Sunday, May 28, 2006

Lock People Up Only When It Would Help

This article in the New York Times makes some good points about solving problems:

Taking his cues from family therapy as well as from social ecology, which emphasizes that behavior is shaped by multiple aspects of the environment, Henggeler studies the ecosystem composed by family, neighborhood, schools, peer groups and the broader community. Instead of removing children from that ecosystem, he tries to change it: solve the drug problems and the legal problems, get kids away from delinquent peers and encourage academic success.

A central idea is to focus on the parents. "We want the therapist to build the competency of the parents, because the parents are going to be there after the therapist leaves," he says. If the parents can't handle the job, he might ask an uncle, aunt or grandparent to fill in.

This is a much better approach than breaking up families, locking various members up for their obvious failures, and then hoping that things get better. It is no surprise that the traditional lock-em-up tactics fail. The chronically criminal have lives rife with lack of support, motivation, and good role models. The solution is to help, not to punish those who lack the skills to learn what to do better. And sadly, when home life is really bad, jail is rarely a deterrent. I mean, if home is in an awful situation with nothing to do, no food, dangerous streets, angry parents who can't maintain themselves, jail isn't that bad.

Not that I want to promote jail, but can you think where a jail term might serve a better motivation to stop criminal behavior? How about Ken Lay, maybe Karl Rove, and even our president, if it comes to that.

Impeachment is not enough if George W. Bush or Dick Cheney are found to have violated the laws in his singleminded pursuit of power. Regardless if his good intentions, I have clients all the time who violate the law with the intention that what they did was OK. I don't think he needs to spend much time in jail, but after Bush or Cheney are impeached and removed from office, they shouldn't get off like Nixon with just disbarrment. Clinton got that for his equivocations alone, Bush/Cheney would be impeached because of his lies and/or willfull blindness that has led to countless deaths and squandered our nation's reputation in the world as a force for good. If either of our leaders are found to be complicit, they deserve to serve at least a few months in jail. It should be good for them. They might even change their stripes. After all, I read somewhere recently that if a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, a liberal is a conservative that has been arrested.

To end on a lighter note, Ken had some funny videos on his site. Also, is it just me that thinks that Ne-Yo's "When You're Mad" kinda glorifies domestic violence? Now, maybe he gets all hot when his girl puts his hands on him, but here in domestic violence court, she's looking at jail time if he complains, and he's looking at the same if he puts his hands on her back! Maybe I'm getting too old, and I don't want to denigrate the good work of Talib Kweli, Common, The Roots, etc., but what happened to lyrics from Marvin like What's Going On hitting the top of the charts? Even Sexual Healing and Let's Get it On aren't misogynistic, and are a lot more subtle than the Thong Song, for example.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Props to Ken at Crim Law Blog : How can you defend those people?

A while ago I came back across this good post by Ken Lammers at Crim Law. I am sure that I've heard the term before, but Mr. Lammers motivated or inspired this blog's title. He's got a great post and a great response to the question, how can you defend those people?

But I want to disagree with him in part. There is nothing wrong with trying to defend the guilty. That's what Jesus did. Many people respect him for that. Our job, in many ways, is as an attorney to atone. I once heard that attorney comes from atone, we atone for our client's sins. We allow them to understand the perspective of others, to try and make amends many times, take responsiblity. That is what victims of crime often want. And we try and protect our clients to prevent crime from doubly victimizing by punishment for the innocent, or punishment beyond what is required.

In terms of zeal, what if a person had nobody to advocate for her? Then those who looked guilty but actually weren't would be screwed! But nobody actually knows if a person is guilty, what with all these false confessions and planted evidence. I have to help anyone who needs help. What if I was in that position, looking guilty but being innocent? And if there isn't a good attorney who fights for people, how can the convicted ever accept their punishment? Without good defense attorneys, criminals would just say (and it be true) that they didn't get a fair shot at proving their innocence.

In the end, I agree with Ken on the most important part. Defense attorneys seek to curb the thirst for vengence in society. Such violence is not healthy, and I am proud to try and be the caretaker of positivity in my community as well as speak for underrepresented minorities, the poor, the mentally ill, and those visiting my country from elsewhere. Even if they may be guilty when I am finished working with them, they deserve assistance to understand what is happening and get help to prove it if they may be innocent and to avoid improper punishment.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Police Misconduct Solution: Black Boxes in Police Cars Recording Everything

Some police routinely lie, and prosecutors and judges buy it. These police are only caught when they get greedy and screw up. Competent lying cops ones can lie for a career and never get caught. Sure, a few judges will wise up and say "I don't believe a thing out of this cops mouth," but too often that doesn't happen. The attitude is that the arrested are mostly brown criminals, so who cares? Why waste my time fighting for this scumbag drug dealer, who cares what the police did?

I thought we all swore the same oath to uphold the constitution. I'm just trying to do my job. If we make exceptions in the constitution for drug dealers or child molestors or gang members, the exception will swallow the rule.

I understand the anti-crime sentiment from law enforcement. Heck,I might do the same thing if I was in that position. That doesn't make it right to lie under oath. No matter how tempting, it is wrong. The slope is too steep and slipperly. Police may start to lie to protect themselves, putting felony charges on people for resisting because the cops adrenaline was up, they beat the person up, and need to cover themselves. But then it gets too hard to stop.

Its natural for an officer to start lying because all humans lie. After seeing success with lies, it can snowball. That's why all interogations and any interactions with police should be recorded, as should all police communications. If the government wants to tap us and say why should we worry if we're doing nothing wrong, why can't we listen in on the government agents when they are acting to 'protect' us? Law and order people should agree. These crooked cops themselves taint cases on people who really are guilty or get the innocent and let the guilty go free. We need a black box in all police cars, recording what happens inside and out. This will keep the bad cops honest. If we can monitor telemarketers, why not those sworn to protect and serve? Sure, that's intrusive, but we want the best protecting us. I support giving good cops raises to put up with that intrusion, but shouldn't we all strive to act such that our parents could hear what we say, how we treat that subject, how we treat people who ask for directions?

Look at what happens with this attitude of police infallibility in Baltimore, as Radley noted. If these weren't two, articulate white people with cops for parents and media savvy, would this story gotten out?

Like Skelly pointed out, PD's are overworked, used to having to hurry, and many defendants rightfully don't respect offices who have, for exampe, pled out hundreds of felonies with no trials in five years! It is hard for some defendants to see PDs in these types of non-confrontational offices as advocates for their rights.