Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Suspect Eyed in Chelsea King Disappearance

A suspect is in custody in the disappearance of Chelsea King. John Albert Gardner was reportedly linked to clothing of the vanished teen through DNA evidence. He is also being eyed in the disappearance of 14 year old Amber Dubois, according to CBS News. Gardner lived only a few minutes walk away from Amber Dubois ' home. Gardiner, who served five years in prison for the molestation of a 13 year old girl was found to be unrepentant and at high risk of additional offenses.
The parents are clinging to hope that their daughter will be found alive after disappearing a week ago although hope often slims in disappearances of such a long duration. The search continues for Chelsea King. Of course the questioning of Gardiner continues as well. The terms of Gardner's parole alone justify his continued confinement. He is required to register his place of residence with those supervising his parole. By staying at his mother's home for long stretches when he was registered as living elsewhere he has violated parole already. This provides some leverage to law enforcement in keeping Gardner in custody.

There are certain types of criminals that are very likely to re offend upon release from prison. Those who commit sexual crimes against children fall into this category. The legal principle of allowing a person who has done his or her time to reintegrate into society is now in direct conflict with a desire to protect the public . Civil commitment, in which those judged to be a danger to society are forcibly recommitted to places of confinement that are preventive rather than punitive.

I believe that there is an alternative. In Russia under the czars as well as under the communists was a concept known as "internal exile". A person could after serving his or her sentence be required to reside in a remote village with controlled access. Indeed, many communities of ethnic Russians were established in remote areas of Siberia. Many people sent to the Russian Far East were regular criminals.

There are plenty of places in America to which access can be controlled. Islands and remote rural areas in forbidding climates can be impossible to leave if someone has no access to a car. If a criminal is given a choice between 30 years in prison and life in "internal exile", some might choose internal exile, especially if loved ones are given a chance to visit them.

Another way to avoid stories like that of Chelsea King is to separate violent and hardcore criminals from nonviolent criminals to protect them from being brutalised in prison. Too many people climb up the ladder of criminality because they are exposed to and brutalised by murderers, rapists and thugs. Classification and treatment is critical for those who are reentering society.

Sentences for crimes should accurately reflect public indignation. The flip side of John Albert Gardner is the story of Robert Ferguson, a man who has been sentenced in California to 81/2 years in prison for stealing a block of cheese. The prosecutor in the case thundered in court with the demand that Ferguson be put away as a "3 strikes offender". Some of the offenses that were grouped together in the "3 strikes" occurred 30 years ago. One offense was committed as a juvenile, when Mr. Ferguson, who is bipolar, threw a can of soda at a younger sibling. The Sacramento Bee reports as follows.

A Yolo County judge on Monday sentenced a man who walked out of a store with a package of cheese in his trousers to seven years and eight months in prison.

Prosecutors had originally sought a life sentence for Robert Ferguson under the state's "three strikes" law. They dropped that bid last month, saying a psychological report had convinced them that a life sentence wasn't warranted.

Who is sitting back and seeing that sentences make sense in relation to each other? One man gets 5 years for molestation and in another courtroom, a guy gets 8 years for getting a 5 finger discount on a block of cheese when he should be getting psychiatric treatment. Justice would be well served if the judge and the prosecutor went to jail with the shoplifter. It is hard for me to believe that the judge in that case would pass a drug test.

There are a lot of criminals who are wasting taxpayer's money and clean air by being kept alive. And there are plenty of innocent people on death row. The majority of criminals need measured punishment and help in getting a fresh start. There should be a lot more common sense in criminal justice. But it seems that common sense is not common at all. Sphere: Related Content

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