Crime and No Punishment

Everyone deserves a second chance. One might even argue you get three strikes, but in any case after that, they must pay the price.

JusticeIn the last few months, two officers were killed and two officers wounded in three separate shooting incidents. Where, you might ask? Southside of Chicago? A gang invested area of Los Angeles? Downtown Detroit? Baghdad?

Nope.

On Cape Cod, the ordinarily tranquil summer vacation mecca and one of the most beautiful parts of the Eastern Seaboard.

It’s happening here for two very troubling reasons. First, the incestuous nature of the court system. Spend time in the courts around the Commonwealth, mainly the smaller venues, and you’ll see it in action.

If you pay attention.

Certain defense attorneys, generally the old hands or their associates with years of appearances before the courts, are treated differently, and their clients benefit by the largess of this deferential treatment. Their ability to wrangle minimal sanction from prosecutors, with the silent acquiescence of the courts and despite the extensive criminal record of the defendant, defies logic and diminishes the effectiveness of criminal sentences.

It’s an enlightened version of the “old boy” network without gender discrimination.

The second factor is the secrecy around criminal records in Massachusetts. Out of some misguided sense of fairness to those who’ve committed a crime, access to criminal records in the state is almost non-existent.

Even investigators face Draconian rules to access records of suspects under investigation. It is these two factors, lawyers with an inordinate amount of influence within the court and the secrecy of criminal records, that put dangerous repeat offenders back on the street under the guise of fair pursuit of justice.

Everyone deserves a second chance, after that they must feel the full weight of responsibility for their actions. Access to criminal records is as much a matter of the public’s need to know as is any other governmental function.

Courts cannot work in secret. That is exactly the situation in Massachusetts. Judges need to act as a balance between a vengeful public and the rights of the accused. Once a defendant signs a plea, that second chance philosophy takes over. Fail any part of probation, commit another crime, violate any order, and the opportunity for leniency should be surrendered.

In many ways, it does not work that way.

This, however, is only part of the solution. The reality is resources to deal with repeat offenders, especially those who commit minor offenses, is limited. Often the state faces a Hobbs choice of where to put people who deserve to go to prison but there is limited space to put them.

To be effective the criminal justice systems needs adequate resources. But that doesn’t just mean more cops, judges, and prisons. It also means we must invest in a prison system that punishes in a manner consistent with the law and functions as an actual system of corrections.

Clearly, if you’ve ever seen the inside of most prisons in the US, that is not happening. We cannot expect a prison system that amounts to nothing more than a warehouse of troubled humans to return a better person back to society.

If we focus exclusively on punishment, at the expense of rehabilitation, we are perpetuating the very problem we want to solve.

Every single criminal case disposed of in court should be a public record. If it takes a generation before people once again understand actions have consequences, then so be it. We’ve created this society of victimhood where everything is someone else’s fault. We must be the first to recognize the folly of that and accept our own responsibility for it.

The situation in Massachusetts is not unique. It permeates the criminal justice system throughout the US. It shouldn’t take cops being wounded and killed by individuals who’ve been given not a second chance but what amounts to a get out of jail free card before we recognize the problem and fix it.

Our criminal justice system need reflect the realities of the human condition in life. Our Constitution guarantees the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Pursuit is not a promise of success, just a fair opportunity to achieve it. Continuously breaking laws is not one of those opportunities.

“There is no going back in life. There is no return. No second chance.”

Daphne du Maurier

Immoral Indifference to Reality

“Back in our day” is the common refrain from many when discussing the realities of today. Often, the fondness for “the good ole days” is a product of our nostalgia filtered memory. Like most memories, it is rooted in truth yet changed by time.

We face a challenging period as a society. The debates over gun control, violent crime, drug addiction, and lack of responsible behavior focus on the symptoms and ignore the cause. Some of this is a necessary evil; you can’t fix a burning house while it is still on fire. However, once we resolve the immediate need, we must develop a strategy for identifying and mitigating the root of the problem.

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In the debate on guns and their use in violent crime, domestic violence, and suicides we face an issue of immediate urgency with sparse information or effort at understanding the social conditions at the root of the problem.

Those who oppose any restrictions have misjudged the changing attitudes of most Americans to a more contemporary interpretation of the Second Amendment and gun control.

Those who want to ban all weapons ignore the truth. The overwhelming number of gun owners are law-abiding, conscientious about their responsibility, and willing to find a solution.

Where do we go from here?

First, we put out the fire with realistic and Constitutionally lawful controls on access to weapons. Manage access to firearms with legitimate purposes, i.e., hunting, security, recreation and ban guns having no proper place in society.

Once we get the issue under control, then we must find the cause and seek ways to address it.

To find the root of an issue, one looks for commonality. Violent criminals, prison inmates, and school shooters share a significant common factor, single-parent households. An absent/uninvolved father being the most common scenario. It is not the sole cause, but it is a shared distinguishing factor.

Another reality, sure to be misrepresented and misconstrued by some, is the unintended consequences of the social welfare system. One in five Americans is on public assistance. The majority are off support within a year, the next most significant group within three years, and some within 4 or 5 years.

Some cycle on and off the system making exact numbers challenging to quantify. But, there is evidence of a cross-generational pattern of welfare dependence as a way of life. Bearing a child at an immature age is often the catalyst. This leads to a challenging-to-avoid cycle of low educational achievement and reduced economic opportunity.

Public assistant serves a critical and necessary role. Seeking ways to reduce such dependence without eliminating the cause will hurt the most vulnerable, the children. But this doesn’t mean we can’t find a solution; we just haven’t set it as a goal.

The burden of childcare, borne primarily by women, is one of the most significant factors in economic disadvantage and low-educational success. An absentee/uninvolved father contributes to the problem. Existing laws try to compel financial responsibility. However, the father is often trapped in a similar cycle of low economic opportunity amplified by limited educational achievement. Many men behave in an immature way. Demonstrating selfish resistance to accepting their responsibilities. A considerable number are in prison, compounding the problem.

This cycle of poverty, emotional deprivation of the positive influence of two-parent environment, and cross-generational behavior is self-sustaining. The conditions for propensity to violence or anti-social behavior continue. Combined with unregulated access to weapons with high firing rates and killing capacity, the likelihood of more mass shootings and violent behavior increases.

Solving these issues is complicated. There is no one solution. It will require time and well-crafted efforts targeting multiple societal and economic conditions with a broad-spectrum approach.

Not every single-parent home is to blame here, but the risk such an environment poses to future behavior, absent personal or family resources to mitigate it, is real and widespread.

There is a practical solution to reducing at-risk single parent environments; safe and affordable birth control. It is not a panacea. However, it offers a real opportunity to alleviate the problem while long-term solutions are developed and given a chance to take hold.

So why, if we have such methods available, do we ignore them?

Because the “moral” issue rears its ugly head and intercedes in any rational discussion. The rise of the fundamentalist religious orthodoxy, and their influence in Congress and the Presidency, stands as a roadblock.

Religious organizations vary in their expressed doctrines, but there is a commonality in demanding secular laws comport with primarily Judeo-Christian teachings.

Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam forbid any birth control except abstinence, (just say no?)  This is exclusively within marriage. Some Protestant sects permit the use of artificial contraception, but again it is usually within the confines of marriage.

Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, all oppose pre-marital sex

Statistics and practical experience will tell us that the horse has left the barn on this one. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the average age for Americans to engage in vaginal intercourse for the first time is 17.1 years old for males and females.

The percentage of people living together outside of formal marriage is growing. The reality of changing societal attitudes toward sex outside of marriage, or even long-term relationships, is changing.

This religious prohibition not only fails to curtail this behavior, but it also stands in the way of prevention. This resistance forces young women into having children when they are mere children themselves. Once the hormones kick in, we have physiologically equipped beings capable of producing offspring when they are least able to give financial support and mature emotional nurture.

Absent access to birth control, many enter the cycle of dependence on state assistance. Religious moral decrees hobble secular government programs aimed at prevention. These then create the humanitarian crisis forcing tax-payers to support the single mothers and children.

In these areas, religious influence has done a disservice to humanity. The Catholic Church’s resistance to distributing condoms in Africa has been one of the most significant factors in the spread of AIDS, and the births of AIDS infected children.

Incorporating moral teachings of any religion by choosing one over the other is a dangerous basis for governmental policy. Some fundamental religious groups use religion to argue against well-established effective medical treatments by substituting prayer.

It has proven disastrous. But this is not just about religion. It is about recognizing the urgency of addressing a problem that took generations to develop. Sometimes practicality must outweigh the expressed conflicting morality of religion. Where’s the righteousness in condemning women and children to a life of deprivation out of failed and medieval religious doctrines?

As a multi-cultural society, we must focus on secular solutions while maintaining the dignity of people to make their own choices and bear the consequences.

We can continue unchanged and hope religion reaches more people or accept the changing nature of the world. A rational policy would use the tools available and reduce the number of those at-risk single-parent homes. Leave ineffective moral imperatives to the disjointed inconsistency of the thousands of religious doctrines

Most religious doctrines oppose abortion. The issue is one of the most divisive issues in the US. When presented with a solution to the problem, opponents scream about morality. They say wide-spread birth-control will encourage sexual behavior.

Nonsense, the behavior is natural human sexuality. History shows us that human behavior is universal. Many of the most vocal opponents lead a secret, sexually adventuresome, life. Not to be crass, but the moral imperatives of the Roman Catholic Church couldn’t get priests to keep it in their cassocks. What chance do they stand with hormone ravaged teens? The hypocritical nature of this is offensive.

The stark reality is we’ve lost several generations of Americans to this senseless and ineffective “morality.” We’ve filled our prisons with “prisoners of war” from the war on drugs with little or no commitment to treating addiction. We wail and moan the “murdered children” of abortions yet condemn some to bear the responsibility of child-rearing ill-equipped financially or socially with an inadequate education.

We wrap ourselves in a false morality that fears the wrath of an invisible being if we take practical measures to prevent the need for a woman to make such a difficult choice.

Like the saying from the good ole days. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The cost to society of preventing unwanted pregnancy is exponentially lower than the price of the continuing cycle of poverty and crime.

The government’s function is not saving souls; it is protecting lives.

Morality, like it or not, is a matter of relative choices. The Bible itself is full of once “moral” imperatives that civilized society now finds abhorrent. We no longer stone adulterers or burn witches.

Today, our morality is hypocritical, our efforts weak and ineffective, our outrage disingenuous. We doom ourselves to the continued creation of a disadvantaged underclass held hostage by archaic pronouncements from the dark ages.

Until we devote as much effort to providing quality education as we do to privatizing prisons and housing more and more Americans without any hope of rehabilitation, the cycle will persist.

We cannot fix 21st-century problems with arcane writings, moral platitudes, or ignorance. Until we address both the immediate and long-term issues, we are doomed to the continuity of sorrow.

A Cause for Pessimism

Look at this picture.

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What does this say about our society? A padlock on a hammock?

I live in one of those old mills converted into condos. It is not a high-crime area. It is a rare crime area.

The closest thing to a gang is a knitting club that meets once a month or so. Up to the moment I wrote this, there have been no drive-by shootings attributed to this gang. Not even an injury from a crochet needle stabbing.

Last I checked, none of them were cooking Meth while knitting sweaters.

The most dangerous thing to do here is to walk through the parking lot. You have to have situational awareness as some of the senior gang members go airborne over the speed bumps.

They never seem to remember them being there. You can tell by the shocked look on their faces as they bounce along.

Their gang sign is two hands on a steering wheel with no head visible over the dash. They drive by memory.

The only gang graffiti is a chalkboard sign. One of the residents posts sayings each week. They rarely seem threatening.

Yet, along the river, at a peaceful spot someone thought perfect for a hammock (it is), they also felt the need to padlock the hammock to a tree.

Looking for a sign of the apocalypse? Look no further than this.

A Change of Hate

Here’s a sneak peek at my latest novel, A Change of Hate.

I am working toward the release of this next novel featuring Harrison “Hawk” Bennett Attorney at Law from the Josh Williams series.

Hope you enjoy. All novels

March 1966, Dalat, South Vietnam.

Green Beret First Lieutenant Harrison Bennett stalks his latest target, an elusive Viet Cong Colonel. After weeks of hunting, the man’s face fills the rifle scope.

A deep breath, a partial exhale, a tap from the observer confirming the target.

The trigger squeeze and rifle recoil meld into the muscle memory of training, the pink mist replaces the man’s face, and it is done….

March 2016, Providence, Rhode Island.

Attorney-at-Law Harrison “Hawk” Bennett sits at his desk going over his morning schedule. His phone rings….

His world is about to change forever.

Walking into the reception area, his memories go into overdrive. His eyes see what his mind cannot accept.

A saffron-robed Buddhist monk stands and smiles. A face he last saw seconds before he ended its life stares back at him. A specter from his nightmare lives.

“It has been a long time, Lieutenant Bennett, and a long way from our time in Dalat.”

“I thought you were dead, Colonel. They gave me a medal for killing you.”

Bennett finds himself thrust into a world of treason, double-cross, and a justice department bent on vengeance. Those he once fought alongside have become the enemy.

Forced to choose between his dedication to the law and the memories of the dead and dying in the jungles of Vietnam, Hawk faces his greatest challenge; defending a man he believed he killed from a government gone rabid over protecting its secrets.

Cover for Createspace

A Change of Hate: A Harrison “Hawk” Bennett Novel. The latest work by Joe Broadmeadow coming soon to Kindle and print on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Check out my other books at https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU

 

Miranda Warnings: Why do we name monumental USSC decisions after the perpetrators, rather than the victims?

On March 13, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested. The arrest was primarily based on circumstantial evidence linking him to the kidnapping and rape of a 17-year-old woman 10 days earlier.

After a prolonged interrogation he confessed. The conviction was reversed by the United States Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona. The “confession” was ruled inadmissible. A little known fact is he was retried and convicted again.

Every Lawyer, Police Officer, Law & Order fan, convict, and criminal alive knows the “Miranda warning”, no one knows the victim’s name.

Many probably think it was Congressional Legislation that created the “Miranda” Warning. It even became a verb in the form of “Mirandized”

“Did you Mirandize him?”

The name of a (twice) convicted rapist of a 17 year old girl became a cloak of protection, or a manner of invoking the protection.

“Hey man, I know my Miranda rights”

Ernesto Miranda himself died of stab wounds after an alcohol fueled bar fight a few years after his release from prison. On his body the police found “Miranda Warning” cards that Miranda would autograph for money.

Perhaps naming it for the perpetrators is the right thing to do, it reminds the government of their failure to exercise due care in the protection of their citizens rights.

Perhaps, by perpetuating the names of criminals, we as a people will demand better from our Police Officers, Prosecutors, and Judges.

It serves as a reminder of our failures, not a tribute to the defendant.

My original thought was to complain about the naming of decisions for perpetrators rather than the victims.

Then I realized that naming it for the perpetrators was correct, we need to be reminded of the names of evil and the benefit of living in a country that values justice for all.

And why would we want criminals to invoke the name of a Victim to insulate themselves.

My daughter aspires to a job wherein the fundamental tenet is everyone, regardless of the depravity of their act, is entitled to all the protections of justice.

Proud doesn’t even come close.

It is truly a wonderful commentary on a society that can raise individuals who can devote their lives to protecting all.

Those that can separate the person from the principle.

Justice from Justifiability

The ends from justifying the means.

So that is why I know decisions like Miranda v. Arizona and Escobedo v. Illinois are not an indication of a weakness in our system of justice.

It is not a fault that perpetrators names live on while the victims are long forgotten, but rather a reminder of the greatness of our system.

Leave the victims in peace and let the bad guys invoke other bad guys for protection.

If it ever stops, well, then we are truly in decline.