Posts Tagged ‘legal system’

Welcome to Louisiana, where a privatised prison system needs its legislators to keep passing ever more lunatic penalties, to keep feeding the prison system with fodder to lock up and look after – at huge expense to the taxpayers of the State, of course. And sadly, Louisiana is just one of the more obvious offenders in this regard – the disgrace is repeated across the united States.

 

Man facing life in prison after allegedly being caught stealing $31 of chocolate bars

New Orleans resident Jacobia Grimes faces the life sentence after being charged under the Louisiana state’s habitual-offender law, which considers past offences.

New Orleans resident Jacobia Grimes faces the life sentence after being charged under the Louisiana state’s habitual-offender law, which considers past offences. The law, which has been in place for three decades, means that Grimes could potentially go to prison for 20 years to life. He has already spent nine years in prison for previous minor theft convictions.

Now you might think he’s exceptionally stupid, but the fact is that Grimes is a “quad” offender under the habitual-offender law following five previous convictions. But does he deserve to spend the rest of his life in jail for being dumb? And just as importantly, do local taxpayers deserve to feed and house him for the rest of his natural days?

According to his lawyer, those five previous convictions totalled less than $500 for incidents at Rite-Aid, Sav-A-Center, Blockbuster Video and Rouses stores.

“I just think it points to the absurdity of the multiple billing statute. They’re spending their time to lock someone up for years over $31 worth of candy. It’s ridiculous,” attorney Miles Swanson said.

 

Jacobia-Grimes-allegedly-stole-from-a-Dollar-General-store-in-New-Orleans

 

In the most recent of the convictions, Swanson said Grimes accepted a four-year jail sentence as a double offender after being caught stealing a pair of socks and trousers from a Dollar General store. Whether that sentence makes any sense either bears debating.

Swanson believes Grimes could have been charged with a state misdemeanor under a different statute, but now could potentially add to the nine years he has already spent in prison.

“It’s unconscionably excessive to threaten someone with 20 years to life for candy,” said Grimes’s other attorney Michael Kennedy.

“[But] the District Attorney is following the law as it’s written. The DA certainly had a choice. I may not agree with the choice they made, but they didn’t do anything improper.”

Louisiana has been titled the ‘world’s prison capital’ in an expose that found the US state imprisons more citizens than any other state and holds an incarceration state “nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s.”

“The hidden engine behind the state’s well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash,” the Times-Picayune reported way back in 2012. Little appears to have changed.

“A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt.”

Judge Franz Zibilich

Judge Franz Zibilich

“Isn’t this a little over the top?” he said. “It’s not even funny – twenty years to life for a Snickers bar, or two or three or four.”

Let’s remember, this is a man’s life we’re dealing with here. He is not a number. He’s a person. He might be a dumb person, a poorly educated person, a foolish, feckless, stupid person, but he’s a person.

Does anyone really believe he wouldn’t be better diverted into community service/supervision, rather than locked up for 20-to-life?

Governor Edwards

Governor Edwards

The profit motive is NOT a basis for a just or workable penal system. People need to make that clear to their legislators. On February 21, 2013, current Democratic Party Governor John Bel Edwards (the only Democrat holding such office in the ‘Deep South’) announced his Gubantorial run. He said at the time that his state needs “a healthy dose of common sense and compassion for ordinary people”.

Quite. And the state’s legal system would seem to be an excellent place to start.

And let us all remember the research from all over the world that what recidivist petty thieves need is a job, active re-direction from situations (such as substance abuse) which will steer them off track, to build a sense of self esteem, to discover a purpose, and to learn personal responsibility. It’s messy, it’s not neat, it doesn’t provide the State with any sense of revenge, but it’s cheaper than incarceration, it works, and it returns value to the community.

Prison provides none of those things.

Troy Davis & his family

Troy Davis and his family in a picture taken before the prison cut off “contact visits.”

Two days ago – incredibly, really, as it seems like just yesterday – it was two years since The State of Georgia, and America, put an innocent man to death.

Two years that Troy Davis and his family have had robbed from them. Two years of mourning.

Two years since the largest ever worldwide campaign for an innocent man to be freed when his conviction was obviously flawed was completely ignored by the parole institutions in Georgia, the Georgia Governor, the Supreme Court of the USA, and ultimately, President Obama. Two years when the State of Georgia knew better than a former head of the FBI, former president Jimmy Carter, 35 members of Congress, and even the Pope.

Not to mention petitions with literally millions of signatures on them.

That’s how obdurate the desire to kill an innocent man was.

Two years in which the anger has not dimmed.

In Troy’s memory – if you signed a petition, if you stood with a placard, if you wrote letters or emails, if you called your representative, if you commented on Facebook, if you stood vigil, if you cried – now you can continue your personal witness and purchase I Am Troy Davis, published this week and written by Jen Marlowe and Troy’s sister, Martina Correia-Davis, who died of breast cancer soon after her brother was killed.

It’s the story of Troy, his remarkable family, and the on-going struggle to end the death penalty.

Can’t say it better than Susan Sarandon: “I Am Troy Davis is a painful yet very important book” — unless it’s Maya Angelou: “Here is a shout for human rights and for the abolition of the death penalty. This book, I Am Troy Davis,should be read and cherished.”

The book tells the intimate story of an ordinary man caught up in an inexorable tragedy. From his childhood in racially-charged Savannah; to the confused events that led to the 1989 shooting of a police officer; to Davis’ sudden arrest, conviction, and two-decade fight to prove his innocence; I Am Troy Davis takes us inside a broken legal system where life and death hangs in the balance. It is also an inspiring testament to the unbreakable bond of family, to the resilience of love, and that even when you reach the end of justice, voices from across the world will rise together in chorus and proclaim, “I am Troy Davis”, I stand with you.

eve

“This book will devastate you …” Eve Ensler

If you make your purchase through the non-profit publisher, Haymarket Books, it’ll cost you just $18 to commemorate one man’s courageous yet ultimately tragic fight for justice.

And, by doing so, to make your personal stand against a justice system which is laughingly labyrinthine and slow, where process regularly overpowers any consideration of issues of right or wrong, where the application of the death penalty is obviously biased heavily against racial minorities, and which regularly has executed, and still does execute, innocent people.

A place, in other words, where “And justice for all” is clearly a sick joke. If that’s not what you want America to be, then buy the book. Buy it for friends. Buy it and donate it to your local library, or school. Buy it.

I am still Troy Davis.