Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Is this fair?

Letters from North America/ by Peary Perry

I just realized that it has been ten years since I stopped writing for the newspapers. If you recall I had a weekly column that was published in 100 weekly newspapers throughout the country. I did this week after week for over 25 years.
Ten years ago, I lost my humor and quit. I couldn’t find things to write about.
Now, I’m back.
So, here we go again.
This morning I read that one of the ladies involved in the California college cheating scandal was sentenced to a prison term of 14 days. She is one of many caught up in a large scale fraud investigation. One of the defenses being used is …”they didn’t actually hurt anyone.”
At the other end of the spectrum was a case involving a homeless mother who claimed her son actually lived in a school district where he could get a better education…the mother was convicted and sentenced to five years. Well, I suggest that this mother didn’t ‘actually hurt anyone’ either.
She was trying to help her son, the same as those involved in the California mess.
So if you look at the details on Snopes or other fact checking websites, you will see that they justify the differences by saying…two different courts…different judges…different states and jurisdictions.
While all of that is indeed true, doesn’t common sense work into these situations at some point?
The California defendants are mostly wealthy and white, the homeless lady is poor and black.
I don’t know about you, but this kind of stuff gets my blood pressure up because of the inequity of how similar in crime but different in outcomes based on the obvious, rich folks can afford to hire expensive attorneys and poor folks have to take whatever they can get.
The jails and prisons in this country are full of people who were encouraged to cop a plea so they could get out of jail or a prison sentence and then are forced to live with a felony conviction for the remainder of their lives. They find it hard to get an apartment, a job and all of the other necessary things in our society because they received bad advice or took the only option they thought they had.   
The police and the prosecutors want pleas, not trials since it is less expensive and saves time and government resources. They are not trying to fix the problem, they are involved in the problem.
It’s kind of like a huge whirlpool that spins so rapidly no one (cops, courts and defendants) can escape.
It is small wonder that many minorities in this country see unequal treatment and become resentful and mad over the current status quo.
I’m an old white guy, who used to be a cop years ago and this makes me mad as well.
For those who have never been in “The Life’ …their world is a bewildering place to visit, much less live in. The criminal justice system in this country is a huge industry. Many communities exist on prison employment and the support necessary for their existence.
Do not get me wrong, I am not making a case for freeing everyone from prison.
No, indeed there are some really bad people in these places who should be in there for the remainder of their lives.
What I am saying is, how do we correct the injustice of the example I cited earlier about the mothers trying to get their children a better education?
According to the Vera Institute, it costs anywhere from $31,000 to $60,000 a year to feed and house a prisoner. Would not we be better served if we spent tax dollars on education and housing than locking someone up for non-violent offenses?
If the schools won’t see that our citizens get an education, then when they get into trouble (as they most likely will) then why not take the opportunity to correct them and help them rather than warehousing them for years with no hope of improving their lifestyles when they are released?
Some of this stuff just seems like common sense to me, but it is time we start changing the situation in some way or another.
That’s my take on it this week.

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