Juan Comments on Issues of Justice

Freedom: In Restoration

George Bush talked about protecting our freedoms. What he did was attempt to make us safer at the cost of our freedoms. He thought we either don't know the difference or don't care. Barack Obama has begun by ordering the end of warantless wiretaps.

Tort Reform

In the case of the attack on the World Trade Center, it is the hijackers and the organizations and nations that assisted them who should bear most of the financial responsibility. In comparison, the fair share of the airlines and the US government for lax security is relatively small. If our courts do not now recognize this concept of fair share responsibility, legislation should be enacted for this purpose.

Misplaced Responsibility—Shared Responsibility

A man was killed when his car hit a brick wall. He was a drunk and a general pain in the neck. He didn’t leave any money for his family so they looked around for someone to sue.

Their first thought was the bartender who served him the drinks, surely he was responsible for not cutting the man off. But the bar owner had a lot more money than the bartender, so they added him to the suit. He willingly kept on a bartender, who was known to keep on filling the glasses of the inebriated. Then too, the city was culpable for not pulling the bar’s license, so the municipality was named.

And they didn’t forget the people who put that brick wall there, where a hapless intoxicated driver was sure to hit it one day or another. That happened to be the branch office of a major bank. They ignored the brick company, even though they could have made softer bricks. But the manufacturer of dear old dad’s favorite bourbon was wealthier still. Everyone knows how they advertise and get people hooked on an addictive product. The social and monetary cost of alcoholism is legendary. They should pay.

The US government had failed to require warnings on all bottles containing liquor like they do on cigarettes. These guys have serious piles of money, they print it as needed. And surely the family deserved to be well compensated for their loss. Well, what did they do about dad’s drinking?

Dad was the one most responsible for what happened. His family shares in the remaining liability. The part left for others is slight and compensation, if any, should be proportionate.

Misdirected blame is rampant. High school athletic teams from a town that has many gay vacationers were harassed by their opponents for supposedly being homosexual. Rather than reproach the people who mistreated them, they faulted the tourists. It is the person who abuses you who is at fault, not some third party.

It seems that people need to relearn how to place responsibility where it belongs and to accept responsibility when it is their own. At least their fair share.

The Church Should Not Pay

Whatever damages stem from illegal relations between Catholic priests and under age youths, the liability should fall principally on the men who committed the sex acts. Some smaller share ought to fall to bishops and other superiors who knowingly reassigned such priests to parishes where it might reasonably be expected that further violations would occur. But any payment should come from their personal assets, not those of the dioceses.

It is proposed that millions of dollars be taken from the Church. But taking the money of the institution punishes the innocent. Church funds come from the parishioners, not the bishops or the priests. Those payouts would merely pass though the hands of the Church on the way to others. It will then fall to the laity to contribute the funds necessary to save the Church from insolvency. What is being proposed is that the not guilty pay.

Time to Curb Police Powers?

With the Supreme Court’s ruling that the police may arrest, handcuff and incarcerate persons in violation of seatbelt laws and similar regulations, it is time either to curb police power or do away with all such “do-gooder” requirements. It is appalling that one can be dragged off to the police station and held for these sorts of minor infractions. It would be better not to have this kind of paternalistic legislation on the books.

Parents and other adults who punish children for misbehavior may receive criminal penalties for child abuse. On the other hand, teachers and school officials in New York City face a year in jail if they fail to report instances of inappropriate sexual activity by children to the police. Society seems to think that the better approach is to deal with all sorts of wrongful actions by children through law enforcement and the courts. In the end, this is likely to be far more abusive for the child.

This incredibly bizarre state of affairs is only matched by the new practice of general surveillance of citizens being used in some places. Some police officers and government forensic experts have been found to have deliberately given false evidence at trials. We had better put a stop to this drift into a police state before things get any worse.

Here is an area where privatization makes sense. Law enforcement agencies should not run their own forensic laboratories; they should all be independent and required to provide services to both defense and prosecution clients. The technician performing a test should not know whether it is being paid for by the prosecution or the defense. Oversight should be provided by outside panels of scientists. Otherwise there is too much chance of labs finding what they believe their clients want them to find.

The FBI let a man they knew was innocent remain in prison for 30 years in order to protect a bunch of murderers cum informants, double agents of a sort. Some criminals get a free ride to commit further crimes against the rest of us if the FBI thinks that they can provide information about terrorists. This practice was briefly suspended, but has been reinstated recently. It also has been revealed that the Department of Justice has been putting people on trial for terrorism when the facts hardly justify it.

Special Rights, Special Responsibility

Laws that provide for capital punishment of persons who kill police officers (prison guards, and the like) should also provide the death penalty for police officers who are convicted of murder. If special protections are warranted, so is a special responsibility not to violate the law. Lighter sentences given to officers of the law who commit crimes is clearly not what ought to prevail.

The better policy might be that they are treated like the ordinary citizen in all respects. For them to know that they can receive the same as they hand out could be helpful to all of us. For them and us to know and fully believe that the police are not above the law is essential.

In Atlanta, officers lied to get a search warrant and ended up killing an 88 year old woman in the apartment. No drugs were found. The lying should be a felony and they should be tried for causing a death incident to a felony, i.e. homicide.

The Death Penalty

Violent people need to be segregated from the rest of society, i.e., sent to prison. And if they are violent in prison, they need to be segregated from the general prison population, i.e., solitary confinement. And if in solitary confinement, they kill a guard or anyone else, they should be put to death by lethal injection.

Other than that, capital punishment should not be imposed. It isn’t necessary, and all too often the innocent are put to death. DNA testing has freed many innocent people from prison, some from death row.

Another Form of Death Penalty

According to an article in the New York Times, the treatment of HIV infected prisoners in much of the US is so poor that it is tantamount to a form of death penalty. In Miami-Dade County jail a diabetic inmate was found dead covered with feces and some kind of bites over his body, even though officials were alerted by prison personnel and the man’s lawyer.

The ACLU reports a pattern of “gross medical abuse” at a Nevada maximum-security prison. A diabetic death row inmate who wasn't provided with insulin for years developed gangrene. Dr. Noel, the author of the report, said Mr. Cavanaugh was left “to rot to death.” Another prisoner was taken off a medication because it had “resulted in increased cardiac deaths.” Later he was told he could resume taking it “so that your chances of expiring sooner are increased.”

Of course, prison isn’t supposed to be fun and they are run by people who are determined to make sure that it isn’t.

Lethal Injection Flawed

A scientific study of lethal injection methods found that in some cases the condemned died by suffocation while conscious, among other problems. Teresa Zimmers, the biologist who led the study concluded, "You wouldn't be able to use this protocol to kill a pig at the University of Miami."

We are able to put down animals “humanely” why can’t we do the same for humans? Well ask yourself, do the folks who set forth how the state should execute people have any interest in being humane or is the horror that happens exactly what they intend?

Why don’t they render the condemned person unconscious with an effective general anesthesia first? There must be some conservative and honorable scientists who could be persuaded to do the research necessary to find a painless way of executing people.

End Prohibition Now

To the extent that the drug trade is funding terrorism, it isn’t users who are responsible, but the laws that gives this business exclusively to criminals. Where there is a high demand for a product or service, making that business illegal serves to enrich criminals and create violence. Those involved cannot use the courts to enforce contracts or appeal to the police for protection. Out of necessity, they handle it themselves. These were the lessons of the failed attempt to substantially reduce the use of alcohol by prohibiting its manufacture and distribution for sale.

It probably did bring down consumption somewhat, but not nearly enough to justify the mayhem of criminality it spawned. The regulation and taxation of the product, for all of the problems still associated with it, as with tobacco, has produced more satisfactory overall results for the society. The health and welfare issues are much better addressed through education and treatment.

At last, the states have acted to take over much of gambling. Yet the lessons remain imperfectly learned. The country has proceeded to commit the same old mistakes with drugs and prostitution. End prohibition now.

Vote for an Ex-Druggie

If it doesn't matter whether or not Bush and Obama used cocaine, why are we still putting people in jail for it? If a cell is appropriate, the oval office is not.

Using cocaine is dangerous, at least to one's own health and is a legitimate public health problem. Now the Republicans have taught us that we shouldn't expect to solve problems by throwing money at them. Neither can we expect to solve problems by tossing laws at them and throwing people in jail. Rather, it is necessary to do the hard, slow work of explaining the dangers and convincing people, one at a time, to make the sensible choice not to use drugs, to stop if they have started, and to get treatment if they need it.

We can use someone with practical experience to lead on this issue.

Denial of Justice?

Is hostility toward suspected pedophiles so severe that prosecutors exhibit excessive zeal and defense attorneys don't bother to defend their client? Will juries convict regardless of inconclusive evidence? For persons accused of sex offenses, is it guilty unless proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt? If so, there is a systematic denial of justice for those charged.

Accusing someone may seem like a good way to get revenge or an advantage of some kind.

Some sex offenders given short prison sentences in plea bargains are being held indefinitely afterward though civil commitments to mental health facilities. And when they get out of prison, if they ever do, where can they live? Miami has ordered some sex offenders to live under a freeway overpass.

A plan has been floated to establish ghettos for sex offenders similar to those they had in pre-WWII Europe. That is likely to be the end result of the increasing number and severity of laws restricting where convicted sex offenders are permitted to live, work or just be.

Soon they may not be able to have any kind of employment. Wisconsin is considering a bill that would enable employers to fire and refuse to hire sex offenders The bill would create an exemption to the state’s fair employment law.

New Jersey may make it a crime for a sex offender to use the internet thus denying them a form of self employment.

There is also a proposal to require sex offenders to display a special green registration plate on their cars. Will they be made to wear an emblem on their clothing after that? Does any of this seem familiar?

But there is hope. The Orwellian double speak, that limiting where sex offenders may live is not punishment, has been struck down by Judge Patricia Joyce.

Should Civil Commitment Apply Only to Sex Offenders?

In some states, sex offenders who have completed their sentences can be indefinitely committed to metal health facilities. This is done when a panel of psychologists believes that the individual is likely to offend again. And they are kept in prison during a determination process that can last several years.

Why should this procedure not be applied to those who have been found guilty of other types of crimes such as arson or bank robbery?

Should Community Notification Apply Only to Sex Offenders?

Presently we are not notified when a person previously convicted of mugging people on the street is released from prison and finds a place to live in the community. Surely we are concerned about being bashed and our money, watches and rings stolen. And perhaps the fellow, after enjoying the hospitality of our jails, is now more willing to use whatever weapon he may carry.

Neither are we warned that someone found guilty of fraud has become a neighbor. Unawares, we might be taken in by his advice on an investment. A former drunk driver could become a member of our car pool. A ex drug dealer could be the cashier at a local convenience store that is a youth hang out. Perhaps there is no crime that does not deserve community notification, either that or there is no crime that does deserve it.

There is a proposal in West Virginia to require ex sex offenders to display distinctive license plates on their automobiles; scarlet letters and numbers, perhaps. You would want to know if ex housebreakers are cruising your neighborhood in their cars. They should get tags for burglars. All sorts of ex criminal should be required to have warning plates and not just signs on their cars. Let's put placards on their houses, places of employment, and around their necks.

Should “Treatment” in Prison Only Apply to Sex Offeners?

Under the ruse of “treatment,” sex offenders are punished if they don’t give up the right to self incrimination. Are persons charged, arrested or convicted of other classes of crime next? And if not, why not?

Of course, what some folks really want, is mandatory life in prison for anyone convicted of anything. Otherwise, there isn’t any point to making the convict’s experience, while incarcerated, as unpleasant as possible and his life, once released, as difficult as possible.

What about "treatment" after prison? Many sex offenders receive a civil commitment because they are thought to be unable to control themselves. Kleptomaniacs ought to get the same, many arsonists have a serious mental health problem, and certainly those prone to domestic violence do. Never mind a three-strike rule. This way we can have a one-strike policy. Or should we just say no to civil commitment?

Soon we will have nearly everyone in prison, half as convicts and the other half as guards.

Adult or Child, Make Up Your Mind

Two boys, 12 and 13, were tried as adults for killing their father because they thought they were going to get spanked. Meanwhile, women are charged with crimes for sex with youths much older than that, because the boys are considered to be children.

We have invented the term “adult crime,” so that if a child commits one he can be prosecuted as an adult. Logic then requires that there must also be “child crimes” and that the adults who commit them should be treated as children in the juvenile justice system.

Decriminalize Teenage Consensual Sex

Most teens are having sex and the law makes them criminals. Yes, sex with underage youths is illegal, in most states, even for other underage kids. They can, and some do, go to jail for it. Making criminals out of children for consensual sexual activity is evil.

Juvenile Injustice

Sex with underage boys is supposed to be a serious crime. Yet local and state governments have created institutions for juvenile offenders where they know that sexual abuse of boys will occur. There are many such reports carried by the press.

Sexual abuse of minors in juvenile prisons by prison guards is 10 times higher than for adults in prison. Rampant sexual abuse of boys at juvenile facilities has recently been discovered in Texas. Uncooperative boys had their indeterminate sentences increased. For juveniles in adult prisons matters are even worse.

Unequal Justice Under the Law?

Every time a child is born to a woman who is under the age of consent for sexual relations, some man has committed statutory rape. Feature stories in the newspapers indicate a large number of such occurrences, while press reports of prosecutions, convictions and sentences for these crimes are seldom found. What does appear on a regular basis are articles about men being prosecuted for consensual sex with adolescent boys.

A casual examination of articles in US newspapers seems to show some unevenness in plea bargains and sentences in under age sexual assault cases. It may be that harsher treatment is being given in homosexual as compared to heterosexual cases and lighter treatment accorded to persons in positions of civic trust. A study of cases and prosecutions is needed in this area.

Neo Conservatives invent neo slavery

Facing a decrease in migrant workers, Colorado farmers are using prisoners. The state department of corrections is operating a pilot program supplying inmates to bring in the harvest. The workers receive very little because most of their pay is deducted for expenses and used for prison operations.

For more of Juan’s comments go to Juan comments on the news .