The System is Broken
What is the purpose of incarceration?
Official definitions and intentions of prison time vary, but the basic principles are these: protecting the public from danger, rehabilitating offenders, and deterring would-be offenders from committing similar crimes in the future.
It seems commonly known that the way the United States Federal and State governments incarcerate people is dysfunctional. It is so dysfunctional that the United States Supreme Court ordered California to release a large portion of its incarcerated population. That decision says that California prisons are so overcrowded that basic medical and mental health care cannot be reasonably provided.
This qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment.
Two Famous Examples of Broken Criminal Justice in the U.S.
Here are two stories which highlight the most fractured pieces of the Judicial branch of government, arguably the first cog in this engine of mass incarceration.
Former presidential candidate John Edwards was indicted on Friday June 3, 2011 on charges that, essentially, he is a Dirtbag. The case against Edwards cites a very liberal interpretation of campaign finance laws from 1971, and a conspiracy charge wholly predicated on the illegal nature of the alleged campaign finance violations.
Edwards is without a doubt a dirty politician [redundancy intentional]. He is a lying jerk who cheated on his wife while she was dying of cancer, and had a child with his mistress, which he tried to hide, while his wife was dying.
He is not a man of moral integrity. Despite this, he was never convicted of breaking any laws.
In the negotiations that occurred just before his indictment was handed down by a Grand Jury, a plea agreement was discussed well into the early morning hours. The negotiations evolved from 2 felony guilty pleas without prison time, to 3 misdemeanor pleas with possibility of incarceration.
Prosecutors wanted a felony on his record, and they wanted jail time. Edwards, who is a trial attorney himself, declined the final offer because it prevented his attorneys from even discussing incarceration alternatives with the judge.
In this case (as in so many others) prosecutorial charging and bargaining choices are driven by prosecutorial interest and their unchecked power to demand a certain type of sentence.
Ryan LeVin Purchases his Freedom
An Illinois man, who killed two British businessmen while driving drunk, served no time in prison for those killings. The Chicago Tribune reported the story as the sentencing piece unfolded. Prison time was pit against financially providing for the two families of the dead businessmen.
Ryan LeVin, 36, will spend 2 years on home confinement in one of his parents’ waterfront condominiums. This, for killing two men with his Porsche 911 Turbo. This seemingly light sentence came to be when the decision had to be made between using LeVin’s substantial financial means to provide for the families of his victims and that of punishing him through incarceration (of which he was facing up to 45 years).
In the end, his checkbook bought his freedom from prison. The decision has caused a lot of ire from the legal profession about the system and freedom being for sale.
Craig Cesal is Serving Life in Prison for Legally Repairing Semi-Trucks
If you have never heard of Craig Cesal, you aren’t alone. He is just a name among many others, serving a life sentence in prison for federal drug charges. Craig, however, never bought, sold, transported, trafficked, or distributed drugs. He fixed trucks.
Fixing the trucks that delivered marijuana, having never touched the drug before, branded Craig as an integral part of a conspiracy to traffic narcotics. He was sentenced to life in prison as a first time, non-violent offender.
Once his house and all of his life savings were exhausted, being spent on his criminal defense, his defense lawyers auctioned off his business to take what else they could get and bargained Craig’s life away to ensure their plunder.
Changing Minds and Shifting Tides
If these three cases seem like they were prosecuted on different planets. It is hard to believe that they all happened right here in America. The conversation about law, order, law enforcement, and criminal justice reform has taken a wild turn in 2020.
The murder of George Floyd in broad daylight by a callous, psychopathic police officer in Minnesota caused outrage, protests, and riots all across the Nation (and the entire planet). Reforming the enforcement of law is the first step in reforming America’s stance on criminal justice, and the killing of George Floyd is accomplishing that.
There is a long way to go, and momentum can ebb as easily as it flows with the fickle attitude of the American Public. 1see the Panama Papers, or any scandal involving the current U.S. President for a few examples. However, this year seems to be the strongest push in 40 years to change a system that has taken more than 200 years to become the dysfunctional monolith we see today.
|↑1||see the Panama Papers, or any scandal involving the current U.S. President for a few examples.|