Saturday, April 3, 2010

What kind of country is the US?

This should be an easy answer question. Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense, "For in absolute countries, the king is the law, so in free countries the law should be king and there ought to be none other." Even now, young lawyers are sworn in with the pledge that they will not be judged according to anything but the law which is so honorable, and extraordinary that they must serve the document in nothing but the most honorable manner. Our country is one of laws.
But what does this mean in translation? Does it mean that every law that comes through a state legislature, or the federal legislative branch or is an idea of Facebook is one that needs to be? I fervently believe that we have an overabundance of laws that help a small minority, and a lack of laws that would actually serve the People.
The best examples of this are in the criminal realm. If you are charged at the federal level in a drug trafficking scheme, regardless your role, you are subject to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. These look at the kind of crime you are accused of (here, worse case scenario, methamphetamine transporting), what/if any crime you have ever been accused of at any level of the judiciary, and whether some probation officer who usually has little or no understanding of criminal thinking thinks you should go to the slammer.

So, in this scenario, you're a single mom with two kids at home, and you take time to take care of your ex's mother because he's drunk and high. You go to school part time, and work part time as a nurse's aide. You can barely pay the rent. So, the guy you rent from offers you a deal: you take a package from his apartment to an address five blocks away. He pays half your rent for that month. This continues until you're delivering packages on a daily basis, and you know not to ask too many questions. It's paying the rent, and your grades are up, your kids are happier, and your mother-in-law needs more help.
It's evening, and summer, and you're just coming back from a drop. Out of nowhere, two guys in black pop out of one of the buildings you pass at least six time a day. Before you know it, you're on the ground, and these two guys are screaming at you. One is screaming your Miranda rights in your ear. The other is screaming "who else is in this?" You have no idea what going on. But, they still throw you up against a car, and frisk you. You have a bit of cash in your pocket, and your house and car keys in the other. And, then, you're arrested for transporting methamphetamine, a controlled substance under state and federal law. You cry that your kids and your mother in law need you now. They tell you to shut the hell up. And, your landlord is going to beat you senseless.
They don't tell you that he was picked up earlier, and your kids were already in state custody. Your mother-in-law will fall in the morning and some neighbor will call the cops, and they'll interrogate her, too. Then, some social worker will help find her a home somewhere else.

You're nothing in this game. You're the mule. You're landlord is the dealer. Wherever you are dropping off, they're the addicts. You're the pawn, and you're going to go to federal prison for a while. No matter you have no priors, no matter you didn't know what you were carrying, no matter that you have two beautiful children who will have been adopted by the time you are released. Both your ex-husband and your mother-in law are dead. The United States just deprived you of 60 months of your life.

What did you learn in prison? How to avoid being raped. How to avoid being knifed. How to be the only light brown person in a sea of dark brown faces. How to avoid sitting at the wrong table on the wrong day. How to avoid the prison guard who impregnated one of your "friends."

What didn't you learn? How to recover from prison. How to expunge your record. How to find an employer. How to find your children. How to use a computer. How to read past the 8th grade level you had when you dropped out of school pregnant. How the Constitution works to protect you.

There's the problem. We have a prison system based in the 18th century, shown to cause recidivism, not helping anybody be safer, or being less criminally minded. Laws with mandatory sentencing, and affecting kids are defeating their purpose. Instead of turning people with low grade drug crimes into more productive and capable members of society, these laws turn them into full-time criminals. When this happens with children, which is happening right now with a young boy in Pennsylvania, you guarantee we the People are going to have a full time felon who can never be released from prison.

Is that what our laws are supposed to do? No. They are to help us avoid foreign occupation. Help us avoid unjust and illegal persecution by the State. They are to protect regardless our sex, race or ethnicity or class. But that's not what we're getting. How do you fix this?

No comments:

Post a Comment