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Another system irreversibly broken?

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Sunriser13, Dec 4, 2002.

  1. Sunriser13

    Sunriser13 Knee Deep in Paradise

    Ken's thread <u>here</u> about a stupid criminal who stole a laptop from the courthouse to get the money for a program he was sentenced to, costing nearly $700, prompted this observation.

    The driving schools to which you can go to shave points and/or get a license back, the programs that drug/alcohol/spouse abusers can be sentenced to rather than do active jail time, any variety of rehabilitative programs, even mental health treatment in many cases; all of them cost a substantial amount of money, and very few accept payments. Many of these programs, at completion, will have the added benefit of wiping your record clean, as if the conviction had never happened, which makes it one hell of a lot easier to get and keep a job once you're out of trouble. Many schools are now doing criminal background checks, as well, effectively limiting the chances of an offender getting the education required in order to drag oneself out of that rut, and student loans are now being denied to people with minor offenses on their records. In addition, much of the alternative sentencing available such as intensive probation or house arrest, which are ideal for minor and non-violent offenses, often pass the costs to the defendant as well. The fines imposed by judges as punishment, if one is unable to pay them, will result in incarceration, which effectively causes the loss of a job, creating hardship on the family that defendant may have been responsible for supporting.

    This, in my opinion, contributes quite a bit to the statistically higher percentages of the lower socio-economic classes being incarcerated. I know for a fact from my own personal experience that if I'd had money, I would never have gone to prison some years back. I was offered several alternatives, none of which I could afford.

    Now I'm <i>not</i> looking for a debate about doing the time if you do the crime. That's not what this post is about. What this is, is an invitation to discuss the effect of economics on a certain segment of our society. There are those of us who have committed minor (and some not so minor) crimes that we will pay for for the rest of our lives. The impact of a criminal record can make it impossible, even years later, to be given the chance to excel. I have not hidden from you here the fact that I have spent time in prison, nor what that conviction was for. I do not hide it in my personal life either, which because of stereotypes of the typical ex-con, has made my life since being released in 1985 very, very difficult.

    For those of you who do not know, I murdered three of the four men who gang-raped me, and left the fourth in a wheelchair, after they were acquitted of all charges in court due to technicalities. Two of these men were using a crowbar to break into my home less than a week after the trial. I didn't inquire what they were doing there. They died on my back porch. I snapped completely, lost all sense of right and wrong, and went out hunting for the other two. I found them. I was given a very light sentence, which was commuted after less than two years, but the record remains.

    I have to wonder how very different it could have been, not just for me, but for a multitude of folks out there who did things far less serious than I did, many of whom I met while incarcerated. The programs and treatments are in place to help, but because some cannot afford them, they are warehoused simply to remove them from society. Prison as rehabilitation is a joke, trust me on that.

    How could we change this? Prison is not the place to put a first-time shoplifter, someone who wrote a couple of bad checks, or someone that got busted with a little bit of marijuana and a pipe. But because of finances, that is exactly where some of these minor offenders end up. There are people who have committed graver offenses who also would be better served by help, not pure punishment. Prison is a great training camp for despair, depression, and utter hopelessness. It's also wonderful training, for those who are so inclined, to graduate to increasingly more serious crime. These lesser "criminals" could be saved, could become assets to our community, but many are instead becoming burdens on society. Many more are the recidivists, returning to prison over and over again, in a downward spiral that will never end. Some are our homeless, many mentally ill, who were not afforded treatment while in the system, or did not have the resources to continue it. Then there are a few like me, who went to prison for a crime committed and paid the price, and who is considered highly unlikely to ever commit any similar offense in the future, but as a result will never be "successful" in the way the word is usually used.

    I'm interested in getting a feel of how many of you see this issue. There are a few of you I fully expect to say, "Fuck 'em! They screwed up, so why the hell should I care? They simply got what they deserved." On the other hand, I believe there are many more of you that will come to this conversation with an open mind, and will offer insight into possible solutions and repair of yet another one of our systems that is broken.
     
  2. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    I had no idea. It doesn't change how I feel about you. It's a shame you've had problems resulting from your conviction.

    I'm somewhat aware of the ARD program here in PA, as you often read in the paper where someone was placed into it. And, yes, it can be expensive. It seems to me that some sort of payment plan, or work/probation plan, would go a long way toward helping poorer people gain access to such programs. It would certainly be easier than cash up-front.

    Here in Reading, PA, there are plans to create a prison diversion program for certain types of minor offenders with mental health problems. The goal is to keep them out of prison and get them the help they need to become productive members of society. It would only be available to non-violent offenders who commit non-sexual, relatively minor offenses. It's a start, at least here.
     
  3. btdude

    btdude Veteran Member

    WOW. My heart is in my throat, Sun. I did not know. . . But you are respected here not based upon your past, but (and after this post even more so) on what you offer now, and the good that comes from the things going on now.

    Anyway, my only feel for this is that I am all for NOT putting someone in prison for minor crap, so long as the punishment fits the crime, and the person can somehow re-pay their debt to the society they have harmed. This gets complicated when a "poor" person does not get the benefit of access to the "deals" that "richer" folks get. Here's why: I do not think that the states, or the feds should subsidize education and recovery programs, just for the sake of doing the right thing. There should be a return on investment here, a pay back system, so many hours doing . . . It's like if the person convicted is freely "given" the easy sentence, or given the better benefits because they can (or can not) afford it, without any expectation of a "thank you, now how may I return the favor?" sort of thing.
     
  4. RRedline

    RRedline Veteran MMember

    Sunriser13:

    Wow. That is an amazing story. Maybe you could sell the rights to your story for a made for TV movie? ;)

    It sounds to me like what you did was done out of self defense - even chasing after the two after they were gone. The system failed to protect you, so you took matters into your own hands.

    While I am generally unsympathetic towards criminals, I do have sympathy for you. In fact, I don't even consider you a criminal because I would have done the same thing if I were in your shoes. That is why I also feel it is wrong for your past to have a negative effect on your employment options.

    I agree with every point that you made. While I speak harshly of true, violent criminals, I understand that sometimes the system fails innocent people like you. Unless there is something important that you intentionally left out of your story(and I'm not suggesting that you did), I don't understand how a judge could have sentenced you to prison. You were brutalized, and the courts refused to help you or to even punish the thugs that you took out(thank you, by the way). They got what they deserved, in my opinion, and we are safer for it.

    With the exception of crimes against minors, I don't believe that past prison sentences should have an impact on anyone's employment. Your punishment was a prison sentence, but unfortunately, it was much more than just that, and you are still paying for your "crime."
     
  5. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Here is some information that might help you Sunriser:

     
  6. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Sunriser,

    You did good, girl. A little messy of you in leaving that last fellow in the wheelchair--if you're going to go to guns on someone, definitely kill him, because leaving them alive can lead to a lifetime of lawsuits--but damn! I'll send you a silver star!!!

    SM
     
  7. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Goddamn!! An Honest to Goodness All American Heroine. SM is correct, if you're going to shoot, it is far better that they are no longer among the living.
     
  8. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    I think a nomination here would be almost an insult.

    I am stunned (in a good, positive way) albeit want to give you a big, long hug.
     
  9. Allene

    Allene Registered User

    Dear Sunriser,

    I'm so sorry you had to go through all that horror and pain! My instincts tell me that these men were planning to do something far worse the second time around, and it was either your life or theirs.

    I lived in North Carolina (Chapel Hill area) from 1978 until the fall of 1983, so I may have read your story in the newspapers and forgotten it after all these years.

    Allene
     
  10. Sunriser13

    Sunriser13 Knee Deep in Paradise

    Wow! Thank you all for your kind comments and support for my particular situation, but I used it simply as an example for the far larger problem, not to shock or receive pity, or alternately, kudos. I did it, and wrong or right, I paid a price. I was very hesitant to post this, for I did not want to lose any of the new family I've found here, but I feel better now.

    To answer some of your questions, the reason they truly had to convict me was not for the first two, but for the active, cold-blooded hunting and premeditation of the last two. This is also, I've been advised, the reason I will never be eligible for a pardon. My sentence was commuted, which is more than I ever expected. Where I state that money would have changed the outcome is because I would have been allowed to check into a private inpatient psychiatric facility, to be released from there after I was no longer considered a threat to myself or anyone else. I could not afford to do so.

    Steve, Coot - you're right. I had failed to take into account the effect of temperature changes on optics... I missed.
     
  11. midranger4

    midranger4 Banned

    Sunriser,

    I wish to echo the sentiments being expressed to you in this thread by other members here.

    I would only add that you my dear are clearly a woman of *conviction* and that I am in awe of your courage and determination.

    I am too taken back by your story to even remember what you asked for comments on.

    And Ethics...your right ...I say this post gets an automatic pass to the hall of fame too.
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Passed Away Aug. 19, 2006

    Sun:

    Wow. Sounds like justifiable homicide to me, even the ones you hunted.

    Glad you are OK after that experience, and glad you are here.
     
  13. BigDeputyDog

    BigDeputyDog Straight Shootin Admin Staff Member

    Sunriser...
    Even after 30+ years in law enforcement, I don't know if I could have brought myself to place you under arrest... You know how sunlight can blind a person for a short while... ;)

    I am for perpetrators of minor (and I mean minor ) offenses being given an option to "clear their record" if it is a first time offense... I am even in favor of either a payment plan or a barter plan (community work in exchange if one does not have the funds) to enable them to attend the necessary classes...

    I also am a believer in "paying one's debt to society" for anyone who has been incarcerated for a crime... Once released (either after serving all time, parole, etc.) then they should be afforded the same opportunity of education, vocation or anything else that is available to the rest of the population...

    However (here is the caveat...) I am not in favor of the 3 strikes law... it should be 2 strikes! One commission of a crime can be attributed to youthful stupidity, alcohol, or any of a myriad of reasons... The second time is inexcusable...

    Thank you for telling your story... and even though I'm still in law enforcement, I hope we can still be "family"... :)

    BDD... :{)
     
  14. mikeky

    mikeky Member

    Sunriser, I don't think you'll find many that would disagree with what you did, just sorry it's still something that follows you.

    I like BDD's approach, that those that can't afford treatment be given an opportunity to work out the cost, or maybe be given a loan that must be repayed, with the penalty for non-repayment that they will be resentenced.
     
  15. Techie2000

    Techie2000 The crowd would sing:

    I agree. I say we stop sending our criminals to college and start using that money so that they don't have to pay to get better programs that won't tarnish their record so that we can more successfully reintroduce reformed criminals as normal members of society! I also agree with BDD that once is stupid, but the second time makes it obvious that one is unable to reintegrate into our culture and needs to be placed in a 24/7 prison. I also believe that drug users should not be placed in jail, but we should be spending more time putting rapists, CEOs, and people who harm children there. But God bless our capitalist system. It always seems to work out for the people who need it...:rolleyes:
     
  16. FrankF

    FrankF #55170-054

    What happens to the pot smoker or first time shoplifter? After they pay their $1000 or higher fine, they are broke. So the rent comes due, and the landlord threatens them with eviction. Then the light bill is due and they get socked with a $10 late fee, then the phone bill $10 late fee, the $25 credit card late fee, then the water bill $10 late fee and $200 reconnect charge. By this time the rent is late again, the person gets an eviction notice, the car payment is also two months late and the car was repossed this morning. Yesterday a couple of nasty letters arrived in the mailbox threatening lawsuits for late payment, and a process server made it to the door today with a summons. But their kids haven't eaten in two days, so order a pizza and write a bad check to pay for it. Tomorrow they can write a bad check to the chicken place so your kids can eat again. Shortly sheriff will be out to forcibly evict them, and in about a week will track them down for writing the bad checks to the pizza and chicken places. But it gets worse... since the car got repossed, the person loses their job so they can't make the bad checks good, so they get arrested and fined three times the amount of the checks. Unable to pay, it's off to jail. But after a while, Childrens Services notice the persons kids are being neglected and remove the kids from the home. (I think you get it... it gets worse).

    Pretty shitty punishment for stealing a candy bar or getting caught with a couple of joints.
     
  17. Stiofan

    Stiofan Master Po

    Sunriser13, I don't have the answers to your query. There's so much unfair in this world, but there's not much we can do about a lot of it. It's institutionalized in our society and it's hard for the individual to effect change, even if it makes sense.

    I have to say I have been put in a somewhat similar situation as what you experienced, except for the immediate break in part, in which you correctly reacted by insinct to save your life, shooting the first two guys at the window. As for the rest, well my sister was murdered three months ago, and I know who did it and know the police have closed the case at this point for lack of evidence even though they know who did it as well (he poisoned her two years ago, she passed away from the damage in September). It's a tough call you had to make, and I'm just sorry you had to endure all that crap. I'm a pretty big law and order type of guy, but the law sure leaves a lot of us out there, doesn't it?
     

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