Damn, America sucks sometimes

Here’s the headline:

Ten Years in Prison for 17-Year-Old Who Had Consensual Oral Sex with 15-Year-Old

The blogger rightly finds this sentence too harsh. What an understatement. It’s frikkin’ insane. Isn’t it time to end all mandatory sentences? Isn’t it time to stop the insanity? We recently had an impassioned thread on the inanities of China’s laws. Looking at this story, I can only say we sacrifice the right to lecture all others when we allow such obscene perversions of justice to take place in America. This is just plain wrong and everyone with a minimal amount of grey matter knows it. Not just wrong, but wicked. Can you imagine, a 17-year-old sentenced to a decade in jail for…for…for nothing. Yeah, he shouldn’t have done it, but he’s still a fucking kid who committed an all but victimless crime with no malice or intent to hurt anybody. What’s wrong with us? What’s wrong with us? Ten years. A life ruined, and for what? God bless America.

Update: And if you have any doubt as to whether this is justice perverted or not, this blogger lays it out clearly. So clearly, you can cry with frustration.

Update 2: I’m having an interesting debate with another blogger about this. Needless to say, I am completely right.

Update 3: Here’s the young man’s website: http://www.wilsonappeal.com/index.php; here’s his online petition.

The Discussion: 67 Comments

You think that’s bad? Try going up against any “celebrity” in Hong Kong! The courts there are staffed with starry eyed worshippers of crappy HK movie stars and Cantopop noisemakers!!

See the recent spate of verdicts against commoners vs. HK “stars”…

December 19, 2006 @ 6:09 am | Comment

It’s absurd. They’re both kids. And of course, along with mandatory minimum sentencing, the kid gets labeled a “sex offender” to boot.

December 19, 2006 @ 6:44 am | Comment

>>I can only say we sacrifice the right to lecture all others when we allow such obscene perversions of justice to take place in America.

I don’t mean to cavil, but when you write, “we,” do you mean Americans in general or the US government? And is the corollary to this that Chinese citizens, simply by being citizens of a country that is home to every sort of judicial atrocity, have no right to “lecture” others or to criticize other legal systems or to comment on specific legal cases around the world? I don’t get that argument. I don’t think any individual (or, yes, even any government) loses the right to criticize anything simply because of a specific case in (or even the entire legal system) in their home country. This is the logic[al fallacy] that the CCP uses every single day (ad hominem tu quoque).

If this were the case, no individual or government could comment on anything anywhere since travesties of justice occur in every system everywhere on the planet.

That is the logical aspect of that argument —
then you have the question of credibility or “moral authority.” Unfortunately, the latter matters much more than logic to most people, and I do get your argument in that sense.

I just thought I’d point out how CCPish your statement sounded, for what it’s worth.

December 19, 2006 @ 8:18 am | Comment

Thanks for the comment, 88. I think you took me a bit too literally. You don’t “get the argument” because I never made that argument, you did. I was just trying to say we have a lot of internal housekeeping to do. Obviously I don’t literally mean we should stop ciriticizing injustices. If so, I’d have to close down my blog, and what a sad blow that would be to civilized man.

December 19, 2006 @ 8:31 am | Comment

Without knowing anything else about this case, I’d have to go with Richard’s “frikkin’ insane”.

For underage consensual oral sex this kid is going to prison much longer than Andrew Fastow (who got only six years). What does that say about American values?

I think Americans could learn a few lessons about human sexuality from Chinese and other Asian societies. Just maybe two kids fooling around like any young mammals does not merit ten years of imprisonment.

December 19, 2006 @ 12:02 pm | Comment

Slim, check out the links I added in the updates, and the comments (to the Riehl World post). There is no question, this is a gross and grotesque miscarriage of justice.

December 19, 2006 @ 12:04 pm | Comment

Ha! Ha! Ha! What’s so strange about this “justice”? Of course, the boy was given ten years in prison for having sex with a 15-yrs. old girl – the boy is black!

Two years ago, a similar case involving a young black having sex with a 15 yrs. old girl also ended in being sentenced to ten years in prison.

Nothing out of the ordinary for American “justice.”

Everyone know that the laws in the US do not apply equally to all races. In the same state of Georgia the following “justice” took place:

“Jack Stewart, a [white] 24-year-old volunteer coach at Heirway Christian Academy in Douglas County, who received 30 days in jail and 10 years probation for fondling the 15-year-old daughter of a couple whose house he was living at temporarily.

In the case of 26-year-old [white] George Tsimpides, First Offender status was extended in a sex crime. Tsimpides received 20 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to luring a 15-year-old girl he?d met on the Internet to Arbor Place Mall with the intention of engaging in sex with her. ”

http://www.atlantamagazine.com/article.php?id=158

America is always whining about Chinese having no “human rights” yet how do they explain the fact that the majority of American prisons are filled with blacks and Hispanics? How do they explain the majority of the poor in America are blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans?

There is nothing unusual about this boy getting ten years in prison for having sex with a 15 yrs. old girl. This is American law and justice.

It’s American arrogance and hypocrisy that Chinese detest. Let America clean up its own racist human rights problems before it comes to China giving orders.

December 19, 2006 @ 12:36 pm | Comment

Mingtian, I am willing to consider your argument, but you have to tell me: how do you know the boy is black? And I am no apologist for racism in America. If what you say is true, it will only make me more furious.

December 19, 2006 @ 12:38 pm | Comment

Mingtian,

Once again you miss the point. ALL human rights abuses are bad and should be critisized. Abuse of human beings in one country does not mean that we stop critisizing abuse in another.

While you make an good point about the racial composition of American prisons (at least until you get to “American Indians” anyway) the rest of your comment, and most of your comments, display a profound ignorance of America that any American (black, hispanic or white) can easily identify.

As usual, you are being inflammatory and I doubt you are interested in real debate. I think you’re mostly intersted in spouting CCP propaganda.

December 19, 2006 @ 12:51 pm | Comment

Ah, the boy is black. That ony makes the story more abhorrent.

December 19, 2006 @ 1:04 pm | Comment

And I agree fully with Buddah. As your previous comments indicated, Mingtian, you are only here to stir things up and make trouble. No?

December 19, 2006 @ 1:06 pm | Comment

Richard —

Your title sucks.

I agree that this sentence royally sucks (no pun intended), but one bad sentence does not a country make. America’s legal system is excellent, but like any system created by man, it has its flaws, which were exposed in this case. Indict the law. Indict the sentence, but lay off the country. I would be saying the same thing if your post said “China sucks sometimes.” But of course then your infantile buddy, Ivan, would lable me a CCP apologist.

So of course America sucks sometimes, but can you name a country that doesn’t? Stay focused.

December 19, 2006 @ 3:47 pm | Comment

” Mingtian, you are only here to stir things up and make trouble.”

Interesting.

I point out an obvious contradiction in the so-called “human rights” in America’s racial policy and that makes me a trouble maker.

Ha! Amazing.

Chinese who read this blog, see everyday insults, slanders, distortions, etc. about every aspect of Chinese society. From China’s political and economic system and its leaders, to the the social and hygienic behavior of the Chinese people, we are constantly held up to ridicule.

Some bloggers seem to forget that there was a time in US history when Americans were not so soap-and-water friendly.

I encourage all my colleagues and friends to read this blog to learn how the Americans use their language to attack China. It’s very interesting to learn how Americans see China.

When I studied in the US, I saw many contradictions in US society. But I also saw many positive things. I learned many things in your universities especially the history of US development.

I learned that California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona were once part of Mexico. Yet no one in the US would support the idea of this area being returned to Mexico.

However, there are people in the US who believe that Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan should have independence even though they have been part of China longer than the US has been a country.

I learned that in the early days of US industrialization, the American people had the very bad social habit of spitting chewing tobacco juice on the floor if no spittoon was available. Yet, many people make a constant complaint about Chinese spitting. One day, just like in America, this bad habit will end.

The corruption during the period of the “robber barons” was no different than that of all industrial countries in their early stages. China is dealing with this problem.

China is a developing country. It has a population equal to one US, one Europe, one Russia, and a Mexico thrown in.

Of course, China will make mistakes. What China is trying to do has never been attempted on this scale in history.

My criticisms are directed at the unfair attacks and biased comments made by people who have a very poor knowledge of China’s history and even their own. If that makes me a “trouble maker,” well so be it.

December 19, 2006 @ 5:58 pm | Comment

I fail to see how the race of the defendant makes this sentence any more or less ridiculous. How would the race of the sentencing judge factor into this? Or are you all just assuming the judge is white?

The Volokh.com site has an interesting discussion on this case. Including the info that the law was changed but was not made retroactive.

This is the folly of mandatory sentencing laws. It completely eliminates the application of simple common sense.

December 19, 2006 @ 7:02 pm | Comment

I don’t have a lot of time for this but let’s try:

“I point out an obvious contradiction in the so-called “human rights” in America’s racial policy and that makes me a trouble maker. ”

No. What makes you a trouble maker is posting inflammatory comments that add nothing to discussion and enlighten no one. This blog is strongly critical of the US in many ways. Your care in ignoring this fact screams “Brainwashed CCP Troll” to the rest of us. If this blog were run in Chinese, in China, by a Chinese national, the blogger would certainly end up in jail. That says a lot about your beloved CCP’s tolerence of “trouble” makers vs. Richard’s.

“Chinese who read this blog, see everyday insults, slanders, distortions, etc. about every aspect of Chinese society. From China’s political and economic system and its leaders,..”

In civilized societies, the comments here do not amount to slanders or distortions. They are an exploration of events and trends from many points of view in a quest to discover the truth. Again, your interpretation of of comments and commenters here screams “Brainwashed CCP Troll”

“I encourage all my colleagues and friends to read this blog to learn how the Americans use their language to attack China. It’s very interesting to learn how Americans see China.”

Good. I hope they do read this page. Despite all the government brainwashing here a surprising number of people can think for themselves and are able to seperate the ideas of critisizing the Party and being patriotic Chinese. Meaning, that just because you can see CCP lies for what they are, doesn’t mean you are not a patriotic Chinese. For every 10 Chinese readers who read this page and have their brainwashed prejudices confirmed, one will read and and be enlightened. By the way, I’m pretty sure Americans are in the minority here.

“When I studied in the US…”

Dude, forgive me, but I have SEIROUS doubts you have ever been to the US.

“I learned that California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona were once part of Mexico. Yet no one in the US would support the idea of this area being returned to Mexico. ”

Not true. Do your own research, I haven’t the time. Also, AGAIN, just because America did bad doesn’t mean China gets a free pass from all critisizm.

“China is a developing country. It has a population equal to one US, one Europe, one Russia, and a Mexico thrown in.”

Completely irrelevant.

“What China is trying to do has never been attempted on this scale in history.”

Google “India”, large country Southwest of China.

“My criticisms are directed at the unfair attacks and biased comments made by people who have a very poor knowledge of China’s history and even their own”

False. Your critisizms ARE unfair attacks and biased comments rooted in a poor knowledge of China’s history.

December 19, 2006 @ 9:24 pm | Comment

And once again, we are off topic. I say again, BRAINWASHED CCP TROLL. Mingtian, post something on topic, and enlightening. Well thought out discourse. Something other than your usual “China Good America Bad” rubbish and prove me wrong? To be honest, I’d love for you to prove me wrong. It’s not often we get an honest Chinese nationalist who can think and argue and stay on topic without flinging feces at the wall. It would be a nice change from the usual nationalist trolls that drop by.

December 19, 2006 @ 9:28 pm | Comment

Buddah, thanks a lot for having the fortitude to write those last comments. I think we are all accustomed to the kneejerk “You don’t understand China” reaction, wrapped around a nucleus of one-dimensional slogans and a wealth of historical ignorance. My satisfaction is knowing how many people in China who are willing to look under the rock enjoy reading this blog. I know it from email and from comments. Unfortunately Jeffrey and Henry and others aren’t here at the moment, but they tend to be far more critical of their government that I would ever be. And Mingtian will never admit the obvious – that this blog takes on any perceived act of inhumanity, whether performed by the US or China, and never strives to say the US is superior. That is a key message of this very post, but Mingtian can’t see beyond his self-imposed extra-large blinders.

December 19, 2006 @ 11:06 pm | Comment

Gojup, I agree with you and don’t see the race element as key to this topic, though it can’t be dimissed either – the question inevitably arises, had this ben a white boy would he have suffered the same fate? If the judge really had no choice and the mandatory sentences demanded the harsh sentence, then the answer is no. But it is certain to raise concerns of racism, fairly or not.

China Law Blog, I agree, the title sucks. I wrote it in a moment of emotion. It bothered me so much that my country could allow this to happen.

December 19, 2006 @ 11:11 pm | Comment

Happens to us all.

December 19, 2006 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

Richard, I hope you’re enjoying the trip back home. I have not been on Cave Creek Road for 15 years or more and I do miss it.

Anyways, I have to tell you that the title bothered me too. It did the job of eye-catching, and I have to admit I did not notice the story in the mainstream media.

However, why don’t we make a “Free banner” and let it loose upon the world.

It truly makes me ashamed that the justice system rendered such a (in my opinion) lousy verdict, but in America, we have options.

Unlike China, Indonesia,etc. we still have a system to combat these injustices.

I believe that if we (Americans) makes banners, have forums, write letters to the editor, and make our voice heard, the American system will have to adapt.

The reason that China sucks, is that they don’t give a flying pickle about public opinion.

True, bad things happen to good people, but in America, don’t you think every-body, every-idea, every-decision has a second chance to be right(ed)?

December 19, 2006 @ 11:55 pm | Comment

CLB,

>>So of course America sucks sometimes, but can you name a country that doesn’t? Stay focused.

I don’t want to freak you out any further, but I agree with every word of your comment.
๐Ÿ˜‰

December 20, 2006 @ 12:16 am | Comment

The Admiral (what’s up with China Moon, I can never get on it. Is it just me or what?) makes some great points. So America does suck sometimes, but overall it does not and one must seize the part that does not in order to overwhelm the part that does.

I went and read Sullivan’s post (he being one of my favorite pundits) and it left me with a whole host of questions. Sullivan and you make it seem as though this involved mandatory sentencing and I am not so sure. The judge seems to be saying that the law made this a felony, not a misdemeanor, but he does not seem to be saying that he therefore had to sentence the kid to 10 years. But, maybe 10 years is the minimum for felonies in Alabama? And why without possibility of parole. That is unbelievably harsh. I know very little about US criminal law (hell, let’s be honest — I know virtually nothing about US criminal law) but it seems to me there might be a possibility of bringing a federal court action to try to get the sentence reduced. As a lawyer, one of the most unfair aspects of this whole thing is that the law was changed, but did not apply to this case. I mean, if it is a misdemeanor now (which makes sense), why the hell was it not a misdemeanor then. Talk about inherently unfair. Now I know that laws do change and we cannot be reducing or increasing (which could never happen anyway) sentences just because of this, but still…..

December 20, 2006 @ 12:19 am | Comment

Admiral, my parents live right off Cave Creek Road – it’s so beautiful up there, still.

Yes, wrongs often get righted here and I love my country, not out of any nationalistic or jingoistic attitudes but simply because it is functional and it works, and justice so often prevails, despite the myriad examples of shittiness. That’s why this story struck me as so reprehensible. I don’t believe it changing the title after it’s been up a day, but if I could I’d go back can say its mandatory sentences, not America, that suck.

December 20, 2006 @ 12:20 am | Comment

One of the links will take you to the kid’s website, set up to advocate on his behalf. That would be a great thing to add to this post, Richard. I agree that if there’s a freedom banner it would be something I’d like to put up on my site.

December 20, 2006 @ 2:01 am | Comment

The case is in Georgia, not Alabama. Here is a link to an Atllanta journal Constitution editorial advocating his release.

Here’s his website – there’s a petition you can sign.

December 20, 2006 @ 2:15 am | Comment

Thanks Lisa – done.

December 20, 2006 @ 2:26 am | Comment

yes it seems the sentence is too harsh but i wonder what kind of sentencing flexibility the judge in the jurisdiction has in cases of statutory rape, which is what this is. under 16s/18s (depending upon where) have no positive rights that allow them to exercise their sexuality through sex acts. when i was growing up everyone was aware of that and simply ignored it. we expected to keep our sexual activity secret from adults and if it came out that we were sexually active, we expected for our parent(s) and our partner’s parent(s) to more or less look the other way, ground us, scold us and keep the matter out of the DA’s office and us out from behind bars. having sex carried risks that went beyond pregnancy and stds and we teens were acutely aware of it. we learned that having sex was transgressive and illicit and that ‘teen sex’ was some kind of fetish. seems to me there are possibly lots of issues to be debated in this case, and that the least significant of them is the poor guy’s 10 year sentence. appears he is paying for not keeping the ‘dirty secret’ many of us managed to keep. i wonder why?

December 20, 2006 @ 2:44 am | Comment

http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison/index.htm

click on case histories.
Methinks Reihl wants the boy to suffer, not be punished.

December 20, 2006 @ 2:50 am | Comment

I think you guys may want to read more of the details of this case before you continue gnashibg your teeth at this travesty of justice. I doesn’t take to long to get to the fact that the 10 year sentence was one fo the number of teens that that gang raped (orally) a drunk 15 year old girl at a party and videotaped it. He was the one that refuse to lea bargain and thus recieved the mandatory sentence after being convicted. I’m not saying the 10 years is justified, just that there (as usual) a bit more to the story.

December 20, 2006 @ 2:54 am | Comment

I read all about the case. You are over-simplifying it. The girl who was drunk was NOT the one he is going to jail over, but rather the second girl, Rachel, who was NOT drunk. I cannot blame him for an instant for not taking the plea bargain, which would have branded him as a sex offender forever. Even the judge said he thought the sentence was rephrehensible and that the law left him no choice. It all comes out in the Riehl thread I linked to. People who really want to see this as “tough justice” are stretching to show that somehow this was a reasonable sentence. Even over at Riehl, a wingnut site, nearly everyone agrees it’s insane.

December 20, 2006 @ 2:59 am | Comment

Also, in the case of the first girl, the videotape was used to acquit Wilson on the charge of rape. IIRC, the jury barely had to deliberate over his innocence on that charge once they saw the tape.

December 20, 2006 @ 4:15 am | Comment

Those who think that this sentance is too harsh obviously never had a 15 year old daughter.

December 20, 2006 @ 5:06 am | Comment

Paul – That’s as may be, but the law is not there to act as the father of a 15 year old girl. The law is there to pass judgement without emotion coming into it. This sentence is, quite frankly, indefensible to any considered person.

December 20, 2006 @ 5:27 am | Comment

“Those who think that this sentance is too harsh obviously never had a 15 year old daughter.”

What exactly does that mean? Was the girl gagged and bound and molested? I’ll be more forgiving if they also put the girl in jail for 10 years.

December 20, 2006 @ 5:45 am | Comment

“Those who think that this sentance is too harsh obviously never had a 15 year old daughter.”

Mine’s eleven. And if she blew six guys at once at 15, I’d certainly have a discussion with her about being used. But that would the end of it, for me. Teenagers do dumb things, simple as that.

Under the law, do you realize that if they had simply been at his house, two people, and the girl blew him, he’d still be liable for ten. The issue under the law isn’t how many boys were there, but the relative ages.

The sentence is sick and the law is an ass. Poor kid. Perhaps a national outcry can save him. But what about the poor sods who plea-bargained? Five years for a blow job is as much a travesty as ten.

Not a day goes by but I don’t thank all the gods I didn’t get that teaching job in Georgia.

Michael

December 20, 2006 @ 8:11 am | Comment

It truly, truly sucks.

December 20, 2006 @ 8:54 am | Comment

any case of a white man being given the same sentence? i think that was mingtian’s point. of course, china is a police state. OTOH, we have more prisoners than them, even though they’re 4 times our size. OTOOH, i can complain about it without going to jail

December 20, 2006 @ 9:56 am | Comment

Actually, though there are many racial disparities in sentencing, I don’t think that was the case here. Rather, it’s an example of punitive, draconian and mandatory sentencing designed to do one thing – harshly punish pedophiles – that ends up doing another – punishing an older teenager in a consensual relationship between two teenagers. Help me out here – from what I’ve read of the case, Georgia changed the law but did not make it apply retroactively to help Wilson.

At least there has been a huge outcry over this, with the leading Georgia paper – the Atlanta Journal/Constitution – coming out with an editorial advocating Wilson’s release.

December 20, 2006 @ 10:32 am | Comment

@ benjoya

OTOOOH nobody really knows how many prisoners China has. We can only estimate because their system is clouded in secrecy. I wonder why?

December 20, 2006 @ 10:45 am | Comment

China Law Blog – Richard’s title does not “sucK” He’s absolutely correct in saying that America’s legal system is appalling. It’s nowhere near as impressive as you seem to like to think. For starters, economically poor and undereducated defendants have little access to quality legal aid. The United States offers its citizens the lowest levels of access to legal aid out of all of the OECD countries, and without money, you’re the your chances of escaping a ridiculously harsh manaditory sentece is slim – and such outrageous sentencing practices are hardly just, are they.

Can I also remind you that the United States is one of only a hand full of recalcitrant renegade states that continue to employ the use of the death penalty! Yeah, America’s legal system “sucks”!

Let me conclude my comment with a lengthy quote from Les Sachss articvel, titled “A Portrait of America’s Legal System as Seen from the Outside”, which is banned in American blogspot! Yep, censorship of blogs exiosts in America too, not only in China! Read this:

“America has the largest prison gulag in the entire world – yes, right there in the USA, the self-proclaimed “land of freedom.” The starting point for understanding anything about the USA, is to digest the fact that just this one country, the United States of America, has twenty-five percent of ALL of the prisoners in the entire world.

More than 2 million prisoners – more than 1 out of every 150 people in America – are behind bars in the American gulag. This is now the world’s biggest system of what are effectively concentration camps, though most of these prisoners are behind masonry walls and inside prison buildings. ….

Quite amazingly, Americans and the American government, continually
criticize the legal systems and so-called “political” legal proceedings in other countries such as China, Russia, and even Belgium among many other places. Yet, for example, the proportion of prisoners is 30 times higher in the USA than in China, even though China is a country regularly criticized and denounced by the USA government.

No one imprisons people as readily, or casually, as does America. As you learn more about America’s horrifying legal system, you find out how easily and carelessly America arrests people, and tosses innocent people into prison. It is estimated that America has at least 100,000 completely innocent people in jail, but the statistics of innocence may well run far higher. The number of people known to be innocent, and yet who were actually sentenced to death in recent years in America, is already running into the hundreds.

Reference: http://www.jail4judges.org/JNJ_Library/2005/2005-10-11C.html

December 20, 2006 @ 10:50 am | Comment

THE IDEAL OF EQUAL JUSTICE IS DEEPLY embedded in American legal traditions, and routinely violated in daily legal practices. Our nation prides itself on its commitment to the rule of law, but prices it out of reach of the vast majority of its citizens. We have the world’s highest concentration of lawyers, but one of the least accessible systems of legal services. Our Constitution guarantees “effective assistance of counsel” in criminal cases, but what is held adequate to satisfy that standard is a national disgrace. Oh! One more thing China Law Blog – here is an articel written by an American Lawyer, Deborak Rhode, who says that the accessibility of American’s legal system is a “disgrace”:

“Court-appointed defense lawyers for the poor are not required to have any experience or expertise in criminal defense; they do not even have to be awake. In civil matters, the law is least available to those who need it most. Primary control over the legal process rests with the legal profession, the very group with the least self-interest in reducing its expense. ”

Source: American Lawyer, December 1, 2004.

December 20, 2006 @ 11:06 am | Comment

Please delete the first attempt of mine to post this comment, as I made a massive typo! Sorry! – my comment should read like this:

Oh! One more thing China Law Blog – here is an articel written by an American Lawyer, Deborak Rhode, who says that the accessibility of American’s legal system is a “disgrace”:

“THE IDEAL OF EQUAL JUSTICE IS DEEPLY embedded in American legal traditions, and routinely violated in daily legal practices. Our nation prides itself on its commitment to the rule of law, but prices it out of reach of the vast majority of its citizens. We have the world’s highest concentration of lawyers, but one of the least accessible systems of legal services. Our Constitution guarantees “effective assistance of counsel” in criminal cases, but what is held adequate to satisfy that standard is a national disgrace.

Court-appointed defense lawyers for the poor are not required to have any experience or expertise in criminal defense; they do not even have to be awake. In civil matters, the law is least available to those who need it most. Primary control over the legal process rests with the legal profession, the very group with the least self-interest in reducing its expense. ”

Source: American Lawyer, December 1, 2004.

December 20, 2006 @ 11:09 am | Comment

I have to agree with a lot of what Justice says above. The punitive nature of sentencing over the last couple of decades is appalling, as is the “prison-industrial complex.” And I will never, ever understand why so many people support the death penalty. Hearing the debate in recent days over whether certain execution methods constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” I’m struck anew by the absurdity of it. I’d say putting somebody to death is pretty cruel and unusual punishment.

It’s a tragedy that our actual system does not live up to the highly praiseworthy ideals on which it is based.

December 20, 2006 @ 11:22 am | Comment

Other Lisa – you hit the hammer right on the nail when you talk of the “prison-industrial complex” – the shame of America! It’s capitalism at its most ugly! The relationship between prison service providers and the state is an absolute disgrace, and it makes a clear mockery of the entire US legal system. Sending people to prison on mass is done mainly to enrich the coffers of private enterprise, and the personal bank accounts of those politicians who support the growth of this industry by proposing and whipping up support for favourable legislation.

If this isn’t corruption on a massive scale, I don’t know what is! The commodification of prisoners should be illegal. Thanks God I’km not an American!

December 20, 2006 @ 11:34 am | Comment

Lisa, I am getting an increasingly bad feeling about our new friend Justice. I mean seriously bad. I don’t think his arguments about America’s justice system are sincere and I think he is here to slam America and argue that China is superior. That mmight be a fair argument to make, maybe, but he’s definitely got an agenda.

Update: Okay, I just saw his last comment:

America is such a backward, Puritanical society, with a very rough sense of justice, inspired by the revengeful and vindictive Christian God that so many of its political leaders hold up as worthy of worship!

What America needs, is a revolution!

At this point in my career, I know bad news when I see it.

December 20, 2006 @ 12:02 pm | Comment

Richard – I have no agenda to paint China out to be superior from the United States or any other country. And my criticisms of America’s legal system are very sincere. Don’t be so senstive. If you don’t want me to contribute to your site for some reason, then I’lll cease. But I’d at least like an explanation.

December 20, 2006 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

Gosh, and all this time I thought people went to prison for committing crimes. What was I thinking?

At some point feeding the trolls just becomes a distraction…

December 20, 2006 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

Here’s the explanation, Justice: We have a troll who comes here and rants against bad Christians and how I am a bad Christian and how all Americans politcians are twisted because of their sick Christianty. And you remind me very much of this troll. The quantity of comments you posted in the last hour are a good indication that you are here to incite. I ave to trust my judgement so I take you up on your offer to leave. Thanks.

December 20, 2006 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

richard,

Btw, I think I’ve seen your mingtian troll before. His “Ha! Ha! Ha!” and “down with whitey” shtick are dead giveaways. From Australia? I wouldn’t be surprised if “justice” is just another one of his fake identities.

December 20, 2006 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

Good points, 88. Both have certainly touched off my suspicions. I try to give these clowns a lot of leeway, but that Christian stuff went too far. (Oh, and I’m Jewish, by the way.)

December 20, 2006 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

Maybe you should take a page from the Deng Xiaoping playbook and clarify your position on America in regard to its suckiness? How about “America: 70% rocks, 30% sucks”?

December 20, 2006 @ 12:27 pm | Comment

Funny, Mstt!

Now, can we return this thread to its subject?

December 20, 2006 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

Sorry, I have to zap this. You are using an IP address tool (earlier comments from Stockholm, Sweden, this one from Fort Lauderdale, USA) and you are doing the MAJ thing – saying “adieu” and then re-appearing to add yet more comments. You’ve now said in three separate comments you were leaving, yet here you are. And once more, a thread has been turned from a discussion on a topic to discussion about you. So time to go. I know you’ll be back the way you always are, but know that every time you do this it will be deleted.No one else, only you, and you know exactly why.
Richard

December 20, 2006 @ 1:11 pm | Comment

While I don’t believe that people are imprisoned entirely “to enrich the coffers of private enterprise,” the fact is that prisons are a for-profit industry in this country and that entirely too many people are imprisoned for non-violent crimes related to drugs and drug possession. I do believe that people who commit crimes deserve some form of punishment – and that violent, dangerous individuals need to be segregated from society. However, over the last few decades, we’ve abandoned almost any notion of rehabilitation in our prisons. We’ve increased sentences, removed judicial discretion. We’ve cut educational programs and other programs designed to give prisoners hope and help integrate them into society – and the vast majority of prisoners will be returning to society.

Our prisons have become little more than warehouses and incubators of further violence. I know that prisons are reflections of larger societal problems, and I know that some of the older approaches weren’t necessarily effective (though I gather some were). But what we’re doing now obviously isn’t working either.

And isn’t that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

Do I think some of what Justice is saying is over the top? Well, yes – I’m not a big advocate of revolution to solve social problems. But our prison system is incredibly dysfunctional, and that’s a fact.

December 20, 2006 @ 1:49 pm | Comment

Lisa, I have to agree with you about our prison system, which often resembles some bizarre exercise in cynicism. And a big reason for this is what’s at the heart of my post (which is easy to forget now that Justice hijacked the thread): mandatory sentences, which jam our prisons with people who don’t belong there. There’s much more to it than that, but it’s a major contributor to our bursting-at-the-seams prisons.

December 20, 2006 @ 9:48 pm | Comment

Does anyone have any information on how the law sending this kid to jail for 10 years was put in place?

December 21, 2006 @ 12:10 am | Comment

See the Volokh Conspiracy link in the post. Also, see this post.

December 21, 2006 @ 12:39 am | Comment

Richard, the Volokh site has several excellent posts on this subject – all with lengthy comments. The one on the possible racial aspects in this case ore especially interesting (at least to me) Volokh actually points how to way in which this sentence could be shown to prove the DA was taking a stronger defense stance against crimes with black female victims as opposed to white female victims. He explicitly states he does not believe this to be true – just that this point could be argued.

Maybe you should also add a warning that the Volokh site can be very very dry. It is written by, for and about law professors. But it never fails or entertain and educate.

There is one point made that has been sort of glossed over in all this. This did not involve consensual sex in the legal defination of that term. The girl in this case was under the age of consent and thus was incapable of legal consent. Doesn’t change the nature of the sentence and is probably only a legal technicality.

Another point being raised is that the defendant may have been used to create an issue of greater importance than it merited. It seems that Wilson was given to believe that he would become a celebrity of sorts if he took this to trial – as happened in another case.

None of this, of course, makes a difference as far as the inappropriateness of the sentence. Just that there are – as always – some subtle issues coming out that were not reported in the first stories on this case.

December 21, 2006 @ 4:27 am | Comment

I’ll ditto all your points.

Cases like this are never black and white, but nearly no one on the left or right is celebrating the sentence; just about everyone realizes there’s been a gross misjustice. That’s beyond dispute to all but the most cold-hearted and calcified right-wingers.

December 21, 2006 @ 6:46 am | Comment

There have been hundreds of thousands of wrong rulings in America’s courts. Minorities do not get equal treatment. The rich get better lawyers and therefore do better. On top of all this, it is a system run by humans so it is subject to all of our imperfections.

But, the bottom line is this: for all its flaws, America’s legal system is an excellent and a fair system and it is widely viewed as such by lawyers around the world.

So go ahead and fight as hard as you can against the systems’ inevitable (and yes, constant) shortcomings and go ahead and constantly seek to force it to abide by its ideals, but please don’t act like the whole system is worthless/rotten to its core when that just isn’t true (this is directed at some of the comments, not at Richard).

December 21, 2006 @ 4:11 pm | Comment

School accuses 5-year-old of sex harassment
by ERIN CUNNINGHAM
erinc@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN – A kindergarten student was accused earlier this month of sexually harassing a classmate at Lincolnshire Elementary School, an accusation that will remain on his record until he moves to middle school.

Washington County Public Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said the definition of sexual harassment used by the school system is, “unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors and/or other inappropriate verbal, written or physical conduct of a sexual nature directed toward others.”

Mowen said that definition comes from the Maryland State Department of Education.

According to a school document provided by the boy’s father, the 5-year-old pinched a girl’s buttocks on Dec. 8 in a hallway at the school south of Hagerstown.

Charles Vallance, the boy’s father, said he was unable to explain to his son what he had done.

“He knows nothing about sex,” Vallance said. “There’s no way to explain what he’s been written up for. He knows it as playing around. He doesn’t know it as anything sexual at all.”

The incident was described as “sexual harassment” on the school form.

School officials consider a student’s age and the specific action when determining what administrative action to take, Mowen said.

Lincolnshire Principal Darlene Teach and Mowen said they were unable to discuss he incident involving the Lincolnshire student.

Teach said any student, regardless of grade level, can be cited for sexual harassment.

“Anytime a student touches another student inappropriately, it could be sexual harassment,” Teach said.

School administrators at a Texas school in November suspended a 4-year-old student for inappropriately touching a teacher’s aide after the prekindergarten student hugged the woman.

“It’s important to understand a child may not realize that what he or she is doing may be considered sexual harassment, but if it fits under the definition, then it is, under the state’s guidelines,” Mowen said. “If someone has been told this person does not want this type of touching, it doesn’t matter if it’s at work or at school, that’s sexual harassment.”

The incident will be included in the boy’s file while he remains at Lincolnshire, but Mowen said those files do not follow students when they move on to middle school.

She described the incident as a “learning opportunity.”

During the 2005-06 school year, 28 kindergarten students in Maryland were suspended for sex offenses, including sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual activity, according to state data. Fifteen of those suspensions were for sexual harassment.

During the 2005-06 school year, one Washington County prekindergarten student was suspended from school, and 12 of the county’s kindergartners were suspended for various offenses, according to state data.”

http://www.herald-mail.com/?module=displaystory&story_id=154557&format=printb

December 21, 2006 @ 4:50 pm | Comment

Longtime reader, firsttime commenter:) While I probably hold much different political opinions than most of the people here, I still enjoy the articles and thoughtful discussion!

I was a Dallas cop for a year. I can tell you that while racism does exist, it is not NEAR the level that people think it is, at least not where I worked. Most officers were so afraid of getting labeled racist or sued that they would actually let off minorities more often than whites. But even besides that, the vast majority were not racist. They worked with black officers and relied on them to have their back. Race really wasn’t an issue.

The fact that more minorities are incarcerated does not, in and of itself, mean a thing. The sad fact is that many minorites, especially blacks, come from low socioeconomic positions. They may often have little education, and a lack of supervision or caring as they are brought up. (If you doubt this, I encourage you to do a ride-along with the police in any major city’s ghetto, and observe carefully). The first line of blame here should be on the parents. Many Asians will also start out in America in similar conditions, yet rates of offense are much lower. This is a cultural thing – not a racial one.

“Black culture” (if there even is such a thing) is not criminal. But inner city culture is different than middle class values (I know some people hate to hear that, but this is what I’ve seen). The black middle class in Dallas is MUCH different than the black underclass. Their children had much, much less problems, and probably had similar rates of offense and incarceration as white kids. Its the same as the white middle class compared to poor white trash from the trailer park cooking up meth.

So I know that’s all off-topic, sorry:) My point is that calling out “racism” is a pretty serious thing, and its done too lightly. When everything is racist, nothing is. Of course America has its flaws – but then again, America is intergrating countless cultures, religions, races, and nationalities. It will never be perfect. I hate to hear how everything about our justice system is “racist”, when in my experience, everyone took pains NOT to be. That’s just how I see it, anyway. Keep up the good work!

December 22, 2006 @ 12:44 am | Comment

Thanks for the excellent first comment. Believe itor not, I tend to line up with you and China Law Blog on this thread – we should give some credit to the system we’ve got, imperfect though it is. And we should use the racism charge only when we’re damn sure it applies.

December 22, 2006 @ 1:03 am | Comment

B. Smith brings up an interesting point that leads us to the old debate about class versus race. There are those who argue that America’s greatest divide is along racial lines, that the injustices suffered by many non-White groups in America have left a great gulf fixed (to borrow a phrase.) Others would argue that racism benefits the upper classes by weakening class consciousness and class unity among the poorer segments of American society. Poor whites and poor blacks feel divided by race and so cannot see their common cause as members of an underclass. Still others would argue that nationalism, both in the US and elsewhere, serves to orient people’s consciousness toward the state and not towards class as their primary identification.

I’m not much of a Marxist, but B. Smith’s insightful observations suggest that maybe we take a new look at class vs. race in America.

For a deliberately provocative take on the subject, I suggest the essay “How Many N—— did Karl Marx Know?” by University of California Professor Clarence Walker in Deromanticizing Black History: Critical Essays and Reappraisals.

December 22, 2006 @ 12:56 pm | Comment

And on that intelligent note, I have to close the thread, which is now being spammed by we-all-know who. If you want to add a comment, please email me.

December 24, 2006 @ 1:45 am | Comment

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