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REDUCE YOUR SENTENCE & CHOOSE YOUR PRISON

"Which Prison Would You Prefer, Sir, This One Offering Tennis Courts, or Perhaps This Other One Which Has Nicer Rooms?"

December 12, 2001

I just read about something that at once borders on the absurd, and is a sad commentary on our system of justice in this country.

It's no secret that there are, in effect, two different systems of justice, one for the rich and well-connected, the other for the poor and powerless.  The situation has reached a new low, however, with the rise of "postconviction specialists."

These are lawyers, criminologists or former corrections officers who seek to influence judges to give their clients the shortest sentence, and to recommend that their clients serve the time in a prison that the specialist and client have settled upon as the best one to meet the client's needs.  Such services can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. 

According to someone familiar with the process, these specialists

will act almost like an agent in Hollywood, negotiating the perp's rights, wheeling and dealing to get her into the best spot... He can say, `This prison has tennis, this one has nicer rooms.' "

The sought-after minimum-security prisons and so-called "Club Feds" for white collar criminals are a far cry from the oppressive, brutal institutions television viewers are familiar with.  For example, instead of cells, there are private rooms.  Prisoners can wear what they want.  One prison has tennis courts.  There are other recreations facilities.

Non-profit groups provide some sentence mitigation services to the indigent.  But just as there are non-profit agencies which provide legal help to the poor, while the wealthy can hire teams of high-prices lawyers who with far more, if not unlimited time and money, can provide a far more effective defense, one must assume that those who can afford to pay for the private, highly costly postconviction specialists will wind up with far better treatment than defendants forced to rely on the free services.

Compared to the rampant injustices involved in the imposition of the death penalty in this country, the ability of rich defendants to utilize these sentence mitigation services in connection with their white collar crimes may not seem to be a burning issue.  I agree.  But the thought of a tax evader, embezzler or perpetrator of fraud choosing among prisons as if selecting a vacation hotel just seemed a bit much not to comment upon.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

More on Criminal Justice System

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