“Crimes and Their Punishments: the Goose, the Gander and the Little Old Lady”

‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’                                George Orwell

 ‘ I have observed something else under the sun: the fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle.  The wise sometimes go hungry and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives’            Ecclesiastes 9:11 NLT

    Life is not equal, nor fair, but right should be right and wrong should be wrong and is shouldn’t matter whether it is a Federal wrong or a state wrong.  Right?

   Wrong.  Not all state crimes are federal crimes and vice versa, but where they are similar, the sentences meted out certainly are most assuredly not.

    As I stated in an earlier posting, I was robbed and beaten a couple of years ago and – in the ensuing court case against my assailant – was required to disclose my federal arrest for possession of child pornography to both the state’s attorney as well as the assailant’s attorney.

    At one point, the state’s attorney told me that had my charges been state charges instead of federal I would have never gotten a prison sentence – I would have been given probation.

   Unfortunately for me – and my family – it was a federal charge and probation is almost never an option.

    Take the case of our ‘Goose’.

   In a 24 May 2009 story found on www.signonsandiego.com, a federal judge sentenced a 68-year old Vietnam War hero to 37 months in a federal prison for possession of child pornography.  This was less than the prosecutor was asking and more than the probation his lawyers sought.

   The man was Wade Sanders and he was decorated with the Silver Star, Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and other Navy Commendations during his service in Vietnam.  He had much support throughout his ordeal including a character reference from Sen. John Kerry.

   A therapist who had been treating him testified he was not a danger to children, and several mental health experts who examined him concluded he was not a pedophile.

   When his seized computers were analyzed, they showed that he frequently viewed ALL kinds of pornography.

Now let’s ganger at the Gander. . .

   From a recent issue of “Prison Legal News” we learn that in California on 28 Jan 2011, former Riverside County Probation Officer Elizabeth Z. Nolan pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unlawful intercourse with a minor.

   As part of a plea agreement, 16 other counts – including oral copulation with an minor and rape by force or fear – were dropped.

   Nolan was accused of having sex with a juvenile offender over a period of several months; at the time her husband was a Riverside County Prosecutor.

    She was sentenced to ONE year in jail in February 2011.

  TO RECAP:

   Our Goose gets 3 years and 1 month for pictures, while the Gander gets 1 year for unlawful intercourse with a minor (and with 16 additional counts dropped).

   Hmmmm. . . . .

   It is not uncommon in the federal system for people convicted of crimes involving pictures to receive 6-10 -12-15 or more YEARS in federal prison. I’m not talking about those who profit from producing and distributing child pornography.

   I am not – in anyway, shape or form – excusing my behavior or anyone else’s who views this material, but we DO need to stop and put things in perspective.

   My own sentence was 51 months – one of the shorter sentences among the men with similar charges I have met here.  Almost 5 years.

   On June 17, 2010 in a Dutch court, five Somali men were convicted of attempting to highjack a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden in 2009.  “Piracy is a serious crime that must be powerfully resisted” said Judge Jan Willem Klein Wolterink.

   He sentenced each of them to 5 years in prison.

   It is not uncommon for people convicted on the state level of actual ‘hands-on’ crimes against children to receive lesser sentences than those meted out on the federal level for cases involving only pictures.  Nor it is unusual – with increased levels of “good time credit” on the state level and the possibility of parole, which the federal government abolished in 1984 – for someone who actually molests or otherwise harms a child to serve 1/3 or even 1/4 of the prison time as that of a federal inmate serving time for possession of pictures only.

   The same is also true in drug cases.  Federal laws are stricter, with more mandatory minimums than most states. Yet even the states take up more bed space – and money – incarcerating non-violent offenders when violent offenders are allowed to roam the streets.

   Most of the laws passed have been brought into existence with much fanfare on behalf of the legislator sponsoring the bill. This “tough on crime” stance can then be parlayed into votes come election time.

    Actually, if you want to fight crime, it is necessary to fight 2 of its main causes – poverty and lack of education – am putting more people in prison for greater periods of time accomplished neither while draining valuable resources that could be used for both.

   Is the American public any safer or are we just wasting money we don’t have?  Is the average man, woman, or child really at increased risk in this day and age or has the media just used the saturation and sensationalization of isolated cases as a means to capture its audience and foment fear?

   None of country’s prison policies make much sense, but those policies do make a lot of $$$$ !

   The truth is that so many billions of dollars are at stake here that it is all about profits and votes.

   There has been much written about the prison – industrial complex that has risen from almost nothing in 1980 to the behemoth it is today.

   Although what I am capable of doing here is no more than scratching the surface, I will put together some statistics for next time which may cause someone to delve further into the whole problem on their own.

   Perhaps it will be easier to understand how any talk of shrinking the prison systems raises the protective nature in people – not to protect you, but to protect their jobs, profits and stock portfolios.

   Interesting stuff, indeed.

   But wait!!

   What about the “little old lady”?

   According to USA Today, back in December 2009, a school bus stopped to discharge a 5-year old Karla Campos in Marietta, Georgia.  The child was struck and killed by a car driven by an elderly woman who – apparently – panicked when she saw the bus and little girl and plunged her foot down on the gas pedal thinking it was the brake.

   The purpose of the article in the USA Today was to announce that Edith Main Anderson, age 87, had been released from prison after serving 76 days of her 3-year sentence.

   What in the world are we doing?????

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