THE AMERICAN CRIMINAL INJUSTICE SYSTEM

The cover  story on Sunday Morning on CBS  was about our crowded prisons. We have 2.4 million human beings jamming cell blocks pretty much coast to coast.

Hundreds of thousands of these prisoners are there due to using drugs, nonviolently, or possibly being small time pushers, mostly to support their own habits.

As of 2004 approximately 45, 000 of these prisoners were incarcerated solely for marijuana offenses. Of the 1,638,846 arrests for drug law violations in 2010, 81.9% (1,342,215) were for possession of a controlled substance. Only 18.1% (296,631) were for the sale or manufacture of a drug.

Except perhaps in very rare cases, none of these over 2 million prisoners are there due to mere posession  or use of alcohol or tobacco.

According to the CDC far more than 400,000 deaths in America each year are tobacco related. For 2010 over 70,000 deaths were due to drugs or alcohol other than marijuana. Marijuana deaths were zero.

This is injustice.

Former Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards is now on trial for allegedly illegally using his campaign funds to support a woman he had an affair with and the baby she bore, as well as in attempting to keep the affair quiet.

The amount of money spent for this prosecution is unknown but must be in the millions. John Edwards is a dirty cheater and liar and may be convicted more on those facts than on evidence that the funds he used were donated to his campaign, not to him individually.

I believe this is injustice.

Retired Major League pitcher Roger Clemens is on trial again by the federal government for allegedly lying to Congress when he denied using steroids. The first time was a mistrial due to prosecutorial misconduct. The costs are unknown but certainly in the millions.

Though the feds have the power to add Clemens to that prison population and assess a substantial fine, it is now unlikely that Clemens will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame because of his steroid use, considered to be cheating. That, to a pitcher of his excellent accomplishments is a far worse punishment than the federal government could ever dream of imposing.

I believe this is injustice.

In 2011 baseball’s all time home run leader, Barry Bonds, was convicted of “obstruction of justice” in relation to his alleged steroid use, with a mistrial declared for the far more serious charges. It is still on appeal. Total cost to the fedral government to date? $75-$100 million. If his conviction is upheld he faces  less severe penalties than Clemens, but he, too, will experience much resistance to his Hall of Fame election.

I know this is petty compared to the $2 billion a week wasted in Afghanistan, but even if these athletes lied, no one died and the general public was not bilked out of billions of dollars as they were in the near Wall Street meltdown.

I believe this is injustice. 

I would bet you think that debtors’ prisons no longer exist in the United States. Think again.

Breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay of Herrin, Illinois was put in debtors’ prison over a $280 medical bill that was sent to her by accident, the Associated Press reports (h/t The Daily Mail). Even after Lindsay was told she didn’t have to pay the bill, it was sent to a collection agency. Eventually state troopers took her from her home in handcuffs. Lindsay ended up having to pay $600 to settle the charges.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/23/lisa-lindsay-breast-cancer-survivor-debtors-jail_n_1446391.html

About one-third of states allow jailing for unpaid debts though some of them result from technical violations of law relating to mandatory court appearances and the like.

I believe this is injustice.

This is a report by Larry Siems in Slate on reading nearly 140,000 formerly classified documents relating to the torture of prisoners during the Bush regime.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2012/04/george_w_bush_and_torture_america_s_highest_officials_are_responsible_for_the_enhanced_interrogation_of_prisoners_.html

Our highest government officials, up to and including President Bush, broke international and U.S. laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Worse, they made their subordinates in the military and civilian intelligence services break those laws for them.

When the men and women they asked to break those laws protested, knowing they could be prosecuted for torture, they pretended to rewrite the law. They commissioned legal opinions they said would shield those who carried out the abuses from being hauled into court, as the torture ban requires. “The law has been changed,” detainees around the world were told. “No rules apply.”

Then they tortured. They tortured men at military bases and detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Guantánamo, and in U.S. Navy bases on American soil; they tortured men in secret CIA prisons set up across the globe specifically to terrorize and torture prisoners; they sent many more to countries with notoriously abusive regimes and asked them to do the torturing. At least twice, after the torturers themselves concluded there was no point to further abuse, Washington ordered that the prisoners be tortured some more.

They tortured innocent people. They tortured people who may have been guilty of terrorism-related crimes, but they ruined any chance of prosecuting them because of the torture. They tortured people when the torture had nothing to do with imminent threats: They tortured based on bad information they had extracted from others through torture; they tortured to hide their mistakes and to get confessions; they tortured sometimes just to break people, pure and simple.

And they conspired to cover up their crimes. They did this from the start, by creating secret facilities and secrecy regimes to keep what they were doing from the American people and the world. They did it by suppressing and then destroying evidence, including videotapes of the torture. They did it by denying detainees legal process because, as the CIA’s Inspector General put it in a 2004 report, when you torture someone you create an “Endgame” problem: You end up with detainees who, “if not kept in isolation, would likely divulge information about the circumstances of their detention.”

Exactly zero dollars have been expended to prosecute those responsible for these crimes.

I believe this is injustice.

Then came this in March.

Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech to law students at Northwestern University today in which he defended the administration’s right to legally kill American citizens abroad “in full accordance with the Constitution.” Holder said strikes such as the one that targeted American-born Anwar Awlaki in Yemen last year are legal because, “‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.” According to Holder, “The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” The enemy, he said, must pose an “imminent threat of violent attack,” but that can be broadly interpreted. “In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out,” Holder said. “And we will not.”

“Neither Congress nor our federal courts has limited the geographic scope of our ability to use force to the current conflict in Afghanistan,” Holder said in the administration’s most detailed comments on the legal controversy so far. “We are at war with a stateless enemy, prone to shifting operations from country to country.”

While he noted Congress’s “robust oversight,” Holder did not mention that lawmakers might be notified only after the fact, and that the press and politicians are still fighting to see the full legal memo that backs the administration’s position.

“While the speech is a gesture towards additional transparency, it is ultimately a defense of the government’s chillingly broad claimed authority to conduct targeted killings of civilians, including American citizens, far from any battlefield without judicial review or public scrutiny,” the ACLU responded. “Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact. Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power.”

http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/03/obama-administration-justifies-targeted-killings.html

I can almost guarantee that no prosecutions will arise out of these actions by either the Obama administration or any successors who will not be motivated to rescind this policy.

I believe this is injustice.

The weak with their substance addictions, or even the rich who cleave to infidelity to wives or baseball rules, or the poor, saddled with debts they cannot pay, not will not pay, are subject to arrest, trial, and incarceration.

The powerful who have taken oaths to protect us and our laws and our sacred Constitution but blatantly fail to uphold these oaths are free to continue without threat of interruption by our legal system.

Ain’t American justice grand!

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Comments

  • Deke  On April 24, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    I agree UMOC. Yesterday Bill Press said the same thing about it being an injustice.

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