Monday, January 10, 2011

We, the Felons of the United States of America.

Five felonies - rape, murder, arson, theft and suicide - existed upon our nation's founding.  And all of those felonies contained a violent or dangerous component.

Today, the "felon class" is exploding with up to as many as 15 to 20 million ex-felons in America, many convicted for the most innocuous of behaviors.  This system of countless victimless crime laws - of which drug possession laws are the most used - empowers and authorizes law enforcement  to accuse and apprehend people without recourse. The result of this type of structure of police authority, against which civilians have little recourse is a form of "friendly" fascism. That is, it emerges from within established governing structures, rather than from beyond those structures, as we saw in the European despotic right-wing seizure of power.

Keep in mind that the majority of us are already - although unaware -  felons, lucky enough to have escaped capture by the felons in power...so far, anyway.  However, even if you have not achieved felon status yourself, you are, directly impacted by the enormous and costly system of mass incarceration in America today. Not only does over-felonization practically guarantee massive unemployment (felons are not hired), it gradually erodes the rights and liberties of a population to the point of complete annihilation.

How can this be? In the land of the free...home of the brave?

Well, in a overly simplistic nutshell, at the beginning of the 20 century, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes claimed that justice is the result of "due process".  This started the transformation of our court system from one that defined justice as substantive to one that defined justice as procedural (whether the rules were followed in the handling of the case, rather than whether or not the outcome was true or accurate).

"This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Who benefits?  Almost everyone at the top in one way or another, but especially prosecutors, as they can inflate their felony conviction rates and convince the electorate they are doing a great job keeping the public safe. Always, under the guise of keeping We, the felons People safe.

So, this growing and sticky tangled web of laws is so broad, vague, and exceedingly complex that no one is immune from its tenacious ensnaring capability. In other words, federal authorities can pick and choose who they want to target, for whatever reason - vengeance, political gain, or simply as another notch in their belt - and figure out which of the thousands of felonies apply to you, and you can bet that there are plenty.   And remember, even if you haven't committed the so-called "crime" of which you are being accused, you may not be able to afford what it will cost to fight back. 


In many parts of the United States, a convicted felon can face long-term legal consequences persisting after the end of their imprisonment, including:
  • Disenfranchisement (which the Supreme Court interpreted to be permitted by the 14th Amendment)
  • Exclusion from obtaining certain licences, such as a visa.
  • Exclusion from purchase and possession of firearms, ammunition and body armor
  • Ineligibility for serving on a jury
  • Deportation (if the criminal is not a citizen)
The bottom line is that felony disenfranchisement is inconsistent with our modern notions of a criminal justice system that is supposed to prioritize rehabilitation over retribution.

Links:

The Obama Administration’s 2011 Budget: More Policing, Prisons, and Punitive Policies

The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry This book, originally published in April 2003, went out of print in August 2006. Prison Policy.org is in the process of trying to raise sufficient funds to print an updated and expanded edition in the future.

Fixing prison-based gerrymandering after the 2010 Census  The 2010 Census will be counting more than 2 million incarcerated people in the wrong place. The laws of most states say that a prison cell is a not a residence, but the Census Bureau assigns incarcerated people to the prison location, not their home addresses. When state and local governments use this data to draw legislative districts, they unconstitutionally enhance the weight of a vote cast in districts that contain prisons and dilute those cast in every other district.

2 comments:

Anonymous,  02:14  

One particular Roman tyrant placed the text of his law so high above the citizens heads, that they could not read it. That is the way of tyranny - not law, and is essentially what is going on here. The laws are so many and so convoluted and so vague that no one knows what the law is. The text of law might as well be placed above our heads.

Laws are not meant to be prosecutor friendly but they are. And rabid prosecutors will stretch/break/obliterate the law to further personal goals. The vagueness of so many federal laws, like wire/mail fraud and obstruction of justice, and the ability of prosecutors to "climb the ladder" by threatening people into testifying against others allow prosecutors to drive innocent Americans to succumb to their whims of making a name for themselves.

Roth's stepchild 02:04  

I agree 100%. Local prosecutors in many of the 2,341 jurisdictions across the nation have stretched, bent or broken rules to win convictions, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Since 1970, individual judges and appellate court panels cited prosecutorial misconduct as a factor when dismissing charges, reversing convictions or reducing sentences in over 2,000 cases.

America is sliding down the slippery slopes to tyranny, and today's American citizens are not equipped to fight it. The character of Americans is so different from that of the people who established this nation. Most lack the ability to resist abusive government. We have much more in common with the ordinary citizen living under tyranny than we do with Americans, even 100 years ago.

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