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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: Priorities

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Priorities

Isn’t it disturbing how our criminal justice system can’t seem to find enough room for the most offensive of all criminals but somehow can manage to find room for non-violent drug offenders and other’s arrested for consensual crimes? I know that as long as we decide as a country that we want to continue to fight this losing war on drugs, legalization or even decriminalization will never happen. Though this deeply disturbs me, I understand that. What I cannot understand is where our priorities lie regarding crime.

There has been story, after story, after story, about how convicted pedophiles and rapists who were released re-offended shortly after re-entering society. The majority opinion of psychologists seems to be that pedophiles cannot be rehabilitated from their sickening fetishes. So why do we continue to release these animals back into society? Where are the mandatory minimum sentences for these creeps?

Instead the criminal justice system is satisfied with the idea of registering convicted sex offenders and putting their information on the internet. ‘There’s just no room to house them’ they say. We put signs on their yards or give them pink license plates. Yeah, I feel so much safer letting my kids play outside and go to school. I can spend all my time checking the internet to see if any of these pieces of human debris are in my neighborhood and keep them away from cars with pink plates. As offensive as that is, the ACLU steps in and says the pedophile’s civil rights are being violated. What about my kids’ rights?

I have a better idea: why not move the consensual criminals (i.e. druggies, prostitutes, gamblers etc.) to the end of the court’s docket and put the pedophiles, rapists and murderers in the very front? If we do not have enough space in the prison why not let some of the consensual criminals out and allow the worst of our society to take their place? Seems like a practical solution to me.

You tell me who deserves to do time more. Here are three actual criminal cases. The first one is the story of two young brothers who got caught in the web that is the war on drugs. The second case involves a pedophile who has been sentenced to five years in prison, and the third case deals with a rapist who re-offended after being paroled twice.

Case #1 Lamont H. Garrison
Offense: powder cocaine and crack cocaine conspiracy
Priors: None
Sentence: 19 years

Lawrence B. Garrison
Offense: powder cocaine and crack cocaine conspiracy
Priors: None
Sentence: 15 years


Tito Abea, the proprietor of an autobody shop in Maryland, was arrested as a major player in a large, 20-person powder and crack cocaine operation. In order to get a reduction from the hefty prison term he was facing, Abea was asked to implicate others in the conspiracy. Two of the people he implicated were twin brothers Lawrence and Lamont Garrison. Abea testified that he supplied the Garrisons with 1-2 kilos of cocaine every week for 10 weeks in 1996, and then again in 1997. Soon, other conspirators were following Abea's lead and testifying that they had seen some of these transactions take place...

According to Lawrence and Lamont, their contact with Abea had to do with his business; they were having extensive work done on their grandmother's car and the mechanic's phone wasn't working, so they would call Abea's adjacent autobody shop, and he would hand the phone to the mechanic. The twins' mother and uncle both say this is true since they, too, often called and inquired about the car...

There were no drugs, drug paraphernalia, or other evidence of drugs found on the Garrisons or in their house. There was never any record at all of them selling drugs, other than testimonies from the known and now-convicted drug dealers in the conspiracy. And there was no proof that like the other defendants, Lawrence or Lamont "derived money and other benefits" from two years of drug-dealing.

(Source: Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Click here to read the rest of the story)



Case #2 James Fredrick Shouldis Sr.
Offense: 1 count of sexual abuse
Priors: Not reported
Sentence: 5 years


A Loxley man was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for sexually abusing a 7-year-old girl but will remain free while he appeals his conviction. Prosecutors alleged that James Fredrick Shouldis Sr., 57, touched the girl -- whom he knew -- in a sexual manner on at least two occasions in 2001. On March 3 of this year, a jury convicted him on one count of sexual abuse…

At trial, prosecutors played a phone conversation Shouldis had with the girl's mother. Baldwin County sheriff's deputies recorded and listened to the conversation...

Shouldis never admitted to the sexual abuse in the phone conversation, but did say he was "sorry," and "it was stupid," according to Tanya Hallford Roseony, a special prosecutor with the Baldwin County District Attorney's Office.

At least nine times during the call, however, Shouldis told the girl's mother, "It will never happen again," Roseony said.

(Source: Mobile Register. “Man gets 5 years for sex abuse”. Click here to read the rest of the story)

Case #3 Larry Sharp
Offense: Allegedly sexually assaulted an elderly woman 2005
Priors: Rape 1987 paroled in 1991, discharged from parole in 1994 Aggravated battery with a weapon 1999; 5 year sentence paroled in 2001 and discharged from parole in 2002
Sentence: Under investigation

Convicted rapist Larry Sharp recently went on the prowl again, authorities say.

The first time, his victim was six months pregnant. This time, his target was a 77-year-old woman he lived alongside at a south suburban nursing home, prosecutors say.

Sharp, 54, allegedly groped the elderly woman in her room on two occasions early Monday at Mercy Health Care Rehab Center in Homewood.

Around 4 a.m., he closed her door and started to grab her in "the crotch
area," an arrest report states. She started yelling, and he left.

Only after Sharp was in custody did nursing home staff learn he had served time for rape and, later, aggravated battery…

Sharp isn't on the online registry because his conviction came in 1987, well before the state required sex offenders to report their home addresses to police.

In late 1986, he lured the pregnant woman into the basement of her Chicago apartment building by turning off fuses in her unit, said Tom Stanton, a spokesman for Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine.

"He approached her from behind with a two-by-four, threatened her life and the life of her unborn child, and then sexually assaulted her," Stanton said.

(Source: Chicago Sun Times. “Convicted rapist held in sex assault”. Click here to read the rest of the story)



Who should we make room for?
These are three examples I found on the web. In all three of these examples, justice was not done. Lamont Garrison’s prison sentence is nearly 5 times longer than that of Larry Sharp, the convicted rapist. Lamont’s brother, Lawrence is doing 3 times more time than the convicted child molester, James Shouldis. Let’s not forget, the child who Shouldis molested was only 7 years old!

Those of you who read my blog who believe we should continue to fight this losing war on drugs effectively allowing rapists and child molesters to walk our streets, I want to hear from you. Before you respond, please read my post Anyone Who Believes America is Winning the War on Drugs Must be High so you can further understand my reasoning behind my admittedly radical position. The debate of the war on drugs aside, isn’t it time we took another look at our criminal justice priorities?

Related Post:
Tracking Bracelet Not the Same as Jail Cell by T.F. Stern

10 Comments:

Blogger T. F. Stern said...

Stephen,

To begin with, thanks for the link and your comment. You have no idea of the word frustration. Often times while working as a cop I would find that before I had completed my reports that the dirt bag I had put in jail had already posted and was back on the street.
That is not why I decided to post a comment.

I am in favor of the tent city prison currently being used effectively in Arizona. I wrote a blog about it some time back.

http://tfsternsrantings.blogspot.com/2005/03/supply-is-not-endless.html

In my humble opinion such an inexpensive prison idea could be and should be implemented across all the states. This would provide virtually a limitless supply of openings for all prisoners, violent, sexual depraved, drug related, blue collar criminals, white collar and leave room for a politician or two. The idea that housing inmates outdoors under a simple tent with only a cot and a bed roll would be harsh, unpleasant and beyond reasonable punishment is absurd.

To begin with, nothing I mentioned should be considered as “additional punishment”; only as an economic and reasonable solution to not having money to waste building premium facilities as are now the rule. Our military personnel have not been told that their living quarters in the field are “punishment” for being in the military; it falls under the category of available and reasonable. Why should convicted criminals or those to dangerous to be let wander around on their own be above what is provided for our military personnel? The answer is, there is no reason.

Start a movement to shut off the payroll for the board of pardons and paroles. That is correct; put them on the street instead of the prisoners. There are plenty of places that are owned and operated by the counties and states that could be easily converted into tent city prisons with a minimum of expenditures. Get the “How to build and run a tent city prison for Dummies” book from Sheriff Joe down in Arizona and distribute it to every Governor, every State Senator, every State Representative and while your at it, include every County Commissioner, every County Sheriff and so on down the list until it is made clear to the criminal element that going to jail and then prison will not be a vacation with all the luxuries thrown in at tax payer expense. This would not be cruel and unusual punishment and don’t think for a moment that such a case has not been placed before the courts down in Arizona. Each and every aspect of the tent city jail has been put under a magnifying glass by some of the best lawyers around and it still manages to work. That is the answer to the challenge you have tossed out for any and all to comment on.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Stephen Littau said...

T.F. :

I think you have some creative ideas on this topic but I think you missed the point of my question. The main question I have is why is the sentencing more harsh for non-violent drug offenders (emphasis on non-violent) than for sex offenders and other violent criminals? I gave 3 examples of this injustice and I am sure there are thousands more cases just like these.

As to my thoughts on Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his programs? I live in Maricopa County; I am very familiar with the sheriff and his programs. I like his reforms such as the tent city, the green bologna sandwiches, depriving inmates of porn and cable television and the chain gangs. I think most of what he does is more window dressing than anything though.

Most of what Sheriff Arpaio does is for political reasons in my opinion. Every time he is up for reelection, he easily wins. I’m clearly in the minority here but I never have and I never will vote for Sheriff Joe as long as I live in Maricopa County. Here are a few reasons why:

#1 He’s a media whore. His ego is bigger than the State of Arizona. Hardly a week goes by that he doesn’t manage to stir up some controversy to get his face in the paper and on the local news. Maybe this is a bad reason not to like him but I am very turned off by politicians of his arrogance.

#2 His harsh treatment in the jails not only extends to those who have been proven guilty in a court of law but also to inmates who have yet to go to trial.

#3 His attitude that he is always right. His critics don’t deserve to even be acknowledged his attitude seems to be. Here are a few examples. Last year he had this big sting operation to arrest hundreds of prostitutes. Aside from the fact that this is a tremendous waste of police resources, some of the sheriff’s deputies were caught on camera engaging in the very illegal sex acts with the prostitutes that would be illegal for anyone else. The rationale for these deputies was that if they did not engage in at least some of the lewd acts, the deputies would be unable to convince the prostitutes that they were Johns rather than undercover police officers. The prostitutes had ways of determining if their clients were cops or not, such as the willingness of the client to drop his pants.

As a result of these deputies irresponsible behavior, County Attorney Rick Romley had no choice but to throw out many of these cases. Romley correctly understood that these charges would not stand up in court. This of course made the sheriff very angry. How dare the county attorney not press charges against these criminals? The fact that his deputies compromised the operation was lost on Arpaio.

Another example of this attitude happened during the primaries of the 2004 election. His opponent showed up to debate him on the local public television station. Did the good sheriff appear with persuasive reasons why he should be reelected? No. Instead of participating in the debate he sent the station a letter. The letter said something to the effect that ‘everything my opponent is saying about me are all lies and I refuse to debate him.’ How dare anyone campaign against him?

Finally, perhaps the worst example of this attitude happened recently. Sgt. Patrick Haab (reservist) made a lawful citizen's arrest along the Arizona-Mexico border. Haab said he held the illegal aliens at gunpoint because he was in fear of his life and the lives of others. Haab is registered in the State of Arizona to carry a handgun. As he walked his dog, several illegal immigrants charged towards him. Once his dog got between him and his attackers, the illegal immigrants ran off. Haab followed them to their vehicle, held them at gunpoint, and called the authorities. When the sheriff’s deputies arrived, they arrested not only the illegal immigrants but Haab as well.

When critics, including the newly elected County Attorney Andrew Thomas disagreed with how Sheriff Arpaio’s deputies handled the situation, the good sheriff again refused to entertain the notion that one of his guys could be wrong. The county attorney determined that Haab did nothing illegal in this situation. If the sheriff had his way, Haab would be serving up to 20 years.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is not capable of owning up to his mistakes. Not a good attribute for someone running the Sheriff’s Department.

For all of his reforms, has crime actually gone down? I don’t think so. Maricopa County leads the country in auto thefts and identity theft. There are possibly more meth labs here than there are schools. The tent city doesn’t seem to serve as a deterrent to those who want to break the law.

8:43 AM  
Blogger T. F. Stern said...

Stephen,

I had a feeling that Sheriff Joe was a media hog from the way he presented himself. I couldn’t handle Rush Limbaugh for the same reason at first. His ego is so “out there” as to get in the way of his message for a lot of people. I still think his tent city jail should be implemented coast to coast, the other issues you have about his treatment of folks in his care and custody I am not qualified to comment on; call it professional courtesy or a lack of information, in either case I refrain from publicly criticizing specific incidents involving other law enforcement officers and how they should or should not have carried out their duties. As far as the tent city jail being a greater of lesser deterrent to crime, that would be irrelevant as long as the cost per prisoner was reduced to reasonable and the spaces for ALL prisoners remained flexible enough to support doing away with the board of pardons and parole as it has been used to facilitate a revolving door policy.

While on this same basic thought pattern, I often am asked to comment regarding high profile court cases and I have tried to be consistent on that as well. The justice system is about as interesting a topic as any, then to make off hand remarks about a case without having been privileged to the entire trial presentation; in other words, to make a snap decision based solely on information gained via the network coverage and partial information does a disservice to every aspect of the proceedings. I can “feel” disgust or any number of vile emotions toward a defendant based on “probability” of guilt; however I have to wait for a rendered verdict before publicly voicing it.

I wish that more people respected the “presumed innocent” aspect of our justice system, especially the news media. In recent years, say the last 15 or so, I have often commented that the news media has “tried and convicted” various suspects so emphatically that they might as well gotten a rope and lynched them during the commercial break. I call it trial by media and have even been asked to respond to polls on line that request how I would vote, guilty or not guilty, based on the information I had seen; this before the suspect had gone to trial.

Now, I suppose I should address your concerns about fair or unfair sentences being handed out for violent or non-violent crimes. I would have to sit in the same boat with you on this one. I have never figured out how logic, or maybe better stated, a lack of logic has been applied to sentencing. I have never been picked to sit on a criminal jury. I joke that maybe it’s because I keep pulling the rope starter on my chain saw. All kidding aside, I was in a jury pool that was about to be picked in an aggravated sexual assault of a juvenile. A 6 year old girl had been raped at gun point; at least that was the information in the indictment. During the process of qualifying potential jurors we were told that in the event of a finding of guilty that the range of punishment would include anything from probation to life in prison. The question asked to all of us was, “Would anyone of you have a problem with this particular range of sentencing?”

My hand raised until the prosecutor asked for my reason. I told him that under no circumstance that I could consider probation in the event the suspect was found guilty as charged. He then read me the law as it applies here in Texas and reminded me that I was a retired police officer who had sworn to uphold the laws without questioning them. I had to explain that as a police officer my job was to bring suspects to justice and that at that point a different system was put into play. I also had to explain that, in my opinion, anyone who could consider probation after having found a suspect guilty of aggravated rape of a juvenile at gun point should be put in jail also. I said this in open court and the judge had to stop the proceedings because everyone, and I mean everyone in the courtroom raised their hand and began to agree with what I had said, out of order and without having been asked by an officer of the court. They had to dismiss the entire panel of potential jurors and start all over. Had I been less than honest about my opinion regarding the law as it is written, I could have sat through the trial, found the jerk guilty and jumped down his throat during the sentencing phase; except that would have violated my own sense of integrity.

I cannot for the life of me understand the plea bargaining agreements that I read about on some high profile cases involving death and destruction while at the same time exorbitant punishment is often handed down for cases involving no threat of violence. I do not see rhyme or reason in sentencing and that is perplexing to my sense of justice.

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Case #1-Garrison brothers get 15 and 19 years. If this report is correct, why did they get so much time and Tito Abea got freedom? It seems out of character for Mr. Abea. He is now a respectable member of Nicaragua society, runs a lawfirm, is the President of the Granada Jockey Club and even owns a very expensive/exclusive night club in Granada Nicaragua; You can confirm my statement by reviewing the owner info for Extasis Night Club:

http://www.lapachanganica.com/entretenimiento.php

Where can I get more information on this case?

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous: You are utilizing the internet yet you don't know how to gain information on the Garrison twin case? Try this simple step, google Garrison twins & you get 289,000 results.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/148/garrisontwins.shtml

http://www.sentencingproject.org/FeatureDetails.aspx?FeatureID=69

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