It’s basic human behavior to want vengeance when aggrieved. When vengeance becomes part of government policy it becomes problematic. In his most recent budget Governor Spitzer increased financial penalties for those convicted of a drug related crime in New York State. On the surface that sounds reasonable, however there may be unintended consequences of our state sponsored actions. This was clearly stated in the report entitled Sentencing for Dollars.
Authors Patricia Warth and Alan Rosenthal contend these additional fees will further burden those convicted of drug offences. The governor’s new budget includes an additional $13 – $17 million dollars into the state’s general fund. These additional fees will hamper any efforts of reintegration into society which I thought was the goal of our so-called Criminal Justice system.
Add the aforementioned to the abysmal Onondaga County Justice system’s inability to provide good competent legal assistance to people who can’t afford it. This adds amazing clarity to comedian Chris Rock’s character in Lethal Weapon 4 who while booking a suspect shouts, “You have the right to remain silent, so shut the fuck up. You have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney we will find the dumbest son of a bitch on earth for you.”
Even if you have money in Central New York you may get a lawyer that’s about as competent and reliable as Chinese produced Wheat Gluten for dogs.
There are people who’ve served their time and have repaid their debt to society. Burdening those individuals with increased financial penalties may be penny wise but pound foolish. And we as a society will fain disbelief as people who cannot find employment after incarceration are condemned to a permanent underclass as are their children and families whose only crime is to love someone that’s troubled.