2 years ago
drwhat
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Stuck in Jail and Held in Custody: More Jail and Prison Problems
If you've seen my collection "The Prison Problem," you might already know that I think that the organization of the justice and rehabilitation systems in the US have a lot of problems that need fixed.
Over the last few days, I've been talking to @nicolejb about some of my views on those problems, and two stories came up in the news today that made me think about those views again, so I thought I'd share a bit more about what I think in relation to these stories.
Not sure if it interests anyone else, but I'm in the mood to talk about it all so here goes.

Missouri Man Still Waiting

Article TL;DR: A man in Missouri had his life sentence without parole (he was charged with non-violent marijuana offenses) commuted by the Missouri governor. Missouri has a three strikes drug law, and he got caught smoking pot three times, so he was charged with life without parole. His sentence was changed to life sentence with the possibility of parole. His first parole hearing will be August 6th.
Why does this bother me:
Let's start with the three strikes law in Missouri. The state legislature has voted to end the law on Jan. 1, 2017. But it will not apply retroactively, which means that those who were given life sentences without parole in the past for the same crimes as those in the future will not be given the chance to leave prison unless their sentence is commuted. That's just ridiculous. If you can't see how that's ridiculous, well, that's beyond me.
Second: why did the governor only commute his sentence? He could have given him a full pardon, or made a motion for him to be put up to a parole hearing right away in May when he gave the commutation but he did not. Why? Because the only reason he gave the commutation was to gain popular favor after 400,000 people signed a petition to help this man leave prison. He didn't actually care if the man got out.
And that is my second problem with this: no one cares about the fate of those who are serving time, even if their time served may not actually be appropriate to their actions.
Lastly, Jeffrey Mizanskey talked in an interview about how he has seen guys come in and out multiple times. He heard of a guy who was in for rape, left on parole, and murdered a family or something like that. Those who committed violent crimes are not affected by the three strike drug laws as he was, and that seems far more dangerous. And yet, the laws stand.

Teenage Boy Waits in Custody

Read it here.
Article TL;DR: Dominique Rondeau was accused of throwing a snowball that shattered the windshield of a school police car in December 2013. He was held in a detention center for 40 days when he was unable to pay the $2,000 bond until it was reduced. He had not been convicted of anything. The case was dismissed by the judge. He is now suing the district for malicious persecution that resulted in his time served.
Why does this bother me?
Let's start here. This is why he was considered to be in the wrong: "Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for prosecutors, said her office relied on the officers' assertions that they could identify Rondeau." Meanwhile, once the case reached court, the judge said that in the video evidence there was no way to show it was Rondeau, and the case was dismissed completely.
How is it OK that he was held when there wasn't even enough evidence to continue a trial?
OK, so then some people pointed out that he has had "previous run ins with the law," though there are no records. In the future, this case could also be argued as a "previous run in with the law," though he wasn't convicted of anything.
ALSO, why spend the money to incarcerate him? Which I'm sure FAR outweighs the cost of the window.
There are too many questions to be asked here, but in America, the bond system exists because of the entire industry of jail bond loans (usually at 10% interest rate) that will not be cut off any time soon, so there is always a reason to keep someone on bond and in custody if possible.
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I heard about the three strikes law and it also makes me angry! I get that people mistakes and it’s not fair for them to do it repeatedly. But each crime carries it’s own weight! Drug-related ones (like getting caught smoking pot) does NOT carry the same amount of weight as a murder.
@nicolejb I can (of course) see the logic in wanting to consider that the second or third time you do something, the punishment needs to be a bit more severe. We often teach children through that method has well. But that "bit more severe" punishment must still suit the crime. No matter how many times you get caught smoking pot, I don't believe that you should be able to be put in jail for life. If you are caught pushing drugs that lead to the death of another more than one time, that might be a different story. It's complicated, but instead of facing those complications logically, too many laws were created that don't effectively or appropriately attack these actions.