Monday, March 31, 2014

American Justice


Close to 30 years ago -- I don't remember exactly which year -- I was late to work one morning. My car had broken down, and the co-worker who had agreed to pick me up each morning (until Friday, when I would get paid and be able to buy the part I needed) didn't show up. I dragged in a couple of hours late after finding another ride.

When I arrived at work, I got the word -- that co-worker had called in to let the boss know he'd been arrested. He didn't say for what. We found that out later in the day when it was mentioned on the radio news. He'd been arrested for sexually molesting his young daughter.

The matter wrapped up pretty quickly. He sat in jail until, within a couple of months, he entered a guilty plea and asked (with the supporting testimony of his wife, who had reported him to the police in the first place) to be put on probation and to enter into "treatment" so that he could continue working and financially supporting his family (with the understanding that there would be no contact with his daughter, of course).

No dice. He was sentenced to several years in prison. And I doubt there were many people who considered the sentence unjust.

So this morning, I read about another case in which a man was accused of raping his young daughter and eventually pleaded guilty.

He didn't sit in jail until trial -- he put up $60k in bail. And after pleading guilty he was sentenced to ... probation.

Why?

Well, not because he needs to work to financially support his family. He's unemployed and lives off a trust fund.

The judge, rather, found that he would not "fare well" in prison, and would likely do much better living comfortably in one of the two mansions he owns.

Well, gosh ... lots of people don't "fare well" in prison. But for some reason, those who don't have trust funds and own mansions seem to end up there anyway.

I'm not a big fan of the idea of warehousing people in prisons. There are lots of good reasons not to. But I can't see how any of those reasons apply more to Robert H. Richards IV than to other criminals. What am I missing?

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