“East of Eden” by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck is a journal about several families and two in particular that become close in a dark way. One of the families, the Trasks, is similar to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Steinbeck’s characters are fascinating in many realms, such as love, mystery and murder.
Most people have read this book. If you haven’t I recommend that you do. It has entertained readers for over half a century.
“The Second Grave” by Carl Wedekind
Attorney Wedekind writes about violence in Kentucky’s history beginning in 1742 and through the end of the twentieth century. His purpose is to demonstrate that as the state has transitioned from the days of lynchings, duels and family feuds abolishing capital punishment should naturally follow.
The reasons most often given in favor of the death penalty are:
- Executions will deter murder by others in the future
- Society’s sense of justice demands executions
- Victim’s families loss and grief requires executions for justice and closure
- It is a waste of taxpayers’ money to keep a murderer locked up for life with free room and board
- Rehabilitation of a murderer is unlikely or impossible
The author addresses each of these and gives both examples and statistics to disprove each. He is for the abolishment of capital punishment and presents a strong case.
Because this book is dated (copyright 1999) I started to not review it here, but after more thought I changed my mind. It is still relevant to the discussion of capital punishment and the history of Kentucky is similar to that of other states. The truths apply universally and over time.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject of capital punishment whether for or against. It will also be of interest to any Kentuckian.
Several months ago, a college student was shopping at a craft store. She paid with a $20 bill which she had received at another retail establishment. The clerk checking out her order looked at the bill and said, “I’m sorry, but this is counterfeit.” The student was shocked and produced another bill that was accepted. Except for the embarrassment that was the end of that.
On May 25, 2020, a man was in a grocery store. He paid with a $20 bill that was deemed counterfeit. The police were called. Four officers arrived and handcuffed the man. He died while being restrained by an officer’s knee.
What do you think was different in these two cases?
I know the person in Case #1 and she is white.
I do not know the black man in Case #2 but I have witnessed his murder.
Several weeks ago we explored the subject of “Corrections” https://crookedcreek.live/?s=corrections here on Crooked Creek. Several readers had important comments to make on the subject. Recently I read a story about a prison in Mississippi which I may not have believed had it not been published by The Marshall Project. The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system. It strives to educate regarding the state of criminal justice.
Mississippi has long been known as a troubled prison system. The particular privately operated institution described in a report by Joseph Neff and Alysia Santo is Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. The report is accompanied by a security videotape of an attack on a prisoner which resulted in his death four days later. You can view that disturbing video at https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/06/26/corporate-confession-gangs-ran-this-private-prison
On January 31, 2018, twenty-six-year-old Brad Fitch arrived at the prison. The video shows him being chased, then attacked by two inmates, one of whom had a handmade knife. Fitch was stabbed ten times and died at a hospital. In spite of the video showing his killers, no one has been charged for the murder. It turns out the men were just doing their jobs.
An internal audit revealed that this privately run prison was so short on employees (guards) that the warden, who has since resigned, used inmate gangs to control the prison population. Fitch and his killers were actually members of the same gang, called Simon City Warriors, a white gang affiliated with the Gangster Disciples. The killers caught on security cameras were settling a score with Fitch from two years before.
As we learned before many, if not most, prisons have trouble hiring and retaining people for low paying, dangerous jobs. Wilkinson has a turnover rate of 90% and even though they have raised the hourly wage to $11.25 per hour more than a third of its positions are vacant.
I encourage those of you interested in the subject of criminal justice to read the entire Marshall Project report at the link listed above.
“America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.” George W. Bush
I ask you to think about this terrible word, one that strikes fear in most of us. Can you imagine living near a murderer? What about having a person convicted of murder as a friend or family member? Should those who have committed murder ever get out of prison? Should they even be allowed to live? Can a person who has committed murder ever be a worthwhile citizen?
These are serious questions and ones we casually ponder at different points in our lives. It might be when a well-publicized murder takes place or when the circumstances are more unforgettable or perhaps when it has been geographically close to us. Today when probably none of those situations are present, let’s answer the hard questions.
- Do you support Capital punishment? I never have. During my studies of the criminal justice system over the past several weeks I did not change my mind on this matter.
- Do you believe in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole? As a result of these classes, reading, and research, I have changed my mind and no longer believe that this should be a punishment. If there is no incentive for release where is the incentive for rehabilitation? It’s not “corrections.” It’s not “criminal justice.” It is simply punishment.
3. Have you ever been mad or afraid enough to take the life of another person? I cannot say that I have, but I can imagine how this happens. I believe that a good person can do terrible things under certain circumstances and that they, even murderers, can change. It is worth noting that murder has one of the lowest recidivism rates of all crime categories.
I’m not going to go into great detail, but one day in class two men who had been convicted of murder were our guest speakers. Each had committed their crime while very young and each served over twenty years before receiving parole. Both concentrated on getting an education while in prison and they have used those degrees to find work since released. What’s more, both work now to help others in the prison system and their families. They spoke of their crimes, took full responsibility and voiced their regret. I would welcome either as next door neighbors.
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“Why do we incarcerate? Are we afraid or angry?” Mark Bolton, Corrections Director, Louisville, KY
The SOURCE of most of the information of the past two posts is a class at Bellarmine University taught by Gaye Holman, Author, “Decades Behind Bars: A Twenty-year Conversation with Men in America’s Prisons.” Today’s post is mostly my personal opinion.
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