Saturday, April 18, 2015

forgiveness

Wives who stay with husbands who have done wrong, no matter if it is a crime or not, are an object of mystery. How can they possibly forgive him?

A husband who hired prostitutes? A wife who gambled away the college savings? A husband who regularly shows up drunk at the high school ball games? I would never forgive my husband if he did that...or that...or that.

While many stand in judgment, others watch in admiration, wishing they could be so forgiving as if we have done something heroic. Forgiveness of someone dear to us is not heroic; it is ordinary. Marriage is a constant state of forgiveness. His snoring, her cooking, his bad jokes, her constant tardiness. Not a day goes by without one of us forgiving something.

I was asked how I came to forgive my husband because he did something so bad. Forgiving someone we love is what love does.

It was the day I said, "At least my husband didn't invade someone's house with his weapon drawn while knowing children were in the house" that I realized I am not forgiving where forgiveness is difficult. If my husband treated someone the way ICE treated us...could I forgive him that? If my husband's job depended on him throwing homes and families into chaos...could I forgive him that?

I have not forgiven the ICE agents or the prosecutor. Forgiving a stranger, now...that is something different. I am not accustomed to small daily forgivenesses of their small faults. I cannot look at them and remember the good things they have done that balance out what they did to us. All I know of them is their bad actions.

Ephesians 4:32 says, Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

The reminder that God has forgiven me makes me ashamed of holding tight to my own anger with the ICE agents and the prosecutor. If God forgives me even when I have done little to deserve forgiveness, who am I to withhold forgiveness of someone who has wronged me?

I have some work ahead of me.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

how to avoid the registry: be a deputy sheriff?

I don't know what to say about this story.

Assuming the reporter has the facts, a sheriff's deputy coerced a young woman into performing oral sex on him, he tampered with the evidence in the case, he plead no contest, and was sentenced to six months in jail. No felony.

And get this: he avoids the sex offender registry.

This guy took advantage of a young woman; he was a predator in the most definite sense of the word and yet he will not be labeled a predator on the registry. He won't be on the registry at all.

I am happy for his family that they will not have to deal with the registry. Truly. Remember, I want the registry abolished because no one deserves that kind of public humiliation.
Cooper had been a deputy for about five years and was a corrections officer before that.
A corrections officer? That makes me think about how vulnerable the prison population is if there were a predator on staff.
The last police officer accused of forcing a woman to perform oral sex did not receive jail time. Former Omaha Police Officer Scott Antoniak — convicted of first-degree sexual assault on an Omaha prostitute — served five years of probation under a sentence handed down in April 2007 by Judge Joseph Troia. 
The last? Is this behavior so common that there is a list of officers who have exhibited this predatory behavior?
Kleine said Cooper is expected to be stripped of his law enforcement certification.
One would hope.

We see it again and again: Power corrupts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Michigan registry law takes a hit

In a case brought by the Ameican Civil Liberties Union on behalf of sex offenders, Michigan federal court struck down four parts of Michigan's sex offender registration laws.

The 1,000 foot exclusion zone around schools was found to be so vague as to be unenforceable. That is good news for kids who want their registered parents to attend school events with them, instead of standing out as the kids whose dad is not allowed.
Other portions of the law ruled unconstitutional were: a requirement to report in person to the "registering authority" when an offender begins to drive a vehicle regularly or begins to use a new e-mail or instant messaging address; a requirement for an offender to report all telephone numbers routinely used by an offender; a requirement to report all e-mail and instant messaging addresses; a requirement to report the license plate number, registration number and description of any motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel used by an offender. 
Think of your own daily life and how easily you create new online profiles. Imagine having to trudge down to the local law enforcement office to report that you set up a new email account. Imagine having to add your son's car to your registry information just because he lives at home and his car could possibly be used by you.
Cleland also called the language defining loitering in the law "sufficiently vague" that it does not allow for common sense to be used to determine if an action is loitering.
Ah, common sense. That feels like fresh air, doesn't it?
The ruling drew an immediate reaction from State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge. 
Senator Jones, striking while the iron is hot, not waiting for attention to drift away from what could be a hot-button issue if only he can make enough fuss, had an immediate reaction. There's at least one in every crowd of senators.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Jones, a former sheriff, said he plans to help rewrite the law to make up for the judge's ruling. 
A former sheriff understands that enforcing sex offender laws can plump up numbers of law enforcement officers while not increasing danger to law enforcement officers.
"I warn sex offenders to stay away from schools. This is one judge's ruling, and the law will soon be changed to clarify it," said Jones, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I'm working to make sure there is no vagueness in Michigan's Sex Offender Registry law. Child molesters must stay away from our schools. Law enforcement will be watching." 
No vagueness. Well, yes. That darned vagueness is what got the 1,000 foot exclusionary zone thrown out. So let's not be vague.

Senator Jones is probably hard at work writing a law preventing sex offenders from hanging around schools...but to avoid vagueness, his law will apply only to sex offenders most likely to commit another crime on school property, right?

Former teachers who committed crimes against students, for example, would not be allowed to be in the schools.

Wait. Teachers who are caught committing sex crimes in schools were in the schools when they were committing crimes. They weren't loitering outside the school. They weren't living up to 1,000 feet away from the school. They were trusted by school administration and parents alike to be with students.

And that's how most child molestation happens: Someone trusted to be with children takes advantage of the relationship, crosses the line and commits a crime.

Strangers aren't the problem. People who are trusted to be with kids have the most immediate opportunity to cross that line.

Because it protects against the most unlikely situation, that of a stranger molesting a child, the sex offender registry is ineffective if the intent is to prevent child molestation.

On the other hand, if the sex offender registry is intended only to torment those who have served their sentences after a certain kind of conviction...

Well, then. That sounds like another opportunity for the ACLU, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reason #326 why prison should be last resort

Aramark serves food from the garbage to Michigan prison inmates.
Despite threats to terminate its contract, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) won’t let go of the company, which claims it will save taxpayers $12-16 million.
Saving $12-16 million? Imagine how much we could save if we closed prisons, instead.

My husband, who is not in Michigan, tells me of meat served long past its expiration date at the prison where he is assigned.

Prisons are a punishment because inmates are separated from their friends and family. That is the punishment. Piling poor treatment--extreme cold, extreme heat, spoiled food, sleep deprivation--on top of that is egregious.

We have a moral imperative to consider--and thoughtfully reject--a long list of alternatives before we put someone in prison.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

prison is a "deep wound"

Jean Trounstine, professor at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Massachusetts, writes about taking her class to visit a prison. 
...the students take a tour of Billerica House of Correction, where they experience confinement to some degree and listen for an hour to an incarcerated man talk about his life and what it is like to be behind bars.
...to some degree.

The tours are perfunctory, showing the students what a prison looks like on the inside and letting them feel what it is like to be there, though a short visit where all the students know they are free to leave cannot possibly convey that.
This time, when the twenty of us entered, there were only a few men in their brownish beige uniforms sitting at tables. Another two were talking to the guards who policed the room, two perched at a computerized station at one end. The students all took turns entering a cell to see what it is like, a rather disturbing experience on many levels for most of them. One student, we’ll call her Sofia, suddenly turned toward me as Spanish was heard above us. She pointed up at a window where a man smiled widely and pressed his face against the [window]. 
“That’s my brother,” Sofia said, her eyes filling with tears. 
I looked up and he waved at me, his sister’s teacher. Sofia looked away. 
I asked the young woman if she had known he would be here, and yes, Sofia said, she knew he was in this  facility but no, she had no idea she might see him. She seemed torn, wanting to look, wanting to hide. She said under her breath as others continued their entrance into cells, as far as she knew, he had no hope of ever not doing drugs. She’d lost touch, she said. She couldn’t imagine he might be doing OK.
This tour was suddenly anything but perfunctory.
Prison became about loneliness, about being apart, about the kind of pain that happens when families break up. It was no longer just about this space or this room or that hallway. Sofia’s brother, as close as he was, was nowhere near his sister. And would not be for a long time, perhaps never. She understood that and so did I.
Prison incorporates all kinds of discomforts--punishing a man for complaining about the cold by confiscating his thermal underwear for the winter, turning on lights that shine into each cell all night long.

People think of that kind of discomfort and try to decide how they would withstand those challenges. Could I deal with strip searches? Could I keep my mouth shut when a guard calls me a faggot? Could I get used to sleeping on a mattress only a couple of inches thick? Could I stay sane crowded into a cell with five other men?

The real misery, though, is being apart from family and friends. A prison tour usually cannot even touch that fact.
When we exited Billerica that day, Sofia told the other students about her brother behind bars. Now, after walking through Billerica, and after being with Sofia, they understood why prison is not just a physical place, but a deep wound.
Families who have someone in prison too often cope with that deep wound alone. Those who know we have a family member in prison don't know what to say, so they say nothing. We say nothing because--...wanting to look, wanting to hide...-- letting on that we are hurting can elicit the simplistic and cruel "if you do the crime, you do the time". If anyone understands the true meaning of that breezy platitude, it is prison families.

Prison sentences are handed out like candy at a classroom Valentine party. We should be sure the sentence is worth a broken family.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

reporter, dazzled by pastel eggs, shows no interest in facts

In Greensburg PA, a man hired to be the Easter Bunny was fired when his status as a registered sex offender was disclosed. 
Parents are demanding answers after learning that a registered sex offender worked as the Easter bunny at a Pennsylvania mall.
When the sex offender label is given to an entire category of crimes without regard to what the actual offense was, and when the media continues to sell the idea of scary sex offenders, people do not think straight.
He was fired after three days on the job, and now he’s speaking out about what happened.
Brave man, speaking out.
“I can understand, you know, where they’re coming from, about them being upset. But what a lot of people need to realize is, you know, I wasn’t put in jail for touching little kids,” said Michael Paul Jacobs. 
Jacobs, spoke about his jobs here at Westmoreland mall as the Easter bunny and his conviction as a Megan’s law violent child sex offender.
Violent! Will no one think of the colorful plastic eggs?
“My case — it revolved around having consensual sex when I was a teenager myself, with another teenager,” Jacobs said. 
But records show that Jacobs was convicted in two different cases of having sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 19.
Oh, the reporter relishes that fact. Two different cases of "having consensual sex when I was a teenager myself."
An adult having sex with a minor is a crime, no matter how you slice it.
Smug self-righteousness will not allow the reporter to question whether it makes sense to make a crime of consensual sex.
“Because I’m on Megan’s Law, everybody looks at me different, and this is where I have trouble getting a job. And just, didn’t touch no kids or anything like that,” he said. 
He is right: everybody looks at him differently because he is on the registration website, not because he had sex with a girlfriend or two. Think about that.
Jacobs said he never hid his convictions when he applied for the Easter bunny job.
It just never came up. 
“They didn’t ask for my background on the application that I filled out. It didn’t say anything about a criminal background,” Jacobs claimed. 
So who dropped the ball?
The ball dropped when no one stopped to wonder if this young man poses a danger to children.
A spokesman for Westmoreland mall tells us Cherry Hill Photo Enterprise leases space to take Easter photos in the mall and said. “It is regrettable that one of their local employees failed to follow their stringent background screening procedures.” 
As for Michael Paul Jacobs, he’s out of work again.
That happens too often to sex offenders.
“I think it’s messed up that people judge me for me just being on that site, basically,” Jacobs said. 
It is definitely messed up. To label a young man a violent sex offender for having consensual sex is messed up.

To pretend that he is a danger to small children when he has no history of harming children is patently dishonest.

Don't open those plastic eggs, kids. They were filled by dishonest people who are happy to pretend there is no difference between chocolate and rabbit droppings.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"some of the most lethal terrorists are prosecutors"

Norm Pattis talks about prosecutors employing dark arts at trial:
Trial, some say, is a search for the truth. That’s specious tomfoolery. In fact, trial, at least a criminal trial, is guerilla warfare. Some of the most lethal terrorists are prosecutors. Fear and the dark arts of intimidation are common tools.
Fear and intimidation, indeed. Only a small number of criminal cases ever go to trial because of those dark arts. Who would risk being tried on the most severe of charges and a much longer sentence when the plea agreement offers lesser charges and a shorter sentence? After seeing the prosecution's enormous power to force the outcome it wants, not many will risk a trial.
The dark arts of witness intimidation pit prosecutors against defense counsel. The accused wants to avoid prison and a felony record. The government wants testimony sufficient to convict as many as possible. 
A grant of immunity from prosecution is a homerun for the defense, but the government doesn’t like giving free passes to those it believes to have broken the law. For one thing, jurors are wary of immunity agreements, especially in white-collar cases. “How come he gets to break the law with impunity?” are not the words a prosecutor wants to hear about a witness. 
So an elaborate charade is constructed, a game designed and intended to keep jurors from learning as much of the truth as possible. The government enters into cooperation agreements with those prepared to testify against co-conspirators. 
Here’s how it works: A witness pleads guilty, typically to reduced charges. But his sentence is deferred until after the main event. ... 
Deferring sentence permits the government to deny that the witness has been promised leniency for his cooperation. The witness is reduced merely to saying that he hopes the judge will take into account his assistance to the government when his own sentencing occurs.
Read the whole thing. Pattis outlines an actual trial to show how it works.
In other words, the government, not the jury, decides what is and is not true; those who disagree with Uncle Sam get clobbered.
When the prosecution routinely forces a plea agreement and bypasses any trial, the prosecution rarely has to prove its case.

So, yes: the prosecution decides what is true.