Unfortunately, he's too white to go to jail...
January 24, 2001 4:05 PM   Subscribe

‘A Fairly Racist Comment’ -- word.
posted by palegirl at 4:48 PM on January 24, 2001

A step in the right direction, most drug users are not violent offenders, however put them in jail and they are likely going to come out and become violent offenders due to their experience in jail.

The segregation of all prisoners in some maximum security super prisons in America is the only way a non violent offender will stay non violent after being released as they have no contact with other prisoners.
posted by Zool at 4:48 PM on January 24, 2001

I don't think the issue was that the sentence was too light, but rather that it was light because the offender was too light. Right?
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 5:02 PM on January 24, 2001

“He’s a small, thin, white man with curly dark hair, and I suspect he would certainly become a sexual target in the Florida state prison system.”

Hmmmm . . . I reckon everyone is a sexual target in the Florida state prison system.

posted by aladfar at 5:20 PM on January 24, 2001

According to a book I read once (a handy guide for future convicts entitled You Are Going To Prison) white men are the victim of the vast majority of prison rapes. The book claimed figures of 90%, which I feel is a little high. But then again, I've never been.

Situational homosexuality is grand, isn't it?

posted by Jart at 5:49 PM on January 24, 2001

What's up with "Situational homosexuality" anyway? Does anyone know any good articles that explain the phenomenon?
posted by cell divide at 5:56 PM on January 24, 2001

Hmmmm . . . I reckon everyone is a sexual target in the Florida state prison system.

Yeah, but someone clearly unable to defend himself would be an almost constant sexual target. It's not so much the color of his skin, it's other phyisical attributes...
posted by dagnyscott at 6:04 PM on January 24, 2001

On This American Life there was an entire program on incarceration in the United States(RealAudio file) which included a reading of an advice article for heterosexual male survivors of prisoner rape. The reading is Act III, 28 minutes into the program. (Please note, because of the nature of the program, Ira Glass sent this advisory letter to station managers in advance of the show.

Two years later, I still remember that show and that segment in particular; it is powerful and very, very frightening.
posted by Avogadro at 6:20 PM on January 24, 2001

In addition to the racism of the remark I think it's really sad that violent abuse and rape can be seen as an expected and unofficially sanctioned part of the prison system.

I guess it's being true to the motto: "this ain't no holiday resort". This is part of the punishment and quite often it's the danger of violence that an offender will be dealt inside (particularly in the case of nasty crimes such as pedophilia) that satisfies the public that justice has been truly served.

I remember hearing about an inquiry made into sexual violence in the Australian prison system (sorry couldn't find a link). Not surprisingly it made findings of widespread abuse: of 300 prisoners interviewed, aged 18 to 25 from all prisons within the state of New South Wales, one in four of them claimed to have been sexually assaulted, one in two claimed to have been assaulted other than sexually.

What was more remarkable to me was that it was one of the very few such studies ever been carried out into Australian prisons and how little it interested the general public or the authorities.

posted by lagado at 6:22 PM on January 24, 2001

What recourse does the public have when a judge is clearly unfit to serve?
posted by sudama at 6:57 PM on January 24, 2001

In Arizona, if I recall, judges are voted for a continued term each election.
posted by pnevares at 7:05 PM on January 24, 2001

If I recall correctly from reading the paper, this is the same judge that ordered the well-known Darryl Strawberry to several of his weak sentences.

posted by moural at 7:14 PM on January 24, 2001

In California it has became law to sentance drug users to rehab instead of prison. I think this is a good thing. Therefore, I think the sentance given by this judge is fair and reasonable.

The only problem we have is the "too white" statement, right? Agreed, it is a stupid statement, but with W in the whitehouse how does that make this judge clearly unfit to serve?
posted by Neb at 7:55 PM on January 24, 2001

how does that make this judge clearly unfit to serve?

The offender got special treatment (from a judge of all people - aren't they supposed to be impartial?), due to the color of his skin. How can that possibly be justified? How on earth is that fair for a judge to do? If the offender was larger and black or hispanic would he be on probation right now or in jail?

It's not a fair decision, it's an outrage.
posted by mathowie at 8:23 PM on January 24, 2001

If sexual violence is the nature of prison, then the judge effectively said that sending a (thin) white man to prison is cruel and unusual punishment. "Cruel and unusual" is not supposed to be a moving target relative to the offense or the offender but a fixed demarcation between what is and is not acceptable in punitive sentencing. The constitutional protection against cruel & unusual is not supposed to apply only to whites! (I can't believe I even have to say this!)

Then there is the great unidentified bogeyman: "...can't protect people like that", "...trying to save this man's life." Oh, yes? From whom? Now, it could be that prison rape is largely intraracial, I don't know. But the mention of prison is going to conjure up a lot of dark faces in people's minds.

And of course, an immediate question is: what would the judge have done with a defendant of color? One can only infer that, by whatever logic, he would apply a different punishment for the same crime. And that is clearly unjust.

What is going on here is WAY beyond stupid. I'm really at a loss to try to convey all the ways in which this is wrong. I'm shocked that anyone can read this story and find anything reasonable about it though... it saddens me deeply.
posted by sudama at 8:30 PM on January 24, 2001

Foster declined to discuss Hamill’s case specifically, but said her general goal is to “help people with drug problems get rid of their drug problems.”

I despise racism more than most people, and I understand that this judge may be racist (none of us can be sure), but I think her decision was just and fair. Drug users shouldn't go to jail. There is nothing in her statement that shows that she would give different treatment to a black or hispanic defendant. We just assumed it based on the word "white" in her quote.
posted by Neb at 8:35 PM on January 24, 2001

Frankly, what amazes me is that the judge would say that the defendant's appearance/race drove her sentencing decision. Of course I don't think it's defensible that any judge would use such reasoning, but it doesn't exactly surprise me. The dimwittedness of including that information in an on-the-record statement, though, is astounding.

posted by redfoxtail at 8:56 PM on January 24, 2001

I think the judge must have read 'A Man In Full'.
posted by Caffa at 3:00 AM on January 25, 2001

I was saddened to learn of the death of Stephen Donaldson, one-time director of the SPR group. Donaldson, a Quaker arrested for trespassing at the White House during an anti-Vietnam-War protest, was gangraped 60 times in two days, and later contracted AIDS.
posted by dhartung at 4:55 AM on January 25, 2001

Dan, thanks for that link. (I don't want to derail the discussion, but the Donaldson link is worth reading, if only for a look at a guy who seems to have just done too much living to really encompass. Sailor, gay rights activist, Quaker, Theravada Buddhist monk, Veerashaiva Shaivite Hindu, AP reporter, "respected writer and personality in the punk rock and anti- racist skinhead movements," political prisoner, rape crisis counselor, plaintiff in the ACLU v. Reno anti-CDA lawsuit, author and lecturer. And left a (female) "lifetime companion" and (male) "lover". Whew. I can hardly get to work on time in the morning.)
posted by rodii at 7:39 AM on January 25, 2001

I'm with Lagado (up there a bit) and Dhartung: it's stunning to me that so many are complacent about the idea that if one goes to prison, one is probably going to be sexually assaulted or raped. That this is regarded as nearly a given in our society simply leaves me reeling.

Yes, this is an astoundingly stupid judgment, and yes, the judge fucked it. But leaving it aside for a moment, shouldn't we all be pretty terrified about the overall state of our prisons? It's easy to believe that we're all far too clever to end up there, but sometimes, I remember all the casually stupid things I've done in my life, and then I wonder how easy it would be to do one of those casually stupid things when the wrong person (read: a cop) happened to be around. Too easy.
posted by Skot at 8:55 AM on January 25, 2001

That's why no more prisons for anyone, not just for scrawny white people.
posted by sudama at 9:38 AM on January 25, 2001

What in the world is going on here? Now people are going to indirectly think that in the prison system white men are in danger, don't put them there they might be raped. Let's keep building more prisons for those "other people". You know those people. Well guess what everyone is in danger in the prision system.

Talking about preferential treatment. What in the world is going on here?
posted by passionblack at 5:15 AM on January 26, 2001

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