Justice Tempered by Mercy, Mercy Me

Oh mercy, mercy me
Oh things ain’t what they used to be

Mercy Mercy Me   Marvin Gaye

I know I’ve compromised the lyrics from a song about pollution to one about the justice system, but the lamentation of the words is appropriate.

A recent headline on FOX News blared,

Florida man gets 20 years for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes

A Florida man who stole $600 worth of cigarettes from a convenience store was sentenced Friday to 20 years in state prison, The Pensacola News Journal reported.

An Escambia County jury convicted Robert Spellman, 48, of burglary and grand theft in August. Spellman went into a Circle K in December, and stole 10 cartons of cigarettes from a stock room in the store manager’s office, authorities said.

The State Attorney’s Office said authorities found Spellman nearby, matching a description of the suspect, and had the cigarettes, The News Journal reported.

Spellman had 14 felony and 31 misdemeanor convictions prior to the cigarette theft, which qualified him as a habitual felony offender, The News Journal reported. That led to the lengthy 20-year prison sentence imposed Friday by an Escambia County judge.

The lengthy prison term prompted outrage on social media, with some people accusing the prosecutor of imposing too harsh a sentence for a seemingly petty crime.

“Just such a disproportionate sentence,” wrote one Twitter user. “[W]ho are these cruel judges?!?” Bradford Betz – FOX News – Monday, September 24, 2018

Somehow, people were outraged that a man could be sentenced to twenty years in prison for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes.

Mercy, mercy me.

They apparently skipped the part that said,

“Spellman had 14 felony and 31 misdemeanor convictions prior to the cigarette theft, which qualified him as a habitual felony offender.”

JusticeNow, I will be the first to point out our corrections system is wanting in the rehabilitation department. Our prisons are warehouses and little more. But when an individual, not otherwise suffering from mental illness or incompetence, has been convicted of 45 crimes, including 14 felonies, there is little left for society to do than “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.”

Mr. Spellman could be the poster child for the failed court system. I will bet, if one reviewed the court record, Mr. Spellman was warned by many judges not to return to the courtroom and be of good behavior. To which Mr. Spellman, or most likely his overworked public defender, assured the court he would.

Anything to escape responsibility.

Everyone deserves a second chance, perhaps even a third chance. But 45 chances are bordering on the court being an accomplice to the crimes.

While there are myriad social implications for failing to provide meaningful rehabilitation to criminals, everything from skills training to assist with job opportunities after release, deterrence and punishment for crimes is still a valid societal tool.

Mercy, Mercy me

How much more evidence do we need?

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