Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Prisoners or Captives...?

Prisoner: a person legally held in prison as a punishment for crimes they have committed or while awaiting trial.
Captive: a person who is enslaved or dominated or imprisoned.
One major challenge of the court system and those who direct its operation is to make judgements about the crimes for which a person should be incarcerated. Another equally challenging responsibility of the system of Justice is to guard against the unjust imprisonment of people. It is the latter of these two concerns that is my main focus here..
It is a fact that the justice system has been in a number of circumstances, perverted to serve the economic interests of corrupt lawyers and judges. It is also a fact that sentencing has become a vehicle for filling the jails with people who are seen as nothing more than cogs in the wheel of an “industry” driven by a for profit motive. In light of these facts we must ask serious questions about the motivations behind the sentences handed down by some of our judges.
Are we locking away people in our prisons who should be more justly and appropriately placed in programs focused on social, medical, and psychological rehabilitation? Furthermore, are we committing a greater harm by placing them at the mercy of those whose goal is to make a profit at the expense of the life of the socially and economically disadvantaged? Are many of those we have now lumped in as “prisoners” more appropriately captives of an essentially unjust system?
Consider the following from an article by Kate Henderson, and published in Liberty Voice in December 2013.
“Mark Ciaverella Jr was a Judge in the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court, Luzerne County, who abused his position to sell juveniles into prison facilities as “Kids for Cash.” When it came to his turn to be sentenced he was given almost thirty years behind bars… …This man took money in exchange for the incarceration of thousands of children and young adults. The developer who owned the private prison system paid him “under the table.” These highly illegal and immoral earnings amounted to over a million dollars in Ciaverella’s…pocket. 
Convictions he made between the years of 2003 to 2004 have all been overturned, amounting to over 4,000 cases. He consistently violated the constitutional rights of youngsters, including their right to have legal counsel and their right to enter an intelligent plea.  One of the youngest persons he passed sentence on was only ten years old. His sentencing was rapid, and invariably severe. He needed to keep that prison packed with kids. Non-violent, insignificant and even nonsensical “crime” was penalised the same way.”
There is reason to believe that Ciaverella is not alone in this “enterprise”. The proverbial “love of money” is what drives the judicial indiscretion of many of our judges. That, combined with their political ambitions, has created a slippery slope by way of which we have managed to create a level of incarceration not seen anywhere else in the world. The “land of the free” has become the home of the imprisoned.

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