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Over-incarceration is not justice being served

caines | 6/27/2013, 5:30 a.m.

If you commit a crime and wind up slumped in the backseat of a squad car, its a pretty good chance that even if a judge does not ultimately issue an order for the department of corrections to lock you up and throw away the key, you could still end up missing in action for so long that everyone in the free world will begin to wonder if you will ever return back home again. By now, its no ancient Chinese secret that because of harsh sentencing practices on behalf of the justice system, Florida prisoners particularly those of African descent are being held in prison for a lengthy period of time, many of them much longer than necessary. Rehabilitation has taken a backseat to warehousing, and prisoners have become akin to stacks of dirty dishes that have been left sitting in the kitchen sink for years without ever being washed clean. No one seems to care about why they have been dragged from camp to camp, unchallenged mentally and spiritually year in and year out. The justice system would explain its position as simply carrying out the intent of the Florida legislature in imposing stiff punishment to convicted felons, and the Florida Department of Corrections is truly grateful for the opportunity to be able to provide people with jobs, mostly to folks living in predominantly white rural areas across the state, locations where prisons are the lifeblood of their economy. For those of you in the free world who are determined to engage in criminal activity, the message being delivered here is that youre putting yourself in a position to risk facing a two-headed juggernaut. The justice system and penal system are working in cahoots to not only ensure that non-violent offenders vanish from society for an allotted period of no less than 85 percent of their time, but also to cause offenders who have been convicted of crimes that are deemed violent by definition of the law to remain in prison for the same amount of time given to a cold-blooded murderer in spite of the fact that no actual violence had occurred during their crimes, crimes involving relatively no victim injury or bodily harm. For these prisoners in particular, even if their sentences are statutorily legal, at what point does it become morally appropriate to conclude that a man has been well-punished for crime? And if his error was made at a tender age out of his crime prone years? After 15 . . . 20 . . . or 25 years have gone by? Perhaps the goal, systematically, is to keep him incarcerated for as long as possible the longer he is kept, the better it is for business. Since nothing is being done about the widespread imposition of heavy-handed sentences sentences that dont fit the crimes that were committed you cant help but wonder if the powers that be are getting away with murder themselves, overkilling a large number of Florida prisoners with over-incarceration. For now, no amount of wondering is going to stop the bleeding what will, though, is a conscious decision to avoid doing the crime in order to avoid doing the time. By Arthur Lee Hall, Jr.