A friend of mine, we’ll call her “M”, is in law school. I think she’ll be a great lawyer. She’s smart, likes to debate, and is quite tenacious. Every once in a while she’ll toss out a topic and see what I’ll do. I think she likes getting a rise out of me. I dont’ really like to have too many political discussions with her though. Not because I don’t like to debate but because she lives in L.A. and we generally converse via Google Talk. I loathe talking on the phone and the distance factor prohibits face to face communications. So unless it involves typing, we ain’t really doing it.
Today we were chatting about her most recent forray into the dating scene, or as we like to call it, Chattle Hunt ’07. She brings up some of the cases she’s studying dealing with evidence gathering and tells me that she just can’t be “a liberal” when it comes to the law. I tell her a few times that I can’t discuss the “Justice” system with her right now. It’s just too big. What I want to discuss is not the evidentiary rules but the laws themselves and the societal issues that are underlying. We have to look at power relations. We have to look at who is making millions of dollars from the privatization of prisons.
Just like the “Military-Industrial Complex,” there’s a “Penal System-Industrial Complex.” Those involved in these groups use fear to push their agendas – just like the Executive Branch of our federal government has used fear to advance it’s military agenda. Be afraid of Middle Eastern Terrorists, Iran, North Korea, Palestinians, Fidel Castro, Poor People of Color, you know, all those people who want to take away our happy, middle class, existance. Or at least our perceived happy middle class existance, because that really doesn’t exist for very many people anymore. But that’s another rant.
Back to the original discussion. One need only look at the difference in prosecutions and sentences between white collar and no collar crimes. Here are two very quick and obvious examples: drugs and theft.
1. Drugs. Just look at the minimum mandatory sentences (as well as the number of prosecutions) for crack and coke. Ask yourself 2 questions: Who uses crack? Who uses coke? Now, what images did you get in your head?
2. Theft. Ok, so when someone breaks into your house and steals everything you’ve got, they’ll go to prison for awhile. Maybe a few years. How much do you think you’d be out monitarily? If you’re lucky enough to have insurance, you’ll probably get some money to help you buy some new stuff. So how many people have been affected directly by the theft of your stuff? Most likely, just you and your immediate family or those other folks living in your house. But what happens when someone or a group of someones cook the books, embezzle millions of dollars from the company and/or stock holders what happens? One or all may or may not be prosecuted. And if they are prosecuted and convicted, they’re not getting the same type of sentence in an ass-pounding prison as the theif mentioned earlier. And let’s look at who is affected. Well, in a case like Enron, all the workers and retirees lost the financial security they had worked for many years for. In many cases, families lost everything they had. Don’t forget about the town that relied on the income derived from the business.
Ok, my ranting mode has run down and I’ve been distracted by one of the evil corporate mid-level executives who take great joy in belittling other people in public forums. I’ve lost my train of thought but you get the idea…