler, The New York Times, February 24, 2020

 

 

 

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“He was a target of a cause and of a movement,” defense attorney Donna Rotunno.

 

 

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Harvey Weinstein.

A caged animal.

His life is over.

He won’t offend again.

They wanted to make a symbol of him. They couldn’t wait to celebrate his conviction.

Their post-trial smugness is dispiriting.

Harvey Weinstein was a sexual predator who behaved like a monster. HE is not a monster.

Weinstein is not subhuman and should not be treated as if he were not human.

 

 

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There is no possibility of a just or good outcome from Weinstein’s trial.

No person is beyond redemption.

No one should be punished more than is necessary.

Punishment is often inflicted for the sake of punishing.

It does no good.

It has nothing to do with rehabilitation or restitution.

In the karmic sense, it makes the world a worse, not a better, place.

 

 

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I have personal knowledge about a recent court case overseas which involved a sex offender. The criminal offense was far less worse than Harvey Weinstein’s.

A close relative of the offender is a friend of mine. I know this person (the accused one). He is not a bad person. (I say this with conviction, from personal knowledge.)

He was driven by a compulsion to his criminal acts. They were of a coercive and exploitative nature, like Weinstein’s, although not nearly as bad, and they occurred over a much shorter period of time.

The offender could have been imprisoned for several years. He is much younger than Weinstein. The judge sentenced him to an indeterminate term of confinement in a psychiatric facility, where he will be closely supervised, and to a mandated term of therapy for paraphilia. After which an evaluation will be made of the outcome and a decision will be made whether further confinement is necessary.

This is sensible.

In the US, he would probably be looking at ten to twenty years and the lifetime onus of sex offender status.

 

 

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Warehousing is a horrible aspect of our criminal “justice” system. It shows just how inhumane and bankrupt the system is:

Willie Bosket — imprisoned for almost his entire life, beginning at age nine. Has spent approximately thirty years in solitary confinement. Now in a maximum security facility in New York State.

Bernie Madoff

Larry Nassar

El Chapo

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  February 26, 2020

“Ar ne kuth”

 

 

Ar ne kuthe ich sorghe non
nu ich mot imane min mon;
karful wel sore ich syche

Geltles ich sholyc muchele schame;
help God, for thin swete name,
kyng of heuene riche.

Jesu crist, sod God sod man,
louerd thu rew upon me,
of prisun thar ich in am
bring me ut and makye fre.

Ich and mine feren sume,
God wot ich ne lyghe noct,
for othre habbet misname
ben in thys prisun ibroct.

Almicti, that wel lictli,
bale is hale and bate, heuenking,
of this woning ut us bringe mote.

Foryef hem, the wykke men,
yhef it is thi wille, for wos gelt
we bed ipelt in thos prisun hille.

Ne hope non to this liue
her ne mai he biliue,
Heghe thegh he astighe
ded hym felled to grunde.

Nu had man wele and blisce,
rathe he shal thar of misse.
worldes wele midywisse
ne lasted buten on stunde.

Maiden that bare the heuen king,
bisech thin sone, that swete thing,
that he habbe of hus rewsing
and bring hus of this woning,
for his muchele milse.

He bring hus ut of this wo,
and hus tache werchen swo
in thos liue, go wusit go
that we moten ey and o
habben the eche blisse.

 

 

Previously I knew no sorrow,
now I must give voice to my grief:
full of care I and suffering. I sigh.

Guiltless, I suffer great shame:
help, God, for your sweet name,
Lord of heaven’s kingdom.

Jesus Christ, in truth God, in truth man,
Lord, have pity upon me,
from this prison that I am in
bring me out and make me free.

I and some of my companions,
(God knows that I do not lie)
for other men’s misdeeds
have into this prison been cast.

Almighty, who very easily
is remedy and cure for pain, heaven-king,
from this misery may liberate us.

Forgive them. the wicked men,
God, if it is your will. for whose guilt
we have been thrust into this evil prison.

Have no hope in this life.
for here he may not remain.
High though he ascends,
death will fell him to the ground.

Now man has wealth and bliss,
but soon he shall lose them.
The wealth of the world certainly
lasts not but a moment.

Maiden who bore the Heaven-king,
beseech your son, that sweet thing,
that he have pity on us
and bring us from this misery,
for his great mercy.

May he bring us out of this woe,
and teach us to act
so that in this life, however it may go,
we may forever
have eternal bliss.

 

 

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I heard this medieval song performed by soprano Jolle Greenleaf (her voice is incredible and virtually indescribable) in a concert of English medieval music by Tenet Vocal Artists at the Rare Book Room of the Strand Bookstore on February 13, 2020.

Pity the prisoners incarcerated, most of them with no purpose and for no good — I would guess this is true of about ninety-five percent of the prisoners currently incarcerated — by our criminal “justice” system.

 

— Roger W. Smith

    February 2020

 

 

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“A common thread throughout medieval English sacred music, both in Latin and in the vernacular, is a devoted love of Mary. The sweetness of so much of English polyphony seems especially appropriate for music to celebrate Christianity’s great mother.

“In ‘Arne kuth ich sorghe non’ the singer, destitute and imprisoned, first calls out to Jesus for help. Finally, in the last stanza she turns to Mary, imploring her to intercede with her son Christ: “beseech thy son to have pity on us and bring us from this great misery.”

 

— program notes by Robert Mealy

gratuitous cruelty

 

 

‘after false drug test he was in solitary confinement for 120 days’

 

 

‘Man Sentenced to Life Without Parole in Brutal Farm Killings’

 

 

El Chapo – Washington Post 2-14-2019

 

 

‘Where El Chapo Could End Up’ – NY Times 2-15-2019

 

 

 

“In a memorandum on April 16, 2003, [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld approved 24 of the recommended [interrogation] techniques [for at the American-run detention site at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba]. … An action memorandum presented to [Rumsfeld] on Nov. 27, 2002, recommends that he approve a number of interrogation techniques for use at Guantánamo, including one described as ‘the use of stress positions (like standing), for a maximum of four hours.’

“Mr. Rumsfeld, who labors in his Pentagon office at a stand-up desk, added this handwritten postscript: ‘I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?’ ”

— “Files Show Rumsfeld Rejected Some Efforts to Toughen Prison Rules,” by Douglas Jehl, The New York Times, June 23, 2004
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As I was walking downtown in the City on Thursday morning last week. enjoying the quiet, early morning streets — it seems that there is always something interesting or beautiful to see — I had a feeling of elation. The sun emerged from behind clouds at approximately 9 a.m.

I was thinking what a wonderful thing (which I assume as a given) freedom (personal, one’s own) is. And how awful is must be to be deprived of it.

My mind was wandering. I thought of an article I had read in the Times that morning: “After False Drug Test, He Was in Solitary Confinement for 120 Days.”

One hundred twenty days, four months, in solitary confinement. For testing positive for drugs while incarcerated. (The test results proved to be wrong. The inmate was not using drugs. The drug-testing equipment used was defective and failed to produce accurate results.)

The stupidity and cruelty of how the prisoners in the article (others suffered similar injustices and pain as the result of the same flawed drug tests) were treated seemed so unjustified, and just plain that.

Then I thought of the so-called supermax (a term meaning highest security prison): the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado (also known as the ADX), where recently convicted drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera (El Chapo) is imprisoned.

 

 

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“This place [the ADX] is not designed for humanity,” Robert Hood, a former warden, told The New York Times. (“Where El Chapo Could End Up: A Prison ‘Not Designed for Humanity’ ”).

Inmates spend 23 hours a day inside cells the size of a bathroom with little human contact and only one window three feet high and four inches wide. Every part of the prison’s 500 cells is made of poured concrete. Each cell has a bed, a concrete slab covered with a thin foam mattress, and a “combo toilet, sink and drinking water unit.” Some cells have a single slit in the door that shows a sliver of the hallway.

In an essay published on the internet, an inmate at the ADX wrote that even when prisoners are let outside their cells, the surroundings are severe. “No mountain, bush, tree or blade of grass is visible from the yard, just the sky,” he wrote. “The cages have just enough room to do aerobic exercises. Other than the opportunity to breathe fresh air and feel the sunshine on your skin, the outside cages are just cells that are open to the sky.”

Meals, mail and medicine are all delivered. “Everything the inmate needs comes and goes through the door slot,” the inmate wrote, adding that “the basic setup is for long-term solitary confinement.”

“The purpose,” the intimate wrote, “is to gradually tear a person down mentally and physically, through environmental and physical deprivation.”

“The segregation is intense; it’s a punitive environment as harsh as any place on Earth,” Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor, told the Washington Post (“El Chapo escaped two prisons in Mexico — but no one’s ever busted out of the American ‘ADX’ ,” February 14, 2019).

 

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I was also thinking about Albert Schweitzer.

In my adolescence, I read Albert Schweitzer’s Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography (originally published as Aus Meinem Leben und Denken). The book made a profound impression on me. I was greatly impressed by the principle of Reverence for Life adumbrated by Schweitzer:

“[T]he man who has become a thinking being feels a compulsion to give to every will to live the same reverence for life that he gives to his own. He experiences that other life in his own. He accepts as good preserving life, promoting life, developing all life that is capable of development to its highest possible value. He considers as evil destroying life, injuring life, repressing life that is capable of development. [italics added] This is the absolute, fundamental principle of ethics, and it is a fundamental postulate of thought. …

The ethic of Reverence for Life is the ethic of love widened into universality. It is the ethic of Jesus, now recognized as a logical consequence of thought.

 

 

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Applying this to the case of notorious criminals such as El Chapo,* it seems to me true in principle that:

El Chapo must be locked up. He was the violent and feared leader of a criminal enterprise who had escaped from prison in the past and who would seem to be beyond redemption, should that be a matter of consideration. Along with accomplices, he habitually carried out murders, often brutal, of rivals, witnesses, and underlings who ran afoul of him.

But he should be allowed to see and embrace his wife and daughters as visitors. To be confined in something less than a virtual torture chamber. Because all prisoners are persons: human beings.

I feel that the operating principle should be: Do the minimum human harm possible. Regardless of how evil an individual is considered to be.

Gratuitous cruelty gives pleasure to those who inflict it.

I like to think (it is consistent with Jesus’s teachings) that somewhere in the afterlife there will be an accounting, a reckoning, for each individual, of one’s benevolent actions and one’s evil actions with respect to harm done to others in whatever capacity, whether it was a crime or actions supposedly not evil, but nonetheless equally so, done in an official capacity. Human suffering should be minimized.

Donald Rumsfeld’s comments encapsulate all of this. All of the above reflections of mine.

 

 

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Addendum:

 

As I observed in a previous post

 

is it possible (or desirable) to hold two divergent opinions at the same time?

 

https://rogersgleanings.com/2018/01/25/is-it-possible-or-desirable-to-hold-two-divergent-opinions-at-the-same-time-2/

 

sometimes, if not often, one can assert, or stake out, a position only to find oneself thinking otherwise almost, as it were, in the same moment.

I also read an article in last week’s New York Times about a young man convicted of murder in Pennsylvania:

The bodies of four victims were found on the farm [in Bucks Country, Pennsylvania] after an extensive search. They had been partially burned in a roaster made out of an oil drum, and had been buried in a 12-foot-deep hole. (“Man Sentenced to Life Without Parole in Brutal Farm Killings,” The New York Times)

The man was convicted of first degree murder for the killings this week. He seems not to have shown remorse. His cousin pleaded guilty to the murders last year. “Your Honor, I want the four families to know I am so sorry,” the cousin said at his sentencing. “I hope that they find some peace in knowing that I’m just genuinely — I can’t even come to terms with what occurred. I’m sorry.”

As Leo Tolstoy observed, one’s horror at the depravity of heinous crimes seems to vary inversely with the length of time passed since the crime was committed:

A sinking man who clutches at another and drowns him; or a hungry mother exhausted by feeding her baby, who steals some food; or a man trained to discipline who on duty at the word of command kills a defenseless man–seem less guilty, that is, less free and more subject to the law of necessity, to one who knows the circumstances in which these people were placed, and more free to one who does not know that the man was himself drowning, that the mother was hungry, that the soldier was in the ranks, and so on. Similarly a man who committed a murder twenty years ago and has since lived peaceably and harmlessly in society seems less guilty and his action more due to the law of inevitability, to someone who considers his action after twenty years have elapsed than to one who examined it the day after it was committed. [italics added]

— Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace; First Epilogue

Well, in this case, the brutality of the murder and depravity of the killer seemed such to me that no punishment seemed too harsh. Prosecutors initially had sought the death penalty, but the district attorney changed his mind after meeting with the families of the victims.

Philosophers have been trying to come to terms with questions pertaining to what is just since Plato. The following is a passage from a book I am currently reading:

The natural law denotes the eternal and archetypal rule of right action flowing from the will and wisdom of God and guiding men possessed with free will through their ability to reason. Whereas revelation represents a direct communication of divine decrees to a privileged portion of the human race, the natural law proclaims itself with varying degrees of clarity to all rational beings, even to those deprived of biblical truths. Most of mankind came to acknowledge and obey this providential source of all earthly law and order, not through pure ratiocination, but through the historical attempt to discover empirically the conditions of life needed for optimum happiness: “…

Throughout the series the natural law comes close to being associated with a crucial principle of human necessity behind social progress. Such a principle ultimately reflects an elemental drive within human nature for self-preservation and social interaction, both of which generate mankind’s historical pursuit of happiness and preference for a civilized habitat to satisfy that drive. This principle of human necessity provides a norm for measuring the value of actions according to their strict “utility” in fulfilling the contradictory selfish and social impulses of humanity for the protection and fellowship of a civilized community. … But at the heart of all civil development lies an unremitting trial-and-error effort to meet man’s basic physical and psychological needs within the limitations of his earthly environment. If human nature craves social fellowship and protection, it also requires the restraints of a strong sovereign power to curb its egotistical appetites and enforce order and cooperation in a world left inherently unstable by original sin. …

 

— Thomas M. Curley, “Editor’s Introduction,” A Course of Lectures on the English Law: Delivered at the University of Oxford, 1767-1773, by Sir Robert Chambers, Second Vinerian Professor of English Law; And Composed in Association with Samuel Johnson, Volume I, Edited by Thomas M. Curley (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1986), pp. 40-41 (summarizing the contents of Chambers ‘s lectures at Oxford. which were influenced by,  and influenced, the views of Samuel Johnson)
The book has been worth reading for reasons other than those that primarily drew me to it, and I see that while I find the law disagreeable and punishments often cruel and odious, the former is necessary.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   November 26, 2019

 

 

* Did Schweitzer intend for his thoughts to be applied to criminals and depraved human beings? I am sure that was not what he was thinking of. After all, serial killers don’t have “reverence for life.” Nevertheless, what I feel is that if one (in Schweitzer’s words) gives “to every will to live the same reverence for life that he gives to his own,” one by implication — or extension of Schweitzer’s principle — must not deny the humanity of others, without exception.

 

 

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SOURCES:

 

 

“El Chapo escaped two prisons in Mexico — but no one’s ever busted out of the American ‘ADX’ ,” by Deanna Paul, The Washington Post, February 14, 2019

 

“Where El Chapo Could End Up: A Prison ‘Not Designed for Humanity’,” by Alan Feuer and Alan Blinder, The New York Times, February 15, 2019

 

“Man Sentenced to Life Without Parole in Brutal Farm Killings.” By Sandra E. Garcia, The New York Times, November 18, 2019

 

“After False Drug Test, He Was in Solitary Confinement for 120 Days: Hundreds of New York State prisoners were locked in cells, denied release or removed from programs when tests erroneously showed they had used narcotics, according to a lawsuit.” by Jan Ransom, The New York Times, November 20, 2019

drugs

 

 

 

“We should treat with indulgence every human folly, failing, and vice, bearing in mind that what we have before us are simply our own failings, follies, and vices. For they are just the failings of mankind to which we also belong and accordingly we have all the same failings buried within ourselves. We should not be indignant with others for these vices simply because they do not appear in us at the moment.”

— Irvin D. Yalom, The Schopenhauer Cure

 

 

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I have hardly ever used drugs in my lifetime — with the exception of marijuana and hashish in earlier years, that is. I have no desire to. In fact, I am averse to drugs on principle. I don’t like putting foreign substances into my body, even aspirin. There are exceptions; I have complied occasionally when I was prescribed medications.

Nevertheless, I did — like, it seemed, practically every other youth and college student in the 1960’s — use marijuana off and on during that period of my life, specifically during my senior year in college (plus a few times right after graduating).

In other words, occasionally. I wasn’t a pothead. I believe there were a lot of people like me at the time who flirted with marijuana because everyone else was doing it.

I hope it’s okay to confess it. I inhaled. Presumably the statute of limitations will protect me from any consequences.

I remember that the first time I tried it, at the instigation of college roommates, it seemed like nothing was happening. “Don’t worry,” they said, “it’s always that way the first time.”

I remember some enjoyable experiences. Mostly, uncontrollable laughter. Sometimes in the presence of others who weren’t indulging and didn’t know what was going on. I almost never laughed so hard before or since.

Listening once to The Rolling Stones’ new song “She’s a Rainbow,” being mesmerized, and thinking it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. (It’s not that good.)

Later, I some bad experiences with marijuana and, occasionally, hashish. Just the opposite. Lows instead of highs. Feeling bummed out instead of giddy. On such occasions, I felt profoundly alienated and isolated. Instead of giddiness, an unbearable sadness.

I never was involved in making a purchase. I had no idea where or how my friends made purchases, or how much they cost. It seems they got marijuana and hashish of widely varying quality. Some of it seemed to be laced with something, and very powerful. I saw the Beatles film Yellow Submarine while high. It seemed like I was hallucinating and the colors were flashing on the screen.

I never used marijuana after graduating from college except a couple of times, and that was in the period right after graduation, when I was still living near the campus and associating with some of my college friends — I have not used marijuana for over 45 years. For some reason, in those last few experiences, which were in the late 1960’s, I had extremely depressing “highs” — actually, lows. This led me to believe that one’s experience of being high depends a lot on one’s mood going into it. I was depressed in general at the time.

Another thing I found, from experience, was: don’t mix grass with alcohol. I had at least one experience I recall of getting drunk and high at the same time. It was horrible.

I never did any other drugs: no psychedelics. In hindsight, I am very glad that this was the case. For me, it was a good thing.

 

 

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My college friends progressed, in short order, to doing psychedelic drugs: LSD and mescaline. They wanted to try and experience everything.

I became aware of this during the summer of 1967 when a group of my closest college friends made a cross country trip, unbeknownst to me. I received a postcard from one of them from the West Coast, which was the first I had heard about the trip. I had always had a desire to do a cross country trip by car and probably would have gone with them, had I been asked. But one of them later told me that they had deliberately declined to invite me. The reason was that they thought I was a square when it came to drugs and that it wouldn’t have been fun to have me along because of this. They wanted to take a trip in the conventional sense of the word and also to be able to trip on psychedelic drugs.

I never shared their enthusiasm for drugs, although I did not then and never have tended to be the censorious type.

My friends were speaking with something bordering on rapture about the great trips they were having. But, something held me back, an instinctive caution. I didn’t like the idea of putting chemicals into my bloodstream, and I was afraid of bad trips. It was an intuitive, instinctive thing, a foreboding. I am certain that I would have had very bad experiences had I used psychedelic drugs.

I worked as a psychiatric aide for a couple of years shortly after graduating from college and observed patients whose use of hallucinogens had triggered psychotic episodes. All of them were young. (This was some time after I myself had used or even considered using any kind of drugs, so the fact that I observed this was not relevant to my own behavior. The caution and wariness I had about drug use predated my hospital experience.)

 

 

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Because I myself have practically never used drugs or craved them, I am not outraged or offended by drug users. Drug use seems to me to be a waste of time, energy, and resources, a depressing aspect of life for many. But, I am not horrified at the thought of drug abuse. I feel it is unfortunate, but, in my mind, it does not seem to be criminal.

Does this mean that I am a softhearted type? Perhaps. An ostrich with its head in the sand? I don’t think so.

Off and on throughout my life, I have experienced alcoholism second hand by observing it among relatives and friends. I have never had a severe drinking problem, so — somewhat as is the case with drugs — alcoholism never alarmed me. But, it did hit a bit closer to home, and so I was consternated when I observed close friends of mine dealing with a drinking problem. A couple of my friends announced out of the blue to me that they had joined AA. I was a bit alarmed, thinking to myself, initially, I didn’t realize the problem had gotten so bad. But, that was it. I never regarded alcoholism as criminal or whatever pejorative term one might care to use. Merely as a problem for some people. A problem that can have serious consequences for them and their families. But, not one that one should be penalized, ostracized, or shunned for.

Which brings me back to drug addiction. I feel that it is unfortunate, but I do not regard it as criminal. Obviously, treatment would be desirable in most cases. But, why are drug users subjected to draconian sentences? Why are they treated as monsters, as scourges of society?

The penalties are far too harsh. Lock ‘em up? For twenty or thirty years or more? How about saying, we require you to complete a mandatory drug treatment program.

Vague, all-encompassing charges (so designed, I would imagine, so that they can “fit” all kinds of offenses, like a one size fits all sock) — such as possession with the intent to distribute — for nonviolent drug offenses result in unbelievably harsh sentences. Such persons get treated like monsters — it seems at least sometimes worse than murderers. They are rent from loved ones and families and incarcerated for 20, 30, 40, or 50 years. For what? For harm done mostly to themselves.

If such people are to be treated as scourges of society and as menaces to the public good and wellbeing or safety, why aren’t such harsh penalties inflicted on offenders with other addictions: gambling, say, or drinking? The criminal “justice” system is inherently unjust — is not rational, reasonable, or fair. (Writers such as Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens figured this out a long time ago.)

 

 

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What is it that makes some types of substance abuse and victimless crimes so repugnant, so abominable, so shocking, so horrifying to most people, I wonder. (And, why is alcohol abuse penalized so harshly in Muslim countries while winked at, judicially speaking, here, whereas the situation is somewhat the reverse when it comes to drug abuse?)

It seems that a kind of psychodynamic is going on whereby the authorities, serving, as they see it, as the incarnation of public sentiment, as the standard bearers of virtue, denounce and prosecute activities that perhaps they themselves have been tempted to engage in, a repressed desire. So, that by wiping out the “scourge” — by trying to eradicate it through draconian penalties (which do not stop people from engaging in such behavior) — they are removing vermin from the face of the earth, and at the time removing temptation from the front view mirror.

I used to wonder, when A. M. Rosenthal was a columnist for The New York Times, what it was that made him so hysterical when writing about the topic of drugs. Or about the time when New York Post columnist Pete Hamill wrote an op-ed piece asserting that we should carpet bomb Turkish poppy fields.

People become enraged over miscreant behavior that doesn’t actually do harm, such as the case of nonviolent drug offenders. They become zealots in the manner of a Robespierre.

Take the example of former New York State governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 after it was publicly disclosed that he had been patronizing escorts. As state attorney general, Spitzer was known for going after prostitution rings. A few journalists noticed this and commented on Spritzer’s hypocrisy after his immoral behavior, for which he could have been prosecuted, came to light.

There have been countless examples over the years of public servants and civic officials who were caught engaging in the same type of activities that they had publicly denounced as immoral and criminal.

 

 

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If I may, I would like to conclude with a couple of additional comments based upon my own experience.

I do not myself find addictive behavior to be — a priori — pleasant to witness.

In 1970, I saw the film Trash, which got a lot of notoriety and which, it seemed, appealed to my generation. There was a scene where the actor Joe Dallesandro injects heroin into his veins. I almost fainted. Which I guess is my way of saying that the nuts and bolts of drug abuse are not something I like to contemplate.

At a later time, I saw a documentary film made in Amsterdam the title of which I do not recall. It seemed that the filmmakers intended to be objective, and to portray graphically what it was like to live in a country with lax laws regulating vice. I kind of expected to see that Amsterdam was a liberated, fun place. But, in the film, that did not seem to be the case. Indeed, it seemed depressing. There were interviews with prostitutes, all of them middle aged, who were matter of fact about their business. There was a scene of a sexual encounter between a stripper and a customer in a strip club that was dispiriting to observe. And, there were a lot of scenes shot in cafes where aging hippies with headbands were smoking pot. Everything seemed seedy and depressing.

Bottom line. I am not saying, am not advocating: let’s all have a good time and indulge in whatever activities or immoral behavior we feel like. It’s a personal matter, and also one that often has an impact on the quality of life, both on the personal and on the social, public levels, But, when people — out of curiosity, boredom, frustration, or despair; or perhaps because they harbor antisocial tendencies — do engage in behavior that is not pretty but does not directly harm others, I believe that the first thing we should try to do is to understand them and help them to perhaps see that there are alternatives.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2017; updated June 2018

 

 

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Addendum:

 

 

According to an article in The New York Times:

“Attorney General Orders Tougher Sentences, Rolling Back Obama Policy”

The New York Times

May 12, 2017

 

 

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, he announced Friday, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations. ….

Mr. Sessions’s memo replaced the orders of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who in 2013 took aim at drug sentencing rules. He encouraged prosecutors to consider the individual circumstances of a case and to exercise discretion in charging drug crimes. In cases of nonviolent defendants with insignificant criminal histories and no connections to criminal organizations, Mr. Holder instructed prosecutors to omit details about drug quantities from charging documents so as not to trigger automatically harsh penalties.

This is truly sad.

Dispiriting, depressing.

It is also sad to consider that this story and the attorney general’s cruel (sometimes the plainest word is the right one) directive will probably not get much attention, given that media attention and criticisms of the Trump administration are focused — to the exclusion of practically everything else, it would seem, at times — on President Trump’s firing of FBI director James B. Comey, which has just occurred and has dominated the news all week.

Slightly less than half, 50 percent, of the total of over 200,000 persons incarcerated in federal prisons have been convicted of drug offenses. Of course, the preponderance of them are minorities.

Of the total incarcerated in state prisons, almost a million and a half individuals — about one out of every six — had a drug crime as their most serious offense.

How many of these “criminals” do you think are violent offenders. Want to make a guess?

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 13, 2017

 

 

 

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See also:

“Unity Was Emerging on Sentencing. Then Came Jeff Sessions”

The New York Times

May 14, 2017

 

 

Note that the article states that “Mr. Sessions, … as a senator from Alabama supported legislation that would have made a second marijuana trafficking conviction a capital crime.”

Unbelievable.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 14, 2017

 

 

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See also:

She Went to Jail for a Drug Relapse. Tough Love or Too Harsh?

By Jan Hoffman

The New York Times

June 4, 2018

 

 

 

This article provides a textbook example of the absurdity and cruelty or our policy towards drug offenders.

Besides finding confirmation of my views, I was struck by a couple of paragraphs near the end of the story:

… recent studies show that replication efforts failed. They reduced neither rates of drug use nor crime.

Probation, writes Fiona Doherty, a clinical professor at Yale Law School, is “a hidden body of law” that needs scrutiny because judges and probation officers have wide latitude to define a defendant’s “good behavior.”

The [Julie] Eldred case [the focus of the Times article], which challenges that power, is, ironically, a continuation of the origins story for probation. In 1841, John Augustus, a teetotaling Boston bootmaker, described as the father of modern probation, posted bond for “a common drunkard.” By his death, he had supervised nearly 2,000 people, many arrested for intoxication, their records expunged in exchange for avowed sobriety.

Note how alcoholism was treated back then.

 

— Roger W. Smith

    June 5, 2018

mothers (and babies) in prison

 

 

re:

“Raising babies behind bars: A bold experiment in parenting and punishment is allowing children in prison. But is that a good thing?”

by Justin Jouvenal

The Washington Post

May 11, 2018

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2018/05/11/feature/prisons-are-allowing-mothers-to-raise-their-babies-behind-bars-but-is-the-radical-experiment-in-parenting-and-punishment-a-good-idea/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b4e939ea676a

 

 

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The article notes:

Hundreds of pregnant women give birth while serving time each year. Most of them must endure the horrible experience of giving up their newborn almost immediately after the baby is born. Can you imagine how devastating emotionally this must be?

Destiny Doud, featured in the Washington Post article, is serving a 12-year sentence for bringing methamphetamine across the Illinois state line. Her daughter Jaelynn’s father is also in prison. He got a lengthy sentence for meth trafficking.

Ms. Doud and her daughter are in the Decatur Correctional Center in Illinois. Ms. Doud was allowed to participate in a Moms and Babies program at the prison, which allows some incarcerated women who give birth in custody to keep their newborn infants with them while they serve their sentences.

The children are allowed to leave the prison only to attend pediatrician appointments.

The practice of shackling pregnant women during childbirth is common in prisons, although some states have done away with it.

 

 

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My thoughts:

 

Prison is not the place for these babies. Or their mothers.

Which is not to say, if they have been incarcerated, that mothers should be separated from their babies. (Or fathers. What about them?)

Destiny Doud is a drug addict. (The article notes that she has been participating in a treatment program at the prison). She attempted to finance her addiction by selling drugs. This is NOT a horrible crime, if it is a crime, notwithstanding how society views it.

How about compulsive gambling? Sexual addiction? Alcoholism? If we are going to treat drug addicts as the lowest of the low, deserving of draconian punishment — including the unspeakable, inhuman (note that I didn’t say inhumane) practice of separating mothers from their children (and imagine what harm it does emotionally to the children), why aren’t other addicts treated the same way?

I had a neighborhood friend growing up whose mother was an alcoholic. He lived with his birth mother and a stepfather. The mother’s behavior at times was probably embarrassing to him, because she would be observed totally drunk and falling down in public.

Should she have been locked up to “teach her a lesson.” To remove a “scourge” like her from society? Depriving my friend of a parent. I guess you might say, she drank mostly in the privacy of her home and wasn’t a “rum runner.” Whereas Destiny Doud, featured in the article, was not only an addict; she was caught trying to transport drugs across state lines for the purpose of making a sale. Let’s say she had succeeded. She would have enabled other addicts to procure drugs and would have made money, which she needed to support her habit. Not edifying behavior, but was the harm done to society (or that might have been done; she was stopped and arrested) such that she should have been subjected to practically the cruelest punishment, short of a gruesome death, that a woman can be subjected to?

 

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As I argued in my post “drugs”

 

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/02/23/drugs/

 

Addictions are not pretty and have harmful consequences, mostly for the individual. They can harm that person emotionally and financially and often have similar deleterious effects on one’s family and loved ones. They do minimal social harm and should not be treated as crimes. Singling out drug offenders for prosecution is wrong and harmful — to us, the public; to society, aside from the undeserved consequences for offenders. It has filled up our jails with mostly nonviolent offenders. The offenders in this horrible scenario are the prosecutors and jailers, not the supposed criminals.

 

 

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The following are some comments by readers of the Washington Post article.

And, you wonder why the “criminal justice” system can’t be reformed, if not done away with.

 

Let’s hope the reporter becomes the victim of theft then let’s see how “minor” he thinks it is. Wonder if he edited the copy the DNC sent him or filed the story verbatim.

 

Prison is exactly where these criminals should be. Prisons are expensive so they should be outsourced to Mexico.

 

Sounds like dumb solution. You don’t get special privileges for being a criminal.

 

No one is jailed for being addict. They are jailed after being found guilty of crimes.

 

Just as there is fake news there is fake research. Some goofy bleeding heart emotional marshmallow social worker fabricated research to reward junkies and pushers and other criminals so they can keep their babies in with them in prison. Never mind the harm it does to the kids and society to have criminals raising the kids.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 2018

piling on (the Cosby trial)

 

 

Regarding the Bill Cosby trial.

And his conviction last week.

Newspaper accounts noted that the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania district attorney, Kevin R. Steele, asked that Mr. Cosby’s $1 million bail be revoked, suggesting he had been convicted of a serious crime, owned a plane, and could flee.

This prompted an angry outburst from Mr. Cosby, who shouted, “He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole.”

Judge Steven T. O’Neill said he did not view Mr. Cosby as a flight risk and said that Cosby could be released on bail but that he would have to remain in his nearby home. The judge did not set a date for sentencing.

Cosby was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, all felonies, each punishable by up to 10 years in state prison. Cosby, the former star of the 1980’s television program “The Cosby Show,” lives in an expensive compound outside Philadelphia. He is appealing the verdict, which could potentially delay his imprisonment. Cosby is 80 years old and is legally blind.

 

 

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The prosecutor’s remark about the possibility of Cosby fleeing prior to sentencing, possibly in a plane, remined me of comments of mine in a recent post on this site:

“the punishment of Anthony Weiner”

 

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/09/28/the-punishment-of-anthony-weiner/

 

I wrote as follows:

Trials are a game. Like kids playing tug of war, Old Maid, or Monopoly. Or sports contests. The two sides — prosecution and defense — only want to WIN. (And, to run up the score, if they can. Just as a football team doesn’t want to win by 3 points if they can manage to win by 30 points, prosecutors argue for as long a sentence as they can manage to see imposed, no matter the justness of it.) Perhaps — probably — to bolster their resumes. In the process, what’s fair and what the explanation for misdeeds might be — and many other considerations that ought to be taken into account in resolving thorny questions of motivation, guilt, responsibility, accountability, and so on — get brushed aside.

The truth and what’s fair are irrelevant. Compassion for the individual on trial is considered irrelevant, not to the purpose. …

 

 

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The prosecutor knows, everyone knows, that Cosby is not going to flee. He is a celebrity known to all — concealment and absconding would be impossible. He is 80 years old and legally blind.

So, what is the point of the prosecutor’s request, and of his making the remark?

Lawyers (a prosecutor has a law degree) are supposedly educated persons with an undergraduate degree and a JD. Which means they are capable of making a distinction between what is reasonable to claim and what is patently absurd. So that, when the prosecutor makes such a claim, it is not a case of ignorance or incapacity. It is rather a matter of intentional heedlessness of what is pertinent and relevant; and of wanton cruelty.

It is simple cruelty, the desire to inflict maximum hardship upon the defendant. A sadistic desire to do so. To find any and all possible means, including the littlest, to inflict an onerous burden upon — as many afflictions and indignities, of a cruel, petty, and malicious nature, entirely uncalled for and unneeded — to humiliate and degrade, the defendant. The same things are done continually in prisons.

This little detail of the trial shows what our criminal “justice” system is really about. Not justice or fairness. Not restitution or rehabilitation. Unquestionably not. It is about winning at all costs and seeing convicted persons suffer as much pain as can possibly be inflicted.

This is not justice. It is institutionalized sadism. It works in ways large and small. From the courts to the prison system.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   April 29, 2018

Martin Shkreli

 

 

This post concerns recent news stories about the former hedge fund manager and convicted felon Martin Shkreli, who has been dubbed — with what seems to be meanness characteristic of the press, as well as the public — “The Most Hated Man in America” and “Pharma Bro.”

Last month, Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The details of the case do not interest me; however, I have provided some background information below. The purpose of this post is to point out what I regard as being as clear as day, though hardly anyone ever seems to take notice of it:

— that the “criminal justice” system is blatantly unfair, and that this can be seen in disparities in sentencing, in arbitrarily harsh sentences which are supposedly given because a defendant deserves them, but are really imposed just to prove a point, to make an example of a defendant seen us repugnant to judge and prosecutors, or out of plain old-fashioned venom;

— that the way sentences are arrived at, the process by which they are determined and punishment is meted out, shows a travesty of justice occurring.

Draconian sentences, totally uncalled for. Ruining people’s lives. For crimes in which often the actual harm done to individuals or society was minimal. Making examples of defendants whom the system and the public find contemptible, but whose crimes did not result in inflicting damage upon others that by any stretch of the imagination calls for such penalties.

Ganging up on the defendant.

I have already discussed these inequities (and, I should also say, iniquities) in a previous post of mine:

“the punishment of Anthony Weiner”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/09/28/the-punishment-of-anthony-weiner/

 

 

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In December 2015, Martin Shkreli was charged with eight counts of wire and securities fraud, stemming from his time running two hedge funds and, subsequently, a pharmaceutical company, Retrophin. In August 2017, a jury found Shkreli guilty of three of the eight counts against him: two counts of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

Prior to his sentencing in March of this year, Shkreli had been in jail for approximately six months. In September 2017, during the time that he was out on bail awaiting sentencing for his fraud conviction, federal judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto revoked Shkreli’s bail and remanded him to prison. The reason? He had made two Facebook posts offering cash to anyone who could “grab a hair” from Hillary Clinton during a book tour. “On HRC’s book tour, try to grab a hair from her,” Shkreli had written, referring to Ms. Clinton. “Will pay $5,000 per hair obtained from Hillary Clinton.” Prosecutors requested that his bail be revoked. Shkreli was remanded by Judge Matsumoto to the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn, a notorious prison.

Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn is known as a horrible place to be incarcerated. It is a “much harsher prison than one might expect a first time offender not guilty of violent crime to be sentenced to. He’s in the worst prison that he’ll ever be in, considering the charges he was convicted of,” a defense lawyer told a New York Post reporter covering the story.

Clinton had criticized an egregious price increase by Shkreli of the drug Daraprim — an anti-malarial and antiparasitic drug used to treat patients with AIDS-related and AIDS-unrelated toxoplasmosis — by 5,000 percent, to $750 per pill, when he was CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, a company he founded.

Judge Matsumoto said that Mr. Shkreli’s Facebook post could be perceived as a true threat. She said that it was “solicitation to assault in exchange for money that is not protected by the First Amendment.”

Mr. Shkreli edited the post to say that he had meant it to be satirical, and he later took it down altogether, but prosecutors contended that there was a risk that one of Mr. Shkreli’s social media followers would take the post seriously and act on it. They noted that Shkreli had also made a sexual threat toward a female journalist on Twitter.

In my opinion, Shkreli’s behavior was aberrant and ill considered, but he did not represent a “threat” and did not deserve to spend six months in the worst prison in New York City awaiting sentencing. I repeat: did not represent a “threat.” Anyone with an iota of common sense could have seen that.

Except for the judge.

 

 

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Regarding Shkreli’s sentencing last month, the following is a digest of articles in The New York Times and other newspapers.

The prosecutors had sought a sentence of at least 15 years. The defense had pushed for 12 to 18 months. This glaring disparity alone demonstrates how divorced from any idea of fairness or reasonableness — from considered judgment — the “criminal justice” system is. They belong in Laputa.

As she imposed the sentence, Judge Matsumoto said that Shkreli seemed “genuinely remorseful,” but he “repeatedly minimized” his conduct, including in statements and emails after his conviction.

Mr. Shkreli’s lawyers noted that he had ultimately paid back his investors, meaning there was no financial loss. Judge Matsumoto rejected that argument, citing legal precedents establishing that fraud losses cover property whether or not it is returned. She ruled that Mr. Shkreli would also have to forfeit $7.36 million to the government to cover his fraud. The judge also imposed a fine of $75,000, separate from the $7.36 million in forfeiture that she had ruled that he must pay, after noting that his net worth was $27.2 million.

During and after his trial, Mr. Shkreli’s behavior online exacerbated his plight. As the proceedings wrapped up, for instance, he wrote on Facebook that if he were to be acquitted, he would be able to have sex with a female journalist he often posted about online. It was one of several posts that prosecutors cited in a pre-sentencing submission in which they argued that any remorse Mr. Shkreli claimed to feel was only for show. [This is a stretch. What prosecutors were doing was cherry picking to find any behavior, including frat boy type humor, to pin on Shkreli in hopes of making him appear deserving of a harsh sentence.]

In deciding the sentence, Judge Matsumoto pored over dozens of letters from Shkreli’s supporters and recounted his “lonely” childhood and abusive parents. “I do believe he is genuinely remorseful for the betrayal of the trust of investors,” she said. “Although he is convicted of fraud, I do believe he is truly a kind and generous person.”

But ultimately, Matsumoto decided that his conviction was the result of an “egregious multitude of lies.”

“This is a serious crime. I do feel that time is necessary to protect the public,” she said. [Seven years? Protect the public? From what? I am a member of the public. Should I be thankful that the judge is looking out for me. That Shkreli is in jail where he can do me no harm?]

Shkreli’s lawyers asked for a more lenient sentence of 12 to 18 months with community service — insisting that he was remorseful and a changed man. His lawyer Benjamin Brafman implored the judge not to sentence Shkreli “simply for being Martin Shkreli.” Prosecutors wanted at least 15 years, which the defense blasted as “draconian.”

“What motivates Martin Shkreli is his own image,” said prosecutor Jacquelyn Kasulis. “He can’t just be an average person who fails, like the rest of us. He needs to be mythical. He needs to be larger than life. He wants everyone to believe that he is a genius, a whiz kid, a self-taught biotech wonder, the richest man in New York.” She cited a psychiatrist’s report that found Shkreli “cannot tolerate failure and instead will lie and rationalize his failures to perpetuate his self-image.” [Ms. Kasulis, probably ten times worse a person than Shkreli, here assumes the self-appointed role of psychiatrist while looking for skeletons in the closet.]

Before she adjourned court, Judge Matsumoto encouraged Mr. Shkreli to continue teaching inmates, as he had already been doing in jail. [Does this not warm the cockles of one’s heart? Meant to be taken as sarcasm.]

 

 

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In a recent New York Times article:

“Shkreli vs. Holmes: 2 Frauds, 2 Divergent Outcomes. Were They Fair?”

By James B. Stewart

The New York Times

March 22, 2018

Mr. Stewart, a well known business writer, commented retrospectively on Shkreli’s sentencing. He compared two recent cases, one of them Shkreli’s, that were similar in terms of the alleged crimes, but in which there seems to be a disparity in sentencing. (The other case has not been resolved.) He stated:

Few white-collar defendants have been more reviled than the man known as the Pharma Bro, Martin Shkreli, even before he was convicted on multiple counts of securities fraud. The Atlantic called him “the perfect and very hateable combination of arrogance, youth, and avarice,” after he gained notoriety for acquiring the rights to generic drugs for rare diseases and then jacking up the prices.

Mr. Shkreli was convicted of fraud for his activities at two hedge funds he ran, not for anything related to drug pricing. [Shkreli’s attorney] argued that Mr. Shkreli eventually repaid all of his investors, and some realized large gains. Still, a jury ultimately found Mr. Shkreli guilty on three counts — acquitting him on five others — and this month he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Stewart goes on to discuss the case of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the Silicon Valley blood-testing start-up Theranos, who in March 2018 was accused (along with the company’s former president) by the Securities and Exchange Commission of masterminding a “massive fraud” at Theranos. “… the relatively lenient treatment she’s gotten so far,” Stewart says, “compared with Mr. Shkreli’s seven-year prison term, provokes the question: Is this fair?”

The article quotes John C. Coffee Jr., a professor at Columbia Law School who teaches classes on white-collar crime. He told Stewart: “Typically you get more sympathy from the criminal justice system if you’re an attractive young woman than a brash, arrogant young male.”

“At the heart of both cases are lies,” Stewart notes. “At Mr. Shkreli’s sentencing, federal Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto referred to Mr. Shkreli’s ‘egregious multitude of lies,’ and the same might be said of Ms. Holmes. But the financial consequences of her deceptions were in another league. Judge Matsumoto said it didn’t matter that Mr. Shkreli later repaid the investors he defrauded, or that some of his investors made millions.”

“In theory,” Stewart concluded, “Mr. Shkreli’s well-publicized bizarre antics, both in and out of court, should have had no bearing on his guilt or sentence. As Mr. Brafman [Shkreli’s attorney] put it in his opening statement, Mr. Shkreli shouldn’t be found guilty for being ‘ ‘odd,’ ‘weird,’ or having a ‘dysfunctional personality.’ But prosecutors cited his behavior to assert in closing arguments that he ‘had no respect for the law.’ At his sentencing, Judge Matsumoto suggested his actions called into question whether his purported remorse was genuine.”

 

 

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I have a dream, a fantasy. Call it a vision. Of lawyers, prosecutors, and judges sitting down together for a confab, actuated by pure — the highest — motives; concerned that in dealing with miscreants, they do what’s right and best — not for them, their reputations, or careers; not necessarily what others think is right — but what is right in the eyes of God. And, that they take it as a solemn obligation to do the least harm to all concerned (or affected by the case), including the defendant. That, if they deem punishment necessary, its severity be no more than seems required, and that, rather than treating sentencing as a game where the outcome (years sentenced) is treated as a football score in which one side claims victory and exults in it — measuring success or failure by how severely the miscreant was or was not punished — on the contrary, sentencing would entail gravity and sober mindedness in deliberations as well as a desire for fairness, justice, and no more, so that justice is really served, with full attention given to all parties and Christian forgiveness is not, in principle, regarded as obsolete or irrelevant.

And, that prosecutors forbear a natural inclination to do all they can to blacken defendants — in short, trash them — and portray them in the worst possible light, solely for the sake of achieving “victory,” with scant regard, if any, for facts of the crime which do not fit their predetermined conclusions, or for possible extenuating circumstances, or what kind of person the defendant really is, and whether redemption or rehabilitation is possible. With no thought whatsoever given to possible consequences for the defendant’s family, relatives, or loved ones.

Here’s how my wife put it: “cruel and sad, and not just.”

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   April 2018

 

 

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See also my post:

“crime or indiscretion?”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/09/14/crime-or-indiscretion/