In one week, we got two new saints, a racist Nevada rancher Clive Bundy made news, there now is Clemency Project 2014 and a federal judge stating the obvious; there are hundreds of innocent people behind bars due to abuse of plea bargaining by prosecutors. Where does one start?
How about when the saints come marching in. I don’t follow the New Orleans Saints nor do I know the song, but from what I understand, it is unprecedented to have two saints canonized in one day. I don’t understand Catholic Church politics, the merits of fast tracking the sainthood process or ignoring pedophile scandals, but the impact of this occasion for Catholics is huge. I simply sense that it is history playing out on the world stage, on Pope Francis’ watch, to the delight of his flock everywhere. Putting it simply, if it is a good thing for most Catholics amidst all the violence and cynicism in America, it’s OK with me, who am I to judge.
Then there is Clive Bundy, a craggy white Nevada rancher who feels blacks had it better under slavery than they do today, really Clive? Refusing to pay nominal Federal grazing fees for his cattle, Bundy successfully confronted federal agents trying to access his land to take his cattle. He soon got national media exposure including Fox news, but when he shared his feelings on slavery, his 15 minutes of fame was done. Conservative Republicans who initially loved his bold defiance of the Obama administration and its Bureau of Land Management fled Bundy like the plague after he articulated what some may quietly think. Their denunciation of Bundy was slow, underwhelming and pathetic; it speaks volumes. Sorry guys, the old south is not going to rise again, get over it. A man like Clive Bundy is doing hard time behind the bars of racism and anger, yet he has no clue. He could use some serious prayer and forgiveness.
In the really good news department for those behind the wire, Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced that the Justice Department will survey all federal inmates and review their clemency requests. In correcting a wrong, those federal inmates who have served over 10 years for a non violent drug related crime and their sentence was based on older more harsh guidelines, they can have their request for clemency reviewed with fairness and objectivity. It’s called Project Clemency 2014, a wonderful collaboration that just might really work. National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers president Jerry Cox said, “Clemency Project 2014 marks the beginning of the end of the age of mass incarceration. We must seize this historic opportunity to start the process of remedying decades of cruel and unnecessarily harsh sentencing policies.”
This starts to relieve prison overcrowding, reducing the huge Bureau of Prisons budget and providing hope to those who have been abandoned by many, but not Jesus. This is such good news, I can’t stand it. Government actually being bold, logical and collaborative to right previous judicial overkill, inmates having an actual chance to be heard, this is an answer to prayer. The scope and impact of this initiative is beyond my comprehension but the ripple effect has to influence those hard core judges and prosecutors who regularly went for the jugular on defendants, including my wife. Time for reflection, your legacy is in question; perhaps retirement is in order, soon.
Federal judge Jed Rakoff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, is quoted as saying, “We have hundreds, or thousands, or even tens of thousands of innocent people who are in prison, right now, for crimes they never committed because they were coerced into pleading guilty. There’s got to be a way to limit this.” That is a stunning admission by a brilliant legal mind. Basically, as I understand it, prosecutors have been bullies playing the system to win; leveraging huge potential sentences to get plea bargains from defendants, some I guess who have been innocent.
As the light of day is shed on our judicial system, I believe we will recoil from what we learn. Since my wife was convicted on one count of mail fraud and I believe local law enforcement sought out some form of federal jurisdiction to really drop the hammer on her, this is what Judge Rakoff is quoted as saying about mail fraud in Wikipedia, “To federal prosecutors of white-collar crime, the mail fraud statute is our Stradivarius, our Colt .45, our Louisville Slugger, our Cuisinart — and our true love. We may flirt with other laws and call the conspiracy law ‘darling,’ but we always come home to the virtues of [mail fraud], with its simplicity, adaptability, and comfortable familiarity.” When I read that, I gasped and I felt very sad for Patty my wife. She was chewed up and spit out by those who were intent on federally sending a message.
Here is the deal, the prosecutors won that battle, but will lose the war; they’re on the wrong side of history. My wife’s profound faith sustained her through incarceration, financial ruin and heartache. Her resolute belief in forgiveness of sin, being non judgmental, second chances for all, helping those behind any form of bars and having a relationship with Jesus is rock solid. Patty has been thrown under the bus several times, but is still forging on, not to be denied. There are those in local, state and federal law enforcement, corrections and the judiciary who truly do their best, treating defendants and inmates with respect, upholding the law with distinction and fair discernment. Your efforts are heroic in my books, amidst a system that is overwhelmed and harsh.
It was a good week in America, one with real hope for those behind the wire; spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where all the razor wire is.