Archive for the ‘Criminal Justice’ Category

We . . . turned our courts into giant unthinking machines for sweeping our problem citizens under a rug. . . . [I]nstead of dealing with problems like poverty, drug abuse and mental illness, we increasingly just removed them all from view by putting them in jail.” ~ Matt Taibbi, “Cruel and Unusual Punishment,” Rolling Stone  The Myth Criminal punishment was at one time often very public: we whipped or executed outlaws before throngs of onlookers, or displayed them in the stocks in the public square.  Now we spirit the condemned away to hidden prison cells, forgotten by the rest of us, a modern-day form of ostracism.  The punishment of convicts occurs behind closed doors, much of it in secret. Adding to the cloak of invisibility is the popular media, which saturates us with fictionalized and misleading versions of what prison and the people inside it must be like. The new show […]

Two weeks ago I visited my client at Juvenile Hall. After locking my belongings in a locker in the deserted visitors’ waiting area, I was shepherded through four sets of locked doors by a female voice on the intercom. Inside, the voice told me to freeze until the transfer of one of the youths at the far end of the corridor was completed. I caught my first glimpse of Julian in Unit 2, where he was sitting among a group of teens in navy blue uniforms in a small room off of a large, empty central space. I walked toward the room and a man sitting outside it gestured toward one of the tables in the room. Two boys stood, hesitantly. “Julian,” the man said to them a second time, and through the glass wall of the room I saw one of the boys point to himself and mouth, “Me?,” in […]