Matt and I had an interesting discussion with a young attorney recently. He was struggling with himself over the issue of whether to represent a man who is in prison. It wasn’t that the man didn’t deserve legal assistance. He had been brutally beaten by four inmates, and somehow the guards who were supposed to be present in order to prevent things like this from happening, were conveniently absent at the moment. The beating went on for 10 minutes! He’s been in the hospital since April.
No, that was not the issue. The issue was the man’s alleged offense that put him behind bars. He had been convicted of a sex offense involving a minor child. After reading documents on the case and from the trial, the attorney wasn’t able to determine whether the inmate was actually guilty. And, like most of us, he found the alleged offense distasteful. He just wasn’t certain he wanted to help this inmate.
We learned, during the discussion, that the man had been accused by a jilted lover. That should have been the first red flag. In our office we have seen dozens of cases like this, and when there’s an accusation placed by an ex-girlfriend or ex-wife, we think there’s room for serious doubt. We know of numerous wrongful convictions as the result of this scenario.
So based on that, we felt the prisoner deserved the benefit of the doubt.
But I’ll take it one step further. If the guy is guilty as sin, he still deserves to be represented by this attorney, and I hope that the more experience he gains over the years, he sees this position more clearly. For no matter what the guy did that landed him in prison, he didn’t deserve to be brutally beaten by his peers. Incarceration was his penalty, and the punishment stops there.
Our office has heard numerous reports of sex offenders being attacked by fellow inmates in Michigan prisoners…especially those who are elderly, vulnerable, and unable to protect themselves. There are reports not only of serious assaults, but also of extortion, theft and harassment. The sex offenders appear to be unpopular, not only with other prisoners, but also with Corrections Officers.
So we hope this young attorney and all other legal professionals will rally to the aid of unfairly treated prisoners, regardless of their alleged crime.
It’s not only the fair and moral high road…it’s what our constitution guarantees.