The prison system in America is something most people don’t take too much time to ruminate over. We grow up knowing that there are places where people who commit crime go, and since we learn that America is the most fair and just country in the world, we assume that everyone there deserves to be there and it has nothing to do with how much money one has or the color of one’s skin, but strictly the committing of criminal acts. We see the majority of people released from prison wind up back behind bars and assume it’s because they don’t know how to assimilate into the normal population- it must be their fault, not the system. We wake up slightly when we see something happen that seems unfair; like OJ or the cops that beat Rodney King being found not guilty, when it’s pretty obvious they did it. But we just shrug it off or maybe write a letter to our local newspaper and then go about our daily lives.The fact that the land of the free has the most people behind bars, per capita of any nation in the world, and that the majority of the inmates are dark-skinned males in for non-violent drug violations hardly makes the news. When it does, all it mostly does is make the white people in the suburbs more afraid, because no one ever goes deeper into why these conditions exist.We won’t get into all the politics and racism (and profits made by the proprietors of the growing number of privately owned US prisons). I’d like to focus on one example that has been bothering me ever since a week ago when I watched the disgusting, depressing documentary- Capturing the Friedmans.About five months before the previously mentioned documentary made it’s unwelcome appearance into my life, my sister-in-law’s baby’s father got arrested. Carlos (not his real name, but that’s what we’ll call him) was caught on tape selling methamphetamines to a kid working with the police. They also had evidence that he had been involved in trafficking these drugs over numerous state lines- all the way from Texas to Minnesota. In his possession was a little under an ounce of meth.Possessing illegal drugs is, well, illegal; selling these drugs is even more so, and trafficking them through six states is enough to get one jail time. No matter what one’s opinions are on whether or not drugs should be legal- they are not, and selling or using them is breaking the law. While Carlos was in full knowledge that he was violating many laws and would go to jail if he got caught, there is (as always) more to the story.Surely the majority of people who are imprisoned claim to be either not guilty or have a great excuse as to why they were forced to do what they did. While illegal is illegal, one’s background does play a part in what that person ends up doing with his or her life.Carlos was born in the worst neighborhood of the worst city (at the time); the South Bronx, New York. His father disappeared before ever even knowing his son’s name, as had the respective fathers of Carlos’s four older brothers and sisters. Two more children followed; all living in a one bedroom apartment and all being raised by their single mother.From what I knew of him (and others from the same background) he isn’t a dumb kid. Unfortunately, growing up in the ghetto provides for little opportunity for one to achieve ones dreams and goals. While there are a few exceptions, he basically had two choices; be an honest person and end up living in a roach infested apartment struggling to make a living, or become a drug dealing drop out, drive a beamer and attract all the ladies. When Carlos was 26 and already a drug dealing womanizer, he met Anita; a 25 year old woman from Minnesota who had moved to New York two years previous to become a nanny. They began to date, and ultimately moved in together. When Anita became pregnant with Carlos’ child, the couple decided it would be smarter – both for them and for their future child – to move back to Minnesota so the child wouldn’t have to be raised like Carlos.Carlos viewed this as a chance to turn his life around. Northern Minnesota’s crime rate was next to nil, no one knew his past, and they didn’t have to worry about their kid getting jumped on his way home from school or joining a gang.Unfortunately for Carlos, he was an adult set in his ways. He went through job after job, never making more than $7 an hour. Although there were more people encouraging him to do good things, he soon discovered that a kid from the South Bronx with street smarts can do very well being a criminal in a town where 80% of the population had never committed a worse crime than stealing a candy bar.He began by selling marijuana along with a little bit of cocaine, and money started to come in. There were times where he would sit down and think about being a positive role model for his son and getting his life on track; he would stop selling weed and get a ‘real’ job. This usually would only last until Justin needed diapers or had a doctor appointment, and then it was back to the streets. It was around this time that methamphetamines made their way to the Midwest and had quite an impact. With security on the borders becoming tighter by the day, simple drugs like marijuana and cocaine (a minor drug compared to meth) were becoming harder and harder to come by. Meth was easy to make with simple household items in a bathroom or kitchen. Not only was it easy to make, but it was highly addicting; one or two tries and 95% of people are hooked. Carlos slowly rose in the meth game; he would sell a little bit here and a little more there; only to people who specifically asked for it and who he trusted. As his pockets began to get fatter and fatter, the greed kicked in and he seeked more profits.He began to get more and more; eventually imported all the way from Texas. As is the case most of the time, one of Carlos’s customers got arrested and came back with marked bills. Needless to say, Carlos was arrested. The Freidman’s were an upper middle class family consisting of a mother, father, and three sons from a small affluent town in Long Island, New York. Mr. Freidman was loved and respected in the community; he was a funny man known for his impressions, he taught group piano lessons for the neighborhood children, and donated money to local charities.Mr. Freidman’s three sons were all a little on the weird side, but they – especially the youngest, Seth (we’ll call him) – were nice kids who got along with almost everyone. Everyone envied the Freidman’s; they seemed to have a grand home life, they all appeared to be happy, and money was never an issue.When rumor started circulating around the little town that a child was accusing Mr. Freidman of molestation, people didn’t want to believe it. When it went from one child to two and eventually to ten, people were shocked and most still were looking for a reason for it to not be accurate.Months of investigations led to over a dozen neighborhood children making accusations of gross sexual abuse from the Freidman house; not only from Mr. Freidman, but also from his 18 year old son Seth. There were graphic descriptions, including a much repeated story of games of leap frog they would play where all the children would take off their pants while Seth and Mr. Freidman would circle around the room- and you can guess what would happen. Carlos was not allowed to pass go and was taken directly to jail. His bail was $20,000, which even if they had all pitched in, none of his family members or friends had. The people he worked for, who visited him on the first day telling him he had nothing to worry about (they would pay for a lawyer and make sure nothing bad happened to him) were nowhere to be found.Anita did everything she could, but was a single mother working a full time job, going to school, and trying to make ends meet. All they were able to afford was an unsympathetic public defender who half-heartedly promised to do all that he could. Carlos was charged with multiple counts of possession of methamphetamines, possession of methamphetamines with the intent to distribute, and numerous counts of trafficking. As of this writing he sits in jail facing a choice given to him by his lawyer. He can give up all the people who were above him, plead guilty to all the crimes, and do 8-10 years and hope no one shanks him for being a rat; or he can take his chances and go to trial, knowing that if he’s found guilty he will be sentenced to 20 years to life. Both Mr. Freidman and his son Seth were arrested and charged; Seth with over a dozen counts of molestation and Mr. Freidman with the same as well as possessing child pornography, making child pornography, and implying a minor (his son was under 18 at the time of the alleged rapes) in a sex scheme. Both men pled guilty while publicly proclaiming their innocence.Mr. Freidman was given more time, which he was to serve out in a federal prison. There was a scene in the move where Mr. Freidman was visited in said prison by his wife or a reporter (I can’t remember) and the visitor had to wait while they interrupted Mr. Freidman’s tennis lesson. Eventually he took his own life so Seth (who was also in a country club disguised as a prison) could have some life insurance money when he got out. When Carlos is done going through the system and released into the world, he’s in trouble. Assuming he snitches on the people who employed him and he behaves well, he’ll be out 8 years. He will be a 40 year old man, with no experience in anything except selling drugs; even if he puts that aside and still tries to find a job, who will hire someone who has been in prison for the past 8 years? Not to mention, the law will be after him to begin to make child support payments right away. Meanwhile, he will have made some new acquaintances and become a superior, more polished criminal in prison. After a few months of looking for a $7 an hour job, struggling to make ends meet, and enduring the judging glances of everyone in small town Minnesota what will happen? And then we wonder why so many ex-cons end up back in lock up. Seth Freidman was sentenced to 14 years. Sure, no one would choose to be locked up, but if one has to be it might as well be somewhere with no gangs and plenty of recreational activities. After Seth served his 14 years (this all happened in the early to mid 80’s) he had three quarters of a million dollars, a loving family, and his white skin awaiting him on the outside. The only way things will ever change is if we do something to change it. Both Democrats and Republicans claim to care about the children, but what have they done in the past 400 years to prove this? Why is it if you were to go into a classroom in Boulder, Colorado you would find a teacher for every ten students, each of these students would have his or her own computer and all the newest books. Their field trips would include hiking, museums, and even trips to other countries. However, go into a classroom with the same age group of kids, but do it somewhere where the majority of them have dark skin. You will find at least quadruple the number of children being taught by a (more often than not) unqualified teacher. The kids would be lucky if they had ten year old books and one computer. Ask them what kind of field trips they go on. Ask them what they have for lunch or even what classes they take. Then go visit both sets of kids in ten years and if you still wonder why one group is successful and the other is either in jail, just out of jail, dead, or struggling then maybe you should go back to school.

One thought on “Our Legal System At Work

  1. maybe in the future we could start a school for those that need to back to school. We could start with slaps to the face. what do you think?

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