Thursday, November 14, 2013

Life means Life

No not the cereal but in fact most sentences that occur in criminal court. And yes the punishments don't fit the crime.

Thanks to media and to excellent lobbying from strangely named acronym groups to the private prison corporations we now have three strikes your out, have a beer and be labeled a drunk for life, smoke crack and break your back because that is what our Jurisprudence system has become, a slow erosion of civil rights coupled with penalties that put the penile in the hole. Yes I do know what that means, it means you are fucked, fucked without dinner the second you enter the "system."

Today, Nicholas Kristof who often discusses the issues regarding civil rights in third world nations actually stayed at home and took a look at the ones slowly eroding here.   The profiles are startling because they are truly the boy next door.

We often think of victimless crimes and those out of need ones that should be viewed as such and treated as such. No no this is cookie cutter justice, stamped, sealed and approved without concern or regard to the circumstances or the needs of either the victim or perpetrator whoever they may be.

Do you sleep better at night knowing that a woman who needed money who sold her soul to a man to get money for her child is in prison and her child and the costs for both are now ours? Do you feel better that a man who had to help his own sick child did so because he had to out of desperate need?  Oh yes the John Galts would say they deserve it, they are weak, inferior and are deserving of such. But imagine had we had in place better safety nets wouldn't it have been cheaper and in turn safer for us to help them up front versus on the back end.  The lifetime of costs to intern these people will now fall on our backs but hey you sleep safer at night.



Serving Life for This

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: November 13, 2013

So you’re a judge, and Sharanda P. Jones comes before you for sentencing for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.

She’s a 32-year-old mom with a 9-year-old daughter and no prior arrests, but she has been caught up in a drug sweep that has led to 105 arrests in her Texas town. Everyone arrested is black.

There are no drugs found on Jones, but her supposed co-conspirators testify against her in exchange for reduced sentences. The whole case is dubious, but she has been convicted. What’s your sentence?

You have little choice. Given the presumptions of the case, she gets a mandatory minimum sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Jump to today and already Jones has spent 14 years in prison and is expected to die behind bars — for a first offense. <

At a time when America has been slashing preschool programs, we have also been spending vast sums to incarcerate thousands of nonviolent offenders in life sentences without any possibility of parole. These cases underscore that our mass incarceration experiment has resulted in monstrous injustice and waste — a waste of tax dollars and of human lives.

Judges and prison officials are rebelling at the injustice of our justice system. Here’s what Judge James R. Spencer, a federal district judge, said when sentencing a former F.B.I. informant to life without parole for selling crack cocaine to support his own addiction: “A life sentence for what you have done in this case is ridiculous; it is a travesty.”

But federal law on mandatory minimums left Judge Spencer no leeway. He added: “I don’t agree with it, either. And I want the world and the record to be clear on that. This is just silly.”

Here are some other nonviolent offenders serving life sentences without the possibility of parole:

• Ricky Minor, a meth addict and father of three, was found with 1.2 grams of meth in his home, along with over-the-counter decongestants that can be used to manufacture meth. He was initially charged under Florida law and says he faced a two-and-a-half-year sentence. Later indicted under federal law, he pleaded guilty because his public defender said that otherwise the prosecutors would also pursue his wife, leaving no one to raise their children. Minor had several prior nonviolent offenses, for which he had never served time, and these required Judge Clyde Roger Vinson to sentence him to life without parole. Judge Vinson said that the sentence “far exceeds whatever punishment would be appropriate.”

• Dicky Joe Jackson was a trucker whose 2-year-old son, Cole, needed a bone-marrow transplant to save his life. The family raised $50,000 through community fund-raisers, not nearly enough for the transplant, and Jackson tried to earn the difference by carrying meth in his truck. He has now been in prison for the last 17 years; when he lost his last appeal, he divorced his wife of 19 years so that she could start over in her life. The federal prosecutor in the case acknowledged: “I saw no indication that Mr. Jackson was violent, that he was any sort of large-scale narcotics trafficker, or that he committed his crimes for any reason other than to get money to care for his gravely ill child.”

• Danielle Metz became pregnant at 17 and later married an abusive man who was also a drug dealer. To placate him, she says, she sometimes helped him by fetching cocaine or collecting money from Western Union. After one clash in which he punched her in the face, she took the kids and left him. Two months later, she was indicted. She says that she was prosecuted primarily to induce her to testify against her husband, but that she wasn’t knowledgeable enough to have useful information to trade for a reduced sentence. She has now spent more than 20 years in prison.

Those examples come from a devastating new report, “A Living Death,” by the American Civil Liberties Union. It identified more than 3,200 such nonviolent offenders sentenced to die behind bars.

Four out of five are black or Hispanic. Virtually all are poor. Many had dismal legal counsel. Some were convicted of crimes committed when they were juveniles or very young adults.

These people are victims of America’s disastrous experiment in mass incarceration. From the 1930s through the early 1970s, we incarcerated people at a steady rate. Since then, incarceration rates have roughly quintupled. America now imprisons people at more than five times the rates of most Western countries. <

I write often about human rights abuses abroad. But when we take young, nonviolent offenders — some of them never arrested before — and sentence them to die in prison, it’s time for Americans who care about injustice to gaze in the mirror.

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