Join 3,516 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Maybe somewhere down the line Congress will relieve the people in your position.......
December 13, 2012 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Life Without Parole: Four Inmates' Stories
posted by lalochezia (26 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related, and something I wasn't sure would stand on its own as a post, is Richard "Lenny" Seymour's analysis of when drug policies work:
The drugs wars have acquired another set of functions. With respect to imperialism, it helps organise and distribute illicit funding and arms flows. With respect to policing and criminality, it provides a 'frame' through which the state can surveille, serialise, detain and incarcerate the 'dangerous classes'. Politically, it has worked alongside other thematics such as race to help organise viable reactionary-popular blocs - drugs providing both a pseudo-explanation for social breakdown and its necessarily harsh policing, and a rationale for continuing the policies of social breakdown. It is no good bemoaning the irrationality and brutality of the system, which is not borne by its authors. The drugs policies work.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:27 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is part of a series and the first one, "Time and Punishment: For Lesser Crimes, Rethinking Life Behind Bars" is pretty powerful as well.

On a lighter note, I saw "Scott Walker" in big capital letters as one of the stories and I got a little excited for a second.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:27 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Needs more Hunter S. Thompson.
posted by localroger at 9:28 AM on December 13, 2012


Okay, that's the most fucked up thing I'll read all week. Selling LSD to Deadheads? Life without parole. Jesus.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:30 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


This justice system is criminal
posted by growabrain at 9:37 AM on December 13, 2012


The worst one for me was the 19 year old kid that grew up in crack house. Like he ever had a chance...

I really wish our legislators would pull their heads out of the asses and treat drug use as a medical problem, not a criminal problem.
posted by COD at 9:47 AM on December 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


On a lighter note, I saw "Scott Walker" in big capital letters as one of the stories and I got a little excited for a second.

Bish Bosch certainly has its detractors, but the guy doesn't exactly deserve life for it.
posted by item at 9:48 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


People in general deride Congress as a bunch of useless fools yet feel quite attached to their own House Representative [PDF] who may or may not be a part of the problem. Why blame Congress when it is fact the constituency that elected them and in no small way supports these asinine laws & regulations?

Who really is at fault here?
posted by coachfortner at 9:58 AM on December 13, 2012


Why blame Congress when it is fact the constituency that elected them and in no small way supports these asinine laws & regulations?

Because it's Congress who is (or isn't, as the case may be) actually doing all the heavy lifting when it comes to asinine legislation.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:17 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why blame Congress when it is fact the constituency that elected them and in no small way supports these asinine laws & regulations?

Because Congress answers to the Prison - Industrial Complex, not the voters. Congressional districts have been so skewed by gerrymandering that it renders the election process essentially meaningless in most places.
posted by COD at 10:36 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"heavy lifting"?!
ha ha ha... that implies they're actually doing anything!?

Accountability is the key. 22 years (and going for Ken Harvey) for an admittedly stupid decision to transport cocaine is one thing. But re-electing those individuals who passed the rules allowing such injustice is something else.
Who holds the electorate accountable if they won't do it themselves?


I don't have an answer for that.
posted by coachfortner at 10:36 AM on December 13, 2012


Going point, COD.

When money trumps all all other considerations then... well, money trumps all other considerations, including justice.
posted by coachfortner at 10:37 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Drug use isn't just a medical problem, but an emotional problem as well. Family dysfunction, poverty, hopelessness, despair...

how do you go on when you live in hell?

The problem is poverty and a lack of safety net for families who are struggling (which should include disability services for parents with emotional, physical, or mental difficulties with the task of parenting).

That people in pain want drugs is completely and utterly not a sign of a medical disorder or a mental illness.

It is perfect sanity.
posted by xarnop at 10:42 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mandatory minimums are one of the great abominations of our judicial system. In addition to the minimums being set stratospherically too high (perhaps in an effort to take the "nuke from orbit" approach to the drug problem, more realistically to keep the prison builders, owners, and guards employed), they afford absolutely no levity of judgment at all to intelligent individuals who are in the position to save the taxpayers literally millions of dollars by not enforcing these asinine requirements.
posted by disillusioned at 11:03 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the safeguards in the USAn system is the fact that the President of the USA can use his or her executive powers to pardon or commute sentences. Bill Clinton pardoned 459 people - a drop in the bucket, but still.

George W Bush pardoned or commuted the sentences of 200 people.

Barack Obama has pardoned or commuted the sentences of 16 people. This is fewer than any US President other than George Washington, James Garfield, and William Henry Harrison; arguably the latter two shouldn't count, as they died shortly after taking office.

It probably doesn't make the thousands of people denied pardons by Barack Obama to know that he has also pardoned eight turkeys.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:11 PM on December 13, 2012


Barack Obama has pardoned or commuted the sentences of 16 people. This is fewer than any US President other than George Washington, James Garfield, and William Henry Harrison; arguably the latter two shouldn't count, as they died shortly after taking office.

This is a very false equivalency and borderline trolling. Presidents usually make pardons during the second term ramping up in the last days of office. GWB for instance was sitting on 19 pardons at the end of his first term before putting the other 181 through over the course of 2005-2008.
posted by Talez at 5:48 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did you bother looking at the distribution of Bush's pardons? 19 were made before he won re-election.
posted by hoyland at 5:49 PM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seems one of us has miscounted.
posted by hoyland at 5:50 PM on December 13, 2012


It was me. I double checked the list.
posted by Talez at 5:50 PM on December 13, 2012


Bush was actually an outlier until Obama came along. Here's the US DOJ page on Presidential clemency actions. The figures will be slightly out because they calculate it by fiscal year, not electoral years.

Richard Nixon's first term: 269
Richard Nixon's second term: 657
Gerald Ford: 409
Jimmy Carter: 566
Ronald Reagan's first term: 233
Ronald Reagan's second term: 173
GHW Bush: 79
Bill Clinton's first term: 56
Bill Clinton's second term: 403
GW Bush's first term: 21
GW Bush's second term: 189
Obama's first term: 16

So what I take from this that there has been a tendency for US Presidents to exercise their clemency more in their second term than their first, particularly since Bill Clinton's terms in office; but none the less Barack Obama has been colder-hearted than any US President of the last two centuries. Incidentally, here's a list of Presidential clemencies from 1900-1945. The lowest number of clemencies in any year was by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. He commuted the sentences of 84 people - more than four times as many as Barack Obama did in his whole first term.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:41 PM on December 13, 2012


Yes, you have persuaded me Obama has no soul. Now where do I go to get my vote back?

You really think this has something to do with being 'cold-hearted' and not with Fox News or, more precisely, the 24 hour news cycle? The shift starts happening at the right time.

There's potentially something somewhat interesting going on--it's not that Obama's not pardoning people, he's largely not taking action on petitions at all. They seem to have blown through the whole pile in FY2011 after not deciding any prior to then. Obama's also receiving more petitions than anyone else has for some reason.
posted by hoyland at 9:57 PM on December 13, 2012


You really think this has something to do with being 'cold-hearted' and not with Fox News or, more precisely, the 24 hour news cycle? The shift starts happening at the right time.

That is an interesting point. Very few convicts are going to be so sympathetic as to be completely non-controversial if they are pardoned. And given the gotcha nature of the political press, pardons basically are a no-win game for a sitting President. They gain nothing politically be doing it, but are virtually guaranteed to receive harsh criticism when they do pardon.
posted by COD at 6:40 AM on December 14, 2012


There are plenty of people -- mainly Democrats who remember Watergate, which just happens to be Obama's own demographic -- who don't think the President should even have the power to pardon, that it invites abuse and should be abolished altogether.

There are thousands, if not millions, of cases just like the ones in this article. Obama didn't write the laws they were prosecuted under. Obama didn't convict them. Obama didn't sentence them. Obama didn't refuse them clemency. And, yes, Obama didn't pardon them, because pardoning that many people would be a hell of an undertaking, requiring the individual assessment of every single person currently serving a mandatory sentence, not to mention everyone who took a plea bargain to avoid such a sentence. It might not be an impossible task, but it'd mean cutting back significantly on the actual, you know, President-ing.

No, I'm afraid his is not the cold heart you're looking for. Try looking in the other two branches of government, who actually perpetrated the evils you're demanding Obama singlehandedly undo.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:15 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Singlehandedly undoing the evils that percolate through the legislative and judicial branches is one of the Constitutional functions of the Executive, part of that whole checks-and-balances thing. Pardons are meant to be appeals of last resort, used sparingly, which is why you have an application process and why there is usually a board or committee who sorts through applications and makes recommendations to the governor or President.

Pardons have certainly been abused, but the OP is exactly the reason that the pardon exists. The Founders reasoned that punishment should require that the government adhere to a strict process, but that mercy was an appropriate thing for a sufficiently powerful individual to exercise by fiat. Refusing to pardon at all may be politically expedient but it's not at all what the Founders intended.
posted by localroger at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2012


I'm sort of vaguely lukewarm towards pardons, but "what the Founders intended" is rarely a good reason to do anything, even if I appeal to them when arguing about to the second amendment (where there's evidence they weren't thinking about personal gun ownership).
posted by hoyland at 10:30 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


"what the Founders intended" is rarely a good reason to do anything

Let's see what Alexander Hamilton actually said about this:
He is also to be authorized to grant "reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." Humanity and good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel. As the sense of responsibility is always strongest, in proportion as it is undivided, it may be inferred that a single man would be most ready to attend to the force of those motives which might plead for a mitigation of the rigor of the law, and least apt to yield to considerations which were calculated to shelter a fit object of its vengeance. The reflection that the fate of a fellow-creature depended on his sole fiat, would naturally inspire scrupulousness and caution; the dread of being accused of weakness or connivance, would beget equal circumspection, though of a different kind. On the other hand, as men generally derive confidence from their numbers, they might often encourage each other in an act of obduracy, and might be less sensible to the apprehension of suspicion or censure for an injudicious or affected clemency. On these accounts, one man appears to be a more eligible dispenser of the mercy of government, than a body of men.
I would say that in this case, unlike the Second Amendment with that whole messy well-regulated militia business, the Founders were pretty clear and their reasons spoke directly to the abuses at hand.
posted by localroger at 11:51 AM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


« Older Banknote.ws attempts to collect and classify image...  |  The hard-core kinky action ins... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments