Imagine you’re a young white guy facing capital murder charges where you can receive the death penalty… the victim in the case is a black man… when you go to trial and step into the courtroom… the judge is a black man… the two State prosecutors seeking the death penalty on you… are also black men… you couldn’t afford an attorney, so the Judge appointed you two defense lawyers who are also black men… you look in the jury box… there’s 8 more black people and 4 hispanics… the only white person in the courtroom is you… How would you feel facing the death penalty? Do you believe you’ll receive justice?
As outside of the box as that scene is, those were the exact circumstances of my trial. I was the only black person in the courtroom."
— Ray Jasper, Texas death row inmate who will be executed this month.
— Andrea Raethka, on Governor Cuomo’s recent push to reintroduce prison college education programs in New York State. The proposal is meeting predictable resistance from people who are mad that prison inmates could get “something for nothing,” or are being “rewarded” for their crimes with a free college education. In other words, they would rather pay higher taxes and live with higher crime rates than tolerate even one prisoner getting a “free” college education, providing an excellent example of what cutting off your nose to spite your face looks like.
— United States v. Bailey, 444 U.S. 394, 420–22 (1980) (Blackmun, J., dissenting).
Another example of the complicated face of humanity:
Fellow inmate Windy Panzo blew the lid off of the alleged murder-for-hire plot, and has since been moved from the general population at the Estrella Jail into protective custody because of death threats.
But this mother of three children said she’d do it all again to save a child’s life.
"I’m not a snitch," Panzo said. "A snitch is somebody who snitches somebody out to get them in trouble - not to save a life."
According to a Phoenix police report, Panzo likely saved four lives.
In December 2013, Beanes, who was already in jail on 41 charges including first-degree murder, struck up a friendship with Panzo.
"She was joking around, talking about how it would be so much easier if she could get people out of the way," Panzo said.
She quickly realized Beanes wasn’t kidding.
Panzo said Beanes was looking to have four witnesses, including a 9-year-old boy, killed.
So Panzo told Beanes she could help her, and then alerted jail officials.
"If I can save one little boy and these people - I would put my life on the line for that little boy and these people. Who wouldn’t?" Panzo said.
On Jan. 10, an undercover Phoenix police officer – posing as a hit man who knew Panzo – visited Beanes in jail.
"That little boy would not be standing here," Panzo said about what could have happened had she not spoken up. "And, one day, I hope to get a hug from him because that would be an honor. It’s altered my life greatly from doing it. But, I cannot be ashamed. I cannot be ashamed of what I’m doing."
CBS 5 News spoke with the sergeant with whom Panzo confided.
He confirmed she has not asked for any special treatment, or a reduction in her sentence stemming from drug and weapons charges, for coming forward with the life-saving information.
Inmates and convicts are all too often tarred with a negative stigma. People “on the outside” pre-judge individuals with a criminal record on the basis that they must be completely evil, anti-social people based on the fact that they’ve been convicted of something.
But no one is the sum of the worst thing they’ve ever done. People don’t magically lose all sense of right and wrong just because they broke the law. Criminals don’t commit crimes. People commit crimes. The failure to distinguish between the two is part of the reason why prisons have become, to use Chris Glazek’s phrase, “an ideological system that dehumanizes an entire class of human being and permits nearly infinite violence against it.” With predictable results.
From the article:
After interviewing dozens of women and reading 233 letters of complaint submitted by the women, the Justice Department found that the prison staff [at Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison] regularly rapes, sodomizes and fondles the women. When women shower, the guards are watching; when women return from a day out at a technical training school, the guards require strip and cavity searches upon their return. Explicit sexual verbal abuse is directed at the women unceasingly.
The Justice Department’s 36-page letter declared that if the state does not take immediate action to address its failure to protect the women at Tutwiler, the Attorney General would pursue legal recourse.
The Department of Justice has found conditions at Tutwiler unconstitutional before — 18 years ago. Though the investigation at that time scrutinized the poor provisions of medical and healthcare, it also discovered prison guards rewarding inmates who had sex with them with food, cosmetics and money. The Alabama Department of Corrections did nothing to rectify the conditions.
Nor did it do anything in 2007, when the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that women in Tutwiler experience the highest rate of sexual assaults in the nation. Following the state’s apathetic response to the findings, the rate of assault accelerated, as BJS’s statistics updated in 2013 reveal.
A federally funded survey of an innovative Brooklyn-based community court set to be released Tuesday has found that it reduced costs, decreased the number of defendants sent to jail and also drove a drop in crime.
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