Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Society, and the Judicial System

May 17, 2015

I’ve been commenting about the decision to execute Tsarnaev for his part in the Boston Bombing case. I’ve read other comments about Charles Manson and similar ones that have to do with a different aspect of our system: correction, or punishment?
My first post was about society’s responsibility to remove a danger to society. This time I’ll look at a different aspect: punishment, or correction?
‘Punishment’; what’s the purpose? Think about it for a moment.
We punish children. Why? Consider that too.
Is it done to correct a person’s behavior, or is it a kind of societal revenge? Manson and Tsarnaev harmed our society, so we must have vengeance? Neither will be, probably cannot be, ‘corrected’. They’re a danger to the rest of us.
The main problem with correction is that we don’t have a way to ensure that it happens. Prison doesn’t do it. Far too many come out worse than they went in. Death won’t do it, because the person executed is permanently removed, not ‘corrected’. Society is safer, but that’s it.
Those who favor the death penalty believe that it provides both revenge and conditioned avoidance, in that it will frighten others from doing what got the convicted one executed.
I don’t see that working. Are there fewer crimes in Texas? That’s the state with the most executions, yet murders and crimes of violence still happen there.
How about long years in prison? A judge was convicted recently of selling people, including children, to a private prison company to be locked up. He got 28 years behind bars. If he survives, he’ll be an old man when he gets out. Will this encourage others not to become corrupted? Will he be ‘corrected’? To what end? Can he become a productive member of society when he gets out?
This same question applies to anyone who is incarcerated.
The number of people in prison or awaiting execution in the US tells me something different: our society has failed, is failing.
Too many of our people are exploited, hopeless. They see no better future ahead, just work, be exploited by the neo-nobility until they finally die. And their children will fare no better. They rebel.
To me, the cause of our societal problem is uncontrolled capitalism and corruption. There’s more to it than that, but it’s where the rot starts. Religion plays a part too, as does a kind of faux patriotism. Taken all together, it’s an unholy mix.
It’s a failure. We can do better. And we should. We must, or it will only get worse.
While you’re muttering ‘communist!’ at me, think about sports.
Football and basketball are good examples.
“If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.” Ever heard that?
The New Orleans Saints put a bounty on opposing players. Cheating. The coach got a year’s suspension, now he’s back. Tom Brady is facing suspension for cheating, but it won’t be a heavy one. Why? Both men are draws, moneymakers. And professional sports is about money, not sportsmanship. Basketball? Even notice why it takes so long to finish the final few seconds of a close game? Deliberate fouls, deliberate breaking the rules. Cheating. Two or three free throws, no problem. Fifteen yards penalty for deliberate cheating, holding a defenseman or a wide receiver, no problem. If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’.
And oh, the uproar when ‘fans’ hear that their team is moving to another city! More false patriotism, in a sense.
My team right or wrong is pretty similar to my country right or wrong. We never seem to ask why we shouldn’t make both right instead of blindly supporting their wrongs.
Back to ‘justice’. How do we ‘correct’ early offenders? The judge scolds them, gives them ‘probation’. Over and over again. It’s expensive to lock someone up, you see. And they have no money to pay fines. As for the economic conditions that caused them to act out, nothing is said about that. Nothing will be done in Baltimore or Ferguson, either. Rioters will be scolded, most will be released, maybe a few policemen will get fired, nothing changes.
And unless we force it to happen, nothing will change.
Oh, and that youthful offender? Probation, probation, a short lock-up in a juvenile prison (maybe), until he grows up…then lock him up forever.
Or execute him.
After all, he got due process. Right?


Rapes in the Military

June 17, 2013

I’ve been following this story, and it’s time for me to comment.
I don’t know the facts of any individual case, but I’ve been a soldier. Twenty one years, as a matter of fact, now retired.
And now senior officials, politicians and some uniformed politicians, all are wailing and gnashing their teeth and probably beating their breasts to a chorus of mea culpa.
It’s not at all what the media would have you believe.
Not just the military that has a problem with this; I was duty officer when a rape occurred in the barracks, in Germany, and I reported the victim’s statement, took other statements, all the things I was expected to do. But because the victim was a German national, the two rapists (soldiers) were tried in German courts. And found not guilty, because the traumatized victim had not wanted to wait for police, she had just wanted to go home. So after initial reports were taken, I drafted a driver from the unit, gave him my keys, and he drove her home in my car. I had no grounds to keep her there and simple humanity made me understand that I would only make matters worse if I insisted on her remaining. FWIW, my CO concurred in my decision; I informed him, made a recommendation, and he concurred.
And because she hadn’t waited for the police to arrive (they didn’t get there for six hours or more), that was enough. A German court released the two rapists despite the physical evidence that I, and the unit commander, had collected after he arrived.
There was no question that we’d attempted to subvert justice in any way. Indeed, the Polizei were quite complimentary about the actions we’d taken. They were understanding and even friendly to those of us who had done the investigations we’d done.
It’s not as straightforward as reports would have you believe, and military officials who have to follow due process aren’t really sweeping things under the rug in nearly as many cases as media reports say.
The fact that the victim says she reported an incident and nothing happened doesn’t make it so. Sometimes, the story she tells later isn’t the one she told initially. Sometimes the evidence doesn’t support her story. Or there is no evidence. Sometimes when due process is followed and evidence is gathered according to rules, those rules don’t support a charge or conviction. And of course, sometimes justice isn’t done and coverups probably do happen.
But it’s not always black-and-white as to which course of action should be followed. Reports to the media don’t have to follow the rules of evidence that a court demands.
Do you really think every complaint to civilian authorities or police results in a charge or conviction of rape or sexual assault? What percentage of rapes that get reported to your local police go to court? How many of them result in conviction?
Based on what I’ve read, I’d guess that military officials are just as efficient as civilian authority in most cases. Even when, as in my case, we’ve never been trained to act as cops. We act as best we can while applying our best judgment. And no one, not the Supreme Court even, can do more than that.
But somehow, military officers or officials are held to a standard of perfection. If a civilian woman doesn’t get the justice she demands in a statement to the local TV station, do people demand the mayor and chief of police resign or be convicted of dereliction of duty?
Nonsense. That only happens if the officials are military. Civilian women cannot blame the mayor if he fails to protect them, but military women CAN and DO blame a commander for just that failure. Different standards apply due to differences between civil and military organizations and authority. Few if any recognize that fact. Certainly no media organization or reporter will ever include that in their report.
I think this needs to be explained. I am not condoning any misbehavior that might occur nor any effort to conceal anything. Certainly not. But before you issue a blanket condemnation, you should know what the facts are, as much as any nonparticipant ever can know.
Journalists will do that, the blanket condemnation. They have a vested interest in sensationalism.
But the rest of us should think first.
We owe that to our military, the same ones who interpose themselves between our enemies and our citizens. We have a duty to them just as they have a duty to us.