Readers — Did you knowÂ that until now, prisoners up for parole would automatically be turned down if they continued to “insist” they had not committed the crime? Using theÂ dumbed-down, talk-show psychobabble that passes for truth in our justice system, proclaiming innocence was actually considered PROOF that the prisoners were in denial, hence, unrehabilitated. Â And so, those who maintained their innocence spent MORE TIME IN JAIL.
the story from yesterday’s New York Times about it.Â Kudos to reporter Stephanie Clifford. And the Free-Range point? It’s a little around the bend,but here goes.
We all know that when a culture is wracked with fear, it cannot think straight. It is willing to give up its liberties, its rights, its neighbors, just to stay safe. (As if!) Our country, in that grip of fear, has rushed to incarcerate more human beings, per capita, than any other nation on earth.
Some of them are guilty. Some of them are innocent. Many of them serve sentences long past any time they could be considered a threat, including the man Clifford begins her story with:
BEACON, N.Y. â€” After 28 years in prison, Freddie Cox emerged from the Fishkill Correctional Facility, not quite a free man, but free enough.
A sister had cued up Sam Cookeâ€™s â€œA Change Is Gonna Comeâ€ on her carâ€™s CD player, and, after hugs, Mr. Cox put his two small bags and his typewriter in the car and squeezed in alongside the others, heading away from prison, windows down.
Mr. Cox had been imprisoned for a 1986 murder in Coney Island, Brooklyn. He said then and he says now that he is innocent â€” and he has maintained that position at four parole hearings.
Three times, the parole board rejected Mr. Cox, even though a co-defendant â€” who admitted to the murder, and has said Mr. Cox was innocent â€” was granted parole three years ago.
The predicament that had confronted Mr. Cox is known as the parole paradox: Admitting guilt has historically given inmates a better shot at parole.
Everyday it seems more and more like rational people are living in an episode of the Twilight Zone, where everybody running the Asylum is crazy and the guy in the straight jacket yelling “I’m not crazy” is sane.
The world had always been crazy and a little cruel. Crazy just comes in different flavors. Today’s flavor is personal fear and “worst first” thinking, with a dash of xenophobia.
I can see it now.
â€œI now see the error of my ways. I was an irresponsible neglectful parent when I allowed my 10 year old son to play in the park unsupervised.â€
in a way it even makes sense.
If you assume all in prison are guilty, then someone who is in prison and maintains his innocence must be in denial, or at the very least delusional, and thus not fit for release.
In many countries (including many so-called democracies, such as all over the EU) such a person would end up in forced psychiatric treatment during and after his prison term, possibly lasting for the rest of his life in a closed institution.
As soon as a parole board agrees that such a statement is not self delusion, denial that what one did was a crime, or similar, but instead that there may have been a grievous error in the passing of justice and an innocent man was locked up, that casts serious doubts on the functioning of the criminal justice system and the courts.
This has nothing to do with the actual laws being enforced (though I fully agree that many of those are utterly insane and incarcerate people for things that should not be called a crime at all) but with the supposed infallibility of the system, its supposed inability to ever reach an incorrect verdict, a supposed infallibility that MUST be upheld for the system to survive.
They still use that for mental hospitals. You have to admit you have mental health issues before they will agree to release you. Even if you really should not have been there in the first place or really don’t have a problem. I know some teens in teen facilities and they all were put through that. If you don’t admit to whatever it is they say about you, they won’t let you leave. So most of them lied and pretended to agree to get out of there.
So, basically the same as when accused witches who affirmed they were witches were set free, but accused witches who denied being witches were tortured until they confessed or were dead?
Good to know that the professionals have been true to tradition!
It’s like something out of Kafka! Holy heck.
That’s horrible. And what a situation that leaves them in. Do you admit that you are guilty and be stained with that your whole life, or lose your freedom to keep your integrity?
Also, you would think when someone has admitted to the murder, the wrongly accused would be freed.
I got the free range point! The over-protection of children is 100% connected to the ridiculous incarceration rate in our country. We are so arrogant that we think we can make the world 100% safe, no matter what the process does to many people.
“So, basically the same as when accused witches who affirmed they were witches were set free, but accused witches who denied being witches were tortured until they confessed or were dead?”
if they admitted to being witches they were still killed, but at least the torture stopped and they might get “just” hanged instead of burned at the stake…
JT has it right. You were killed more humanely if you admitted to being a witch and repented. Sometimes they would let you go but not often.
The best one was the dunking chair. They would essentially dunk you over and over in the river or a barrel until you either confessed or drowned. If you drowned then you were proven to not be a witch, but you are still dead. If you do not drown nor confess, you are a witch.
SOA, is it wrong that I find the witch trials hilarious for their irony? I mean, come on, you can’t write comedy like that! It’s something that would inspire Month Python. . . . and I’ve realized just how macabre I am. I should probably seek psychiatric help.
What happened to “innocent until found guilty” and to “the right for not incriminating yourself”? The current US is a police state, with paramilitary cops, draconic laws and a huge population of prisoners (the percentage of prisoners in the population outranks even North Korea!). Maybe they should put shackles and an orange jumpsuit on the Statue of Liberty to accurately portray current American “freedom”.
There are lots of great comments here. That is heartening. How many of you work in the criminal justice system? Oh.
There is quite a difference between being legally guilty of something and actually having done it. Given the extent of prosecutorial and police misconduct in this country, denying someone parole because they maintain their innocence is itself unethical and unprofessional.
The free range connection to me is that unethical manipulations are common. School authorities could someday attempt to have my child admit wrongdoing where there was none. This could stain his record, or start the chain of events to get him on some sort of registry. Or he could be threatened with being charged with a very serious crime unless he pleads guilty to a lesser crime that he did not commit. He could have his money taken from him by a police officer because he couldnâ€™t prove he wasnâ€™t going to buy drugs with it. Unfortunately, my child needs to understand that the authorities do not have his best interest in mind, and innocence is not a guarantee of anything. My son needs to be prepared for this and deal with it intelligently.
SOA — not quite. It’s a myth that the dunking chairs were designed with no way to pull them back up. If the woman began to sink, she was pulled up by ropes attached to the chair.
Parole is supposed to be about whether a parolee can live at liberty without violating the law. I know of no evidence those who admit guilt are more likely to remain law-abiding than those who don’t. Denying parole to those who claim innocence reminds me of the Ministry of Truth.
I read a book by a member of the Innocence Project. What stood out to me is that their estimates suggest as many as 15% of people in prison are probably innocent.
The problem is, people don’t want to believe that. They don’t want to believe that someone can go to prison and have their entire life destroyed, just because of a mistake or false accusation.
Fortunately, the so called system works better than most people seem to realize. Even if they didn’t commit the crime that the name’s being accused of, if they’re convicted, they’re guilty. I’m saying this as someone that’s done (admittedly not much) time.
It’s making claims that leads to conviction. Claiming to be innocent is usually worse for the so called defendant than claiming guilt. So why claim anything at all? How about, instead, asking to speak with the one that claims you made a claim? Or asking to speak with the so called damaged party? Then, if someone claims you’re making a claim, or claims to be injured, asking “If I offended you, would you please forgive me?”