I took a few days to process the list of names who received presidential pardons and/or commutations. My wife is a clinical social worker and reminds me often how the brain resets and even solves problems while a person is asleep. I woke up last night thinking about the list and have a few thoughts to share with this rant.
When the list of the chosen few became public, I looked for the names of people I have developed relationships with who have contacted me from inside our nation’s prisons. They are the marginalized who I support pro bono, not the Bannon or Assange types. They have no resources, notoriety and little support from the advocacy groups. While they have compelling stores, they simply cannot enrich politicians or organizations. Anyone who has engaged me on federal prison reform is quickly reminded of my thoughts on the “NGO Mafia” and my belief that a lot of financial resources go into organizations, galas, awards ceremonies, blue ribbon commissions and egos in the name of reform with a very minimal net benefit. My hypothesis that federal justice “Reform” is every bit of a money maker as the prison industrial complex.
On the list, was a wealthy, private client who I felt had no change of a pardon because they had only done a minute of a very long sentence. The first person I immediately searched for was a seventy-two-year-old, person of color whose name was missing even though they have served over thirty-two years, have no violence attributed to them in a drug crime and are going blind while housed in a federal medical center.
In these moments, I stop second guessing myself for my disdain for the federal justice system and the beltway in general. The world is a stage and reform, as well as the pardon process, has become a profitable theatre! The anti-federalists got it right on this one and I imagine even Alexander Hamilton has rolled over in his grave seeing how this process has evolved into a back door feeding frenzy. The anti-federalist papers, less well known ; warned how the pardon power would lead to a “vile and arbitrary aristocracy or monarchy”, according to the NY Times. While a bit dramatic and overstated, it is a fairly accurate analogy.
The Justice Department has imply failed in its responsibility to oversee and ensure a system fair to all and has allowed it to become a back clandestine affair where the privileged are granted relief more for what they have or had to offer, than for a gross injustice done by an unfair system. While leadership is needed more than ever on this issue to restore fairness and neutrality; It is unlikely the elected officials of either party is up to the challenge, especially considering they might someday need that back door advocacy based on their own transgressions.
While I would like to offer suggestions on improving the process, the issue is a bit outside of my prison skill set aside from witnessing the fact that there are far more deserving and forgotten candidates who will die in jail having never had the ability to grease the proverbial wheel inside the corrupted beltway justice system! The federal “Truth in Sentencing” Laws enacted in the 1980’s are taxing a prison system financially by housing elderly offenders who are no longer a threat to the community. It is far past the time for all the elderly languishing in our prison system to have their long overdue review for some humanity!