Tuesday, February 4, 2020 -
“The Lord performs righteous deeds ad judgments for all who are oppressed” (Psalm 103:6). Justice is a major theme in Scripture. We serve a God of justice! After all, He sent His only begotten Son to redeem you and me from the punishment for the worst of sin!
Yet, being in prison has helped me recognize that the injustice that I was faced with is not at all unusual. I’ve always hated injustices. But the nature of the justice system in this country seems to have morphed into something synonymous with injustice. Nearly everyone I speak to here in prison has their own story on injustice, as I’ve often described in this journal.
My current cellmate is a very typical example of sentencing injustice tied in with the plea bargain weapon the government wields to get the alleged criminal to do its job for them.
“MM” is a perfect example. He walked into my cell and my life back in October and has tried very hard to keep in my good graces in order to remain my cellmate. So far, so good, in that regard. “MM” has a seventeen year sentence, of which he’s served less than a year. He is 37 years old and was a college football player at a prominent Division II school with a full athletic scholarship when he got caught up in the money of selling drugs, even though he’d never used anything himself but marijuana. His family discovered watching the evening news that “MM” had been arrested, kicked off the football team, and was in jail. When he served his time, he found a good job and did well, but seven years later one of his former business colleagues called and asked what in the world he was doing working for $20 an hour when he could be getting wealthy. Before long, “MM” quit his job and began selling cocaine, marijuana, and meth.
Keep in mind, “MM” believes very much he deserves a prison sentence – neither he nor I dispute that. He justly deserves the full five year sentence the crime which he has committed calls for. Now “MM” is an intelligent guy. When he was arrested, he was asked to cooperate with federal authorities by supplying his complete contact list of suppliers and buyers. His reaction was natural, and he told them he was not going to do their job for them. They were able to track him down and get enough evidence to arrest him, so they could easily do that with the others. Besides, if he became a “snitch,” it could be dangerous to his survival, even though he’d never carried a gun or was violent himself.
Unbeknownst to “MM,” the government then added an enhancement of conspiracy to his charge because he had refused to “cooperate.” His court-appointed attorney never even warned him of such a consequence. And so, at his sentencing, he was instead sentenced to a very long seventeen years! His family wept very bitter tears. Keep in mind, that’s an additional 12 years in prison at a cost to the taxpayer of $50,000 per year, or $600,000 total – EXTRA! Where is the justice in that, either for “MM” or the taxpayer? Now, I could understand an additional year or two in prison and a very large fine for refusing to cooperate, but twelve additional years? What good is it going to do “MM,” his family, the public, or the taxpayers keeping him in prison for an additional twelve years? However, this is an everyday practice. It is no wonder there are so many people incarcerated in America!
Keep in mind, the federal authorities could easily hire a detective for a fraction of the cost of incarcerating him an extra 17 years, which could uncover the identity of all of “MM’s” contacts. Instead, they create hardcore criminals!
But that’s not the end of the injustice “MM’s” been meted with! Shortly after arriving at Ashland FCI, “MM” discovered, like me, he’d not be eligible to go to a camp, which is a lower security prison without fences. This is because they had tacked on an additional two-point enhancement. It took him weeks to find out why. It turns out the Department of Justice considers “MM” a violent offender, but it was a mystery to him why he was considered violent. After persisting, he finally found out why. It turns out when “MM” was arrested, he was going 75 miles an hour when the police gave chase. “MM” had just come into his home state and was travelling on the interstate highway, which had a speed limit of 70 miles an hour. Yet, the government and court deemed by going at such a high rate of speed (five miles over the speed limit), he was placing the pursuing officer’s life in danger. “MM” wasn’t even issued a speeding ticket or reprimand for driving over the speed limit. Where is the justice in that?
Yet these stories of injustice are very typical. And you, the taxpayer, are paying the price. Inmates are not being reformed (at least in the federal system). They are being taught little, if anything; provided little, if any, opportunity to better themselves; are considered by the authorities to be the scum of the earth, and minds and hearts thus become embittered unless the redeeming grace of God somehow miraculously enters the picture.
It is time to begin looking at criminals as redeemable human beings. It is time to begin considering other, better ways to utilize such vast amounts of taxpayer dollars than to lock people up for disproportionate or disparate sentencing. Instead, it is time to begin providing opportunities for redemption. It is time to get the church involved. It is time to begin treating inmates like human beings who actually may have potential to contribute in a positive way. Trust me, many if not most have the heart for it! It is time to remember they, too, have families. It is time to end the injustice of the plea bargain which forces any innocent person, like myself, into pleading guilty and cooperating (which would have kept me from coming to prison). Yet when the innocent person does go to trial, they often don’t get a fair trial.
Something is terribly wrong with this entire system, and I pray I can be an encouragement at some point to see that the injustice ends.