04 November 2018

Pardons

by Leigh Lundin

An article recently caught my notice, ‘A History of Pardons in South Carolina’. Not just the Palmetto State acts progressive, but Alabama too. Take that, Northerners. Your Southern neighbors sometimes can be enlightened and compassionate, too, although to be fair, Connecticut is right up there amongst forgiving states. Then we have Florida… one of four states that won’t restore voting rights or the right to freely travel without the governor’s unlikely approval. So much for paying one’s debt to society.

Crime and Over-Punishment

For those of us who keep track of crime and punishment, pardoning is promising news. Consider two statistics that should rock us back on our heels.
Why in the Land of the Free, are so many not? Is such a large percentage of our citizens truly that much worse than criminals in, say Yemen or Iran? In Cuba or North Korea?

Two parts of the problem are over-charging and over-sentencing. However, those may be symptoms rather than causes. I suggest the real causes are politics, power, and profit. As prison corporations have learned, keeping lots of prisoners locked up means major money and stockholder dividends. They pay the political piper and call the tune. The rest of us foot the bill.
The Music Man
Mothers of River City!
Heed the warning
Before it's too late!
Ya got trouble
Right here in River City!
With a capital ‘T’
That rhymes with ‘P’
And that stands for Pool,
We’ve surely got trouble!
Right here in River City.

American politicians find it more fruitful to embrace law-n-order than honesty and integrity, than care and concern. Lobbyists, the pimps of politics, and legions of state and federal legislators have honed to a fine art whipping up public fear.


Political operatives use simplistic grade school terror phrases like ‘three strikes’ and ‘stand your ground’, with a similar simple lack of thought to unintended consequences. Three-strike lawmakers tied the hands of judges and juries, forcing them to send a thief to prison for life… for stealing his third bicycle. Consequences that get people killed.

A Little Christian (or Muslim or Jewish or…) Forgiveness

Naturally, politicians abound who want to dismantle the pardon system despite their well-documented value and success. They point to number 243 out of 400 and say, “See? Less than two years after we pardoned him, he’s being investigated for domestic violence or drunk driving.” The answer is those pardoned are simultaneously well-behaved and mistake-prone as the rest of lawful society, which reaps benefits from the pardon programs.

Pardons help former offenders reintegrate into the social structure, integrate into the work force, integrate back into their own families. Pardons with public expungement shields make it possible for returning prisoners to land jobs, meaning they’ll less likely steal to feed and house themselves. They will be less likely to apply for unemployment and welfare.

At least that’s one opinion. Who’s to say I’m right? What do you think?

5 comments:

Eve Fisher said...

I'm with you all the way, Leigh.
Our prison system makes no sense at all, other than the sense of profits for a few and hell for the many. And don't even get me started on how our prisons have turned into our society's way of dealing with the mentally ill and mentally handicapped...

R.T. Lawton said...

Eve's right. With the collapse of the mental health hospital system, our jails and prisons are flooded with inmates who have mental illness which doesn't get treated in the prison system.

As for the pardon program, one recidivist gets more press than 200 convicts becoming re-integrated into society.

And yep, prisons for profit was and is a bad idea. For that type of prison to be successful, it needs to retain high occupancy. That is its own set of problems.

Leigh Lundin said...

Eve and RT! You are so much more articulate than I. I wish I'd partnered with you for the article! Thank you.

O'Neil De Noux said...

Gotta agree with you guys, prisons for profit is a terrible idea.
Good post.

Anonymous said...

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/policing/community-calls/2018/11/05/florida-must-restore-voting-rights-former-felons-ex-state-justice/1893563002/