Monday, July 17, 2017

Surprise. The Attorney General represents ALL of us!

I was trying to explain my frustration with the Michigan Attorney General to one of the newest members of our team.

We were talking about the Public Hearing, an essential step for a lifer before he/she can be granted parole or a commutation of sentence. The hearing is conducted by the Michigan Parole Board, but the activity is dominated by an Assistant Attorney General who mercilessly grills the inmate, who is under oath, not only about every minute detail of the crime, but also about what he/she was thinking at the time. The Assistant AG defends his actions, saying he is representing the “People of the State of Michigan.”  The meaning is clear: He represents the victims of the crime, and their families.

My complaint is that the family and friends of the prisoner are also members of the Michigan populace. He represents us, too, and while he may not realize it, sometimes the prisoner is actually the most damaged victim in this situation. I’ve had criticism of our work as prisoner advocates from people who ask, “What about the victim?” The assumption is that we are on different sides. It’s “we” vs. “they.”

And then my friend Holly, to whom I was venting, wisely put her finger on it: That’s one of our major problems today.

So true.

-Our President thinks America can go it alone.

-Votes on major issues in congress are strictly on party lines, the people be damned.

-It’s important to get a majority of conservatives or liberals on the Supreme Court, because the other side is evil.

-It gets right down to the personal level. If you don’t agree with me, you must not like me. Families are split, churches are split, communities are split.

It begs the simple question: Aren’t we all in this together?

OK, off my soap box and back to prisoners. It should be incumbent on all of us to not only seek healing for victims of crime, but also to seek restorative justice, and healing and rehabilitation for the perpetrators of crime. Punishment, retribution and mass incarceration are getting us nowhere and costing us a fortune.

Said American historian Aberjhani: There is no envy, jealousy, or hatred between the different colors of the rainbow. And no fear either. Because each one exists to make the others’ love more beautiful.

Said St. Paul in the book of Romans: Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

May it start with me. 


holly said...

I think one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is our society unfortunately has a very vengful side. Once deemed a criminal, judged forever as such, and the humanity of the person is tossed aside. How do we fix vengful hearts? (Another Holly ;)

Carl J. Fielstra, J.D. said...

Agree fully, Doug. Prosecutors, appointed to represent the People's interests, become de facto attorneys for victims and solely their interests. "The People" is narrowed to a small contingent of the greater populous.

Clearly, not saing victims and families should be denied redress. Indeed, victims suffer at the hands of perpetrators. However, civil courts exist for this purpose. It's not the role of criminal couts to deal with civil issues.

Theft of a loaf of bread to feed a hungry family represents a comparatively minor loss to a merchant that should not rise to the level of a third strike (California) and 25-years in prison. Perhaps The People should be prosecuted on a class action basis for negligent oversight of its poor.

If Criminal Prosecutors truly represent The People they should consider what penalties truly serve The People's Interests. It follows, therefore, the appropriate prosecutorial question is "Will the interests of The People's be best served by seeking harsh penalties that inhumanely warehouse men and women under conditions and in associations that breed deviant cultures and mindsets, or will The People's interests be better served by a redemptive criminal justice system that fosters rehabilitation and restoration?