What you need to know about “The System”:

The Pro’s:

What I’m going to discuss here is the “Pro’s and Con’s” of the system.

The Pro’s would normally cover the prosecution or rather the good guys. The Con’s would normally describe the bad guys, the inmates, and the convicts. Unfortunately the roles can sometimes get interwoven and it can be difficult to figure out who’s who.

As stated before, I cannot possibly comment on the criminal justice systems outside of California. In fact, I can really only comment on the systems that are near the area that I work in. But most criminal justice systems consist of the same players. A criminal case going before the court system can almost be compared to a football game.

· The head referee is the “Judge”.

· The other referee’s and officials are the jury.

· The coach of the home team is the district attorney or their representative, the deputy D.A.

· The players on the home team are the victims of the case, witnesses, and the cops.

· The coach of the visiting team is the defense attorney or public defender.

· The players on the visiting team are the defendants in the case.

What occurs in the courtroom is just like what you watch on Sunday Football games.

There are good plays made, bad plays made cheap shots, dirty play, incredible strategies, and every now and then a “Hail-Mary” that can win the game.

Keep in mind how the coach of the team keeps his job. By winning games! The coach of a losing team isn’t going to benefit in the area of job longevity. On a similar note the district attorney is an elected official. The D.A is evaluated by the county government and by the voters, as to the number of “wins” the office scores. The DA is voted into office by YOU the voting public and that in itself gives you more power than you could possibly imagine. That gives YOU the power to decide who is going to coach your team.

Speaking along those lines, you as a defendant also have the power to control who represents you in your case. An attorney with a poor track record of winning cases isn’t going to be your first choice. A public defender with a non-caring or burnt out attitude that was assigned to you because you have no funds, is not going to help your case very much.

I’m not going to address private attorneys or public defenders here because as we all know there is no drastic shortage of them. The person I’m going to address is the one responsible for sending bad people to jail. The coach of your team. The DA.

Before I got into law enforcement I paid little, if any attention to the people who were running for the office of district attorney. I had the mindset that the person in office was probably doing a good job and that they would have the best experience and background for doing the job because they’ve already been doing it. If you share that line of thinking as I did, you will need to change that thought!

The wrong person in the wrong office can make all the difference in the world as to how criminal prosecutions are handled in your county! Good, bad, or indifferent.

There are district attorneys that do an outstanding job. They have a “Zero Tolerance” approach to the job and I respect their outlook towards their objectives. If someone is guilty of a crime they charge for that crime and go after it. One hundred percent! Their passion is going after someone that wronged someone else, and their motivation is to do “what’s right”.

The case has to be correctly presented to the DA’s office for prosecution, and any deficiencies on the part of the police are evaluated. If it’s a solid case they take it. If there were mistakes made they immediately say “Hey, you guys blew this one, our hands are tied. Learn from it and bring us a solid case next time.”

No Bull crap. Right to the point. They aren’t going to waste taxpayers money in court by going after a weak case hoping for a “plea bargain” that will give them a “win” on paper.

On the opposite side of the coin, there are some DA’s that demonstrate questionable motives and ethics. These traits and expectations are passed down to the “Deputy DA’s” in the courtroom. Win cases at any expense and make me look good, or you won’t be employed in this office very long. It’s all about winning cases and having a good track record on paper.

They get to the point where they don’t really care what the particulars of the case are, or who got victimized. They only care about the end result on paper. The “stats” at the end of the year. The ammunition that they can take out to the voters by means of saying “Hey, I’ve got a 99 percent closure rate of guilty verdicts and I’m doing a great job for you!”

What you need to know, is how many of those serious “felony” cases were reduced down to a petty “misdemeanor” on a plea bargain. A reduction that will result in little or no jail time for the defendant. A reduction that will usually result in the defendant getting “probation” that he or she will violate in the next month or two.

The problem with this, is that the bad guy goes out and commits a felony with the mindset “No big deal if I get busted, I’ll “cop a plea” and get a slap on the wrist.” And the bad guy is right! And the bad guy tells his friends, and those friends tell other friends, and soon you have a whole lot of people running around with NO incentive to not commit serious crimes because they have learned how to “work the system.”

I’m not going to name names, but I’ll say this. I have worked with a number of outstanding deputy district attorneys who make me proud to be in law enforcement. They are a total credit to their profession and to you the taxpayers. They have been around the block a time or two and they believe in standing up for right over wrong, even if it goes beyond the political aspirations of their boss, the “head coach”.

I will always remember one of the first deputy DA’s that I worked with on a court case. He called me several days before the court date to discuss the case. On the date of the preliminary hearing he called me in an hour early to again discuss the case. During the preliminary hearing the case was so strong that the public defender offered the deputy DA a “plea”. Her defendant would plead guilty to a misdemeanor violation with credit for “time served” (no jail time) and limited terms of probation.

The Deputy DA smiled at the public defender and calmly stated, “No deal, your client is going to do felony time on a felony charge and his next home is going to be state prison, not bed and breakfast at the county jail.” This deputy DA was willing to take this all the way to the end in Superior Court, and present the case to the Judge or to a Jury and he was not about to settle for anything less than a guilty plea to a felony charge.

The defendant knew the game was up and pleaded guilty right then and there to the felony charges. He was sentenced a week later to 18 months in state prison and 3 years felony probation.

I had the pleasure of working with this deputy DA several times over the next few years and I was amazed that this guy had a completely different kind of “flair” compared to many of the other deputy DA’s. This guy would take off his suit jacket during a long case, and roll up his sleeves, and present a down to earth and honest approach to the mission at hand. Juror’s loved him because he was so sincere.

Unfortunately, I’ve worked with deputy DA’s who did not share this direct approach towards right and wrong. Many are unprepared when they go to court. They call the officer in 5 minutes before the hearing or trial starts to quickly discuss the case, which is pretty much a smoke screen.

When being questioned in the courtroom by the defense attorney, the officer wonders why the DA is not posing “objections” to inappropriate and irrelevant questions being asked. The DA flips through page after page of notes because they are totally unfamiliar with the case. Worse yet, what they portray to the Judge or the jury is that they are “unprepared”. This has resulted in many lost cases that should have been won.

· More often than not, this shallow involvement with a case results in plea bargains and suspended sentences.

· Plea bargains and suspended sentences result in repeat offenders.

· Repeat offenders will eventually target YOU as a victim!

I bring this up merely so that you know, that what you see in the paper when you read the headlines “Defendant” pleads guilty to charge, may not mean exactly what it reads. I can only remember a handful of times when a victim has called me after a case, to have someone explain the outcome of the case for them.

The only problem is that most the time, the officer leaves the courtroom and has no idea what happens in a case unless they take the initiative to call the DA themselves and find out. Or if it is a high profile case the DA will call the officer and let them know.

If you are the victim in a case, YOU HAVE A RIGHT to know what happened to the bad guy. You have a right to know what the guilty plea was for. Was it a plea bargain dropped down to a lesser charge?

One of the most common cases that fits in here is the DUI arrest. Driving under the influence of alcohol. I see hundreds of driver license histories on my patrol car computer screen on a weekly basis. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a history containing a previous charge for “reckless driving”. With certain particulars involved.

Let’s say I stop a car for running a red light at 2am. I contact the driver who exhibits signs of being under the influence of alcohol. After a few field sobriety test I pull out the portable field Intoxilyzer and the driver blows a .04 /.05 blood alcohol content. That’s half the legal limit in California so not a lot of cops worry about that too much, but I worry about if this driver’s BAC reading is “on the rise”.

I look at his history and see that he has two previous convictions for reckless driving in the past 3 years. My experience tells me that reckless driving convictions are common for younger drivers, and very uncommon for a 40 year-old man.

I ask the guy if he has ever been arrested for drunk driving to which he reluctantly tells me he has been arrested twice in the past, but the cases were dropped to reckless driving on plea bargains. Thus explains what I am seeing on my computer screen. A guy, who has flirted with danger twice, but got off on a reduced charge of what we call a “wet reckless”.

· Less fines

· Less License suspensions

· Less mandatory alcohol schools

· Less insurance rate increases

What I see is a guy who hasn’t learned a lesson in regards to the severe tragedies that drinking and driving can pose to innocent people. And we are letting him get away with this. I ask him “off the record” why he is drinking and driving if he has been arrested for DUI twice before? The guy replies, “Hey I watch myself, I know what my limitations are.” I ask the guy if he will help me out with a little experiment and he provides 2 more sample test on my Intoxilyzer. His .04/.05 reading is now a .05/.06 and he finds himself only 2 points away from the maximum legal arrestable limit. (Remember that a blood test is a more concentrated test and can provide a reading up to 2 points higher than a breath test reading.) He volunteers to lock his car and I give him a ride home.

He tells me that he is going through a divorce and that he was under a lot of stress and felt like having a couple drinks. I ask him if that would have been the excuse if he had struck a kid in dark clothing crossing in the crosswalk at the intersection where he had blown past the stop sign at 35 mph. I get no response from him.

He isn’t thinking of the consequences. He’s thinking about how lucky he is that he wasn’t being arrested again. He’s thinking of the inconvenience and embarrassment he escaped tonight, not the fact that he may have killed you or a family member.

WE have the choice in what kind of tolerance we will have against crimes, by who we select to have playing on our team as the "Head Coach."

The "I’ll take any win" approach for personal gain cannot be tolerated.

· The DA who exhibits a sincere concern for right and wrong.

· The one who goes the extra effort to insure that justice prevails.

· The one that rolls up his or her shirtsleeves and grabs the bull by the horns to do a good job.

· And the one that believes in the morals and ethics of the position.

That is the person you want as your head District Attorney.

Remember that Actions always speak louder than words. Talk is cheap!

Does your DA put brand new inexperienced deputy DA’s in the courtroom unassisted and unprepared. Inexperienced young lawyers who are encouraged to go after the "plea bargain" to insure a win? Or who are threatened with a short career if not enough "wins" are made in court?

I know of DA offices where it is common practice that if you do not perform up to the DA’s standards, you are assigned to really undesirable assignment. Indefinitely! This promotes bad morale and unfortunately a whole bunch of deputy DA’s running around that are afraid of "making waves".

Making waves usually means doing anything less than getting "wins" and making the "head coach" look good. Getting "wins" should be dependant upon deputy DA’s being prepared, and giving 100 percent to the case. Win or Lose you go after what is right, not what will be an easy victory when the bad guy plea’s to a lessor charge and sentence.

The fallout from all of this is in the number of repeat offenders:

I don’t know why there is this difference, but a Sheriff is an elected position. The voters put him or her into office but yet a chief of police is "hired" by the city. They both do the same job, but one has the added worry of worrying about votes from the public.

I remember years ago while working for a sheriff’s department, being taught in field training that we were not to write any traffic citations unless they were of an extreme nature. We would not be paid to go to traffic court as a reminder to adhere to that policy.

My first question was "why not?" My veteran training officer shook his head and said, "Think about it kid, you think the Sheriff would get re-elected if the voting public was always getting tickets from his deputies?" "CHP handles the traffic matters, we handle the criminal matters".

I scratched my head wondering why it was OK to drive like an idiot in an area where a sheriff presided, but in a city run by a chief of police, officers were encouraged to write citations. "It’s not our job I was told", but I would look down on the badge on my shirt and wonder what made my badge any different than any other patrol officer working the street.

That mentality has changed over the years and it is much better now than it ever used to be. But the fact still remains that a sheriff is often placed in a position of conflict between doing what is right, and doing what he or she thinks the voting public will like. I’m not going to direct blame and describe specific incidents but please be aware of the following.

YOU decide the people that will run your sheriff’s departments and district attorneys offices.

(Just a quick reminder, a sheriff oversees the sheriff’s department, which patrols the unincorporated portions within a county and also for operating the county jails located within their jurisdiction. The sheriff is an elected official. A municipal police department run by a chief of police is responsible for police work WITHIN an incorporated city. The chief is hired by the city and is not voted in by the public.)

Don’t vote to put people into these positions without knowing their complete backgrounds. Don’t read the paper and see a 99 percent conviction rate and take that as face value for the DA’s accomplishments. How many of those were plea bargains and reduced sentences just for a statistic? What’s the moral like within the office? Does this person truly care about right and wrong for the victims?

Question the sheriff who voices how the violent crime rate has dropped and how property crimes are way down! Ask a few deputies on the street what the general opinion of their boss is.

Are crimes down because the sheriff’s department is taking care of business, or are they down because there is less reported activity because of drastic manpower shortages and many crimes aren’t being reported.

How is the equipment? Does the patrol car the deputy is in have 125,000 miles on it with bad tires and poor brakes, or does the department take care of the line staff ensuring they have the proper tools to do the job?

Does the sheriff promote within the department based on qualifications and skills, or is it a "good old boys" club where to get ahead it’s not what you know, but who you know.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that you won’t read in the paper. You need to do some investigating of your own when it’s time to vote these officials into office. Check facts, not propaganda printed in the paper at election time. Contact the people on the street who work for these "Head Coaches".

You have the opportunity to take part in whether or not you’ll have the head coach of a winning team or a losing one. TAKE THAT OPPORTUNITY!

The Cons:

The Con’s of the system:

· Sentencing

· Probation and Parole

· Incarceration/Jails

· Convicts and Inmates

Let’s talk about Sentencing!

A bad guy commits a car-jacking severely injuring the person who was driving the car. The bad guy gets arrested and goes to jail. The sophisticated bad guy has been in jail before and knows that county jail is by far a better place to do time, than going to state prison. It’s usually closer to home and family and friends can visit him more conveniently. Plus the bad guy knows that the longer he can stall in county jail, he will get credit for "time already served."

The bad guy stalls his case here and there until he has changed public defenders a few times, and requested continuance after continuance.

By the time he goes to court 12 months later, he takes a plea bargain and pleads guilty to the felony assault with a deadly weapon charge, but only after they drop the car jacking charge. He gets sentenced to 3 years felony probation and 2 years in the state prison. He gets credit for time served after having done 365 days in county jail waiting to go to trial. (Or I should say stalling for trial.) In addition he gets "good time credits" for attending a couple computer classes and for being a worker in the kitchen. Good time credits meaning up to a 25% reduction in sentence!

91 days knocked off for being a good inmate.

Let me do the math:

· A two-year sentence is 730 days in prison.

· Minus 365 days for time served

· Minus 91 days good time

That leaves 274 days for the bad guy to do in state prison. That’s under a year, but wait…There’s more! On the state level good time is one for one. That’s right, every day that goes by where you don’t cause any problems, you get a day of good time credit off your sentence. A 50% reduction off your sentence!

274 days left on a 2-year sentence leaves 137 days. Four and a half months in state prison for stabbing a guy in the face and trying to get the victim’s vehicle.

Now I’m thinking that’s a crime in itself! The only thing this guy is thinking when he walks away from prison is that now he has to be extra careful when he does a car-jack because now he’s on probation.

Our motto, here it comes again! "Every action has a reaction".

There were 2 felony charges in this case. Why was one dropped in a plea bargain?

Why was this guy allowed to "use the system" with credit for time served? If a person wants to stall the system before going to trial why do it at the expense of the sentencing? Credit for time served is a joke!

This guy traded doing "hard time in prison" for doing easy county jail time.

Credit for good time? What’s up with that? This guy didn’t take computer classes because he wants to work with computers after he gets out. He did it because he knew he could get a substantial amount of time knocked off his sentence and in the meantime learn how to make nifty little homemade cards that he can send to the female inmates on the other end of the facility.

Most every repeat offender that leaves the courtroom has his own calculations already working. Five years in State Prison really means two and a half years right off the bat plus miscellaneous credits for attending classes and holding down jobs in the laundry or the kitchen.

WHEN YOU HEAR SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS IN STATE PRISON, MOST OF THE TIME IT’S A JOKE! The person will be out way before then. Why is that?

Incentive!

Incentive to be a model inmate. Incentive to further your education behind bars. Incentive to turn your life around. Now heaven forbid that you’re a bad person in prison because we’ll take away your good time credits! That will teach you!

There’s no incentive to not committing a crime and not going to prison. There’s only an incentive on how to "beat the system" and to try harder not to get caught next time.

A few years back we started this "3-Strikes" thing. I’m thinking it was something that looked good under a political advertisement or in a speech, but does it really work. In most cases no. In severe cases where someone is on their last strike and they are looking at doing really long time, then it works.

Do we need 3 strikes? You tell me.

Lets say that the sentence for car-jacking with the use of a deadly weapon was 4, 6, or 10 years in state prison. An enhancement for injuries sustained by the victim ups the sentence to 6, 10, or 15 years in the state prison.

Lets say that this guy get sentenced to 6 years state prison. 6 years to the day! Not a day less!

Doesn’t matter about time served or how much time he used to stall the process.

Doesn’t matter if he attended a few computer classes. If he wants to better himself more power to him. That’s commendable but he has to do it because he wants to do it, not because of how much time it will shave of his sentence.

He’s going to have 6 years in a nasty place to think about why he stuck a knife in some woman’s face because he was high on crack cocaine and wanted her car. This woman is disfigured for life, but she survived with her life. Why should he get out in a couple years after working the system?

Better yet, a second offense and he will get the 10-year term. A third offense gets the 15-year term. Day in for everyday sentenced. No short cuts. Now let me do the math again.

18-year old crack head does the violent crime described above. Gets sentenced to the 6 years in prison. He’s now 24 when he gets out. He’s missed out on a lot in life but is stupid enough to do the same thing again.

Now he gets the 10-year sentence. Now when he walks out of prison he’s 34 years of age.

At this age, he starts up the crack habit again and in a drugged stupor, does the same crime again. This stint in prison is going to be 15 big ones. 49-years old when he gets out.

Now it’s your turn to tell me. If you knew for a fact that you could end up doing 31 years in prison for 3 stupid mistakes, would you do them in the first place? I’m thinking you wouldn’t even think about a second time. Would you do them if you could bank on only a little time here, and a little time there? Maybe you’ll get some probation or parole thrown in for good measure. Hey, what the hell? If you violate your probation they’ll send you back to the joint for a bullet (a year) but everyone knows you can get out in a couple months on a violation. I’m thinking you would.

There’s no incentive not to!

If every action has a reaction, why do we make it so easy for repeat offenders? The injustice of our system is common knowledge even amongst our juveniles, who in turn, grow up to be the repeat offenders who in turn fill up our jails and prisons.

I remember that college kid who got arrested for vandalism in another country. He got sentenced to being "caned" in public. Thousands of activists in the USA jumped to his support and voiced their disapproval over this type of discipline. How barbaric! But you know what? In this country the kid would have gotten a make believe slap on the wrist, a few hours community service, and maybe been on informal probation for 12 months. And that’s after "Dear old Dad" paid for the damages.

YOU know and I know, that when this kid goes back to that country he’s going to know that they don’t fool around with their criminal justice system and nothing could even come close to making him think about trying that again!

That country left a message with this kid. Right across his butt for all to see.

But here? The message is "Oh it’s just vandalism, no big deal."

I used to live on my boat at a marina located near the heart of the San Francisco bay. Every Saturday morning as I made my coffee I would look up and see 15 to 20 men and women show up for their 8 hours of community service. The majority of them would all show up dressed in typical gang attire. All there to do their 8 hours of picking up trash to make the marina and park look better.

I would watch these people throughout the day.

· I saw the "workers" make drug deals openly in the parking lot.

· Friends visiting the workers in their beat up gang cars with the rap music pumped up. Squealing tires, spinning donuts, and the sentenced community service workers whooping it up. Oh yeah, community service hours just wouldn’t be cool without my homey bringing me down a 40-oz of Miller…

· The walk. The lazy "full of attitude shuffle." The "why do I have to do this crap" walk.

· I would have to laugh because almost everyday there would be some slob who became exhausted after 90 minutes of picking up 20 or so pieces of trash. He or she would lay down on the bench next to the gang way for my dock, and take a nap! Yes working America, you too can have these kinds of employees!

· And then there would be the dirt bag guys who were trying to scam on the dirt bag girls. True love! Love Connection! All in a park like setting. "Well Chuck, soon as I laid eyes on her, I knew she was for me. I was cleaning near the restrooms, and she was picking up trash in the bushes nearby. Our eyes met and I knew it was true love. We have so much in common…we were both there for possession of methamphetamine!" Hey, we’ll be back in two and two!

Yes, community service hours are a viable deterrent against crime. NOT!

Get busted for dope or drugs and you too can spend 4 beautiful days at the marina partying with your friends instead of going to jail!

The guys who work at the marina turn the other way. Hey they don’t get paid to deal with these people. They just get paid to hand out they’re little plastic bags and a rake or two. After filling out the forms that 32 bodies showed up at 8am, and 32 bodies left at 5pm, that’s all they care about.

The motive is good. But why are we promoting laziness, poor work ethics, and further criminal behavior?

What if there was a cop assigned there to make sure that these dead beats weren’t dead beats for at least 8 hours. You don’t pull your share, that’s fine Mr. pain in the ass to society. How about we just revoke your community service hours and you can do your 20 days in the county jail. You can sleep all you want to there.

When you get right down to it, it’s pathetic. And we all control it by who we vote into office. The officials who are supposed to decide and enforce what happens to these people when they get busted. Or what’s worse, WHAT DOESN’T HAPPEN!

Get smart.

Be aware.

Take part in making sure that the law-enforcers and the lawmakers that you vote into office are the right ones for the job. Look around and you tell me if you’ve been doing a good job or not. It’s a privilege that you have to use, and use wisely, if you want to see a positive change made. EVERYONE has to get involved.

Let’s talk about Probation and Parole:

Parole and Probation are simply a “trade-off’” in lieu of a maximum sentence or doing time in Jail or Prison.

The good news is that the concept of "incentive" is a good one.

The bad news is that on an all too regular basis, the system doesn’t work.

Probation is a less serious action compared to parole and can be granted on sentences whether or not a convicted person or inmate served any time. I’ve had cases where I arrested a person on a felony drug charge; they bailed out of jail, went to court a month later, and got sentenced to 3 years felony probation. All without doing any jail time.

The incentive is that the guy would normally do 6 months in the county jail, but his time is being waived because he accepted the terms of probation. He’ll pay a fine, go to drug school, and be sent on his way to the Probation Officer’s office once a week to provide a urine test for drugs.

Parole is a much more serious action that takes place after a defendant has been incarcerated in prison. Same guy above does a robbery and gets sentenced to 7 years in the state prison. After serving 2 years, he is eligible for "parole". Once out on parole, he must check in regularly with his parole officer, maintain a legitimate residence, and maintain employment.

Both are almost the same thing. A charge or sentence is REDUCED under the agreement that the convicted person will meet the terms and stipulations of the probation or parole.

Let me give you an example:

You have never been in trouble for anything in your life. You use some really poor judgment going out drinking with your friends one night. While driving home you get stopped by the police, and arrested for D.U.I. The Court finds you guilty and you are sentenced to the following:

Pay a high fine.

Attend Alcohol school.

License suspension for 4 months.

And 18 months “Informal Probation.

Informal probation is court probation, meaning you don’t have to check in on a regular basis with a probation officer. Records of probation are maintained when violations of the probation are noted in court by additional offenses. Probation means you are “trading” jail time or maximum fines, for promising to be good person at least for the terms of the probation period.

Terms of Informal probation usually read something like:

· Must obey all laws

· Must report any change of address

· Must not drive vehicle with alcohol in system

· Must not drive unless licenses and insured

· Must not refuse to provide blood alcohol content test

Therefore, if you get stopped in your car for a moving violation and it was determined that you were driving without insurance, an Officer could file a charge of violating probation which would mean a separate charge in itself being filed “because YOU didn’t maintain insurance on the car.” Additionally you could be sentenced to pay the maximum original fine, or you could actually be sentenced to do the jail time that was traded away by the probation. So, because you failed to keep insurance on your car as promised, you could find yourself doing 30 days in the county jail, BECAUSE YOU BLEW IT!

Probation increases with the severity of the crime. Formal probation can include Drug probation, Juvenile probation, and Felony probation. This is probation where you MUST physically check in on a weekly basis with a probation officer assigned to your case. For drug probation, you are normally required to provide weekly urine samples for drug analysis.

One “Dirty Test” as they call it, can land you an automatic year in prison with no questions asked! It doesn’t matter what kind of probation it is. It’s a probationary period that you agree to accept in lieu of a maximum jail sentence or fine. Period!

If you blow it, you have NOBODY to blame but yourself.

Parole is the same principal only it carries a greater threat being that if you screw up while on parole, YOU WILL GO BACK TO PRISON! Most people don’t want to go back to prison if there is any good inside of them to begin with. They take advantage of getting out of the prison hell hole early, and strive to make sure they NEVER go back.

Unfortunately, for thousands of career criminals across the nation, parole is a game to get out of prison early, and that begins another game of them trying even harder never to get caught again.

When we make a car stop and the dispatcher advises that the license plate comes back to a “Parolee at Large”, you treat this as being one of the most potentially dangerous stops you’ll make in your career. We don’t know what’s going on in this person’s mind, or how desperate they may be to avoid being apprehended. Many of these caution remarks provided to us include “Parolee at Large, considered Armed and Dangerous”. If YOU decide to blow the opportunity given to you, then you suffer the consequences! And that’s going to be 8 cops with guns aimed at your car or in your face, and we aren’t going to be looking like we’re glad to see you!

A simple logic to look at is this:

If you put your hand on a red-hot stove, you’re going to get burned and you’ll never do it again!

If you put your hand on a warm stove, it’s not going to hurt and you’ll do it again.

It doesn’t get anymore simple than that.

Our criminal justice system is often like a warm stove, and from juveniles to adults there are no "hot" incentives to not commit crimes, until they get to a severe extreme. Why do we have to wait? Why not set the tone of zero tolerance right from the get go?

This is a "Real Life" criminal history sheet for a real person. More commonly called a "Rap" sheet.

You tell me if this guy believes in right from wrong. He’s now just over 40 years of age and his occupation is a blue-collar worker.

In 1974 he was arrested for:

Petty theft

Tampering with a vehicle

Action- dismissed in the furtherance of justice

1975:

Misdemeanor drunk driving

Reduced to reckless driving

Possession of a switch blade knife

Sentenced to 36 months of probation without supervision for the reckless

Possession of the switchblade dismissed

In 1983:

Challenge another to fight in a public place

Prosecution rejected, released from detention

In 1987:

Battery on a person

Proceedings suspended, diversion granted

1988:

Battery on a person

Diversion dismissed, proceedings pending

Attempted Murder

Dismissed on plea bargain

In 1989:

Assault with a deadly weapon

Dismissed

Obstructs/Resist public officer

Prosecution rejected

Driving under the influence

Dismissed

Attempt Voluntary Manslaughter

Sentenced to 6 years in prison

Paroled

In 1992:

Assault with a deadly weapon

Obstructs resist public officer

Prevent/Dissuade witness from testifying

Dismissed for plea to other charge of assault with deadly resisting

Sentenced to 8 years state prison

Paroled

1998:

Parole violation

Sentenced to finish term above

What you won’t see on the paper is the days spent in between dates for incarcerations and court actions. "Time served"

This guy got a lesson in the injustice of the justice system way back in the 80’s. Right up to the point where his fights and battery’s turned into resisting the police and attempted murder! Somewhere between 1992 and 1998 he got sentenced to 8 years prison but somewhere down the road he violated his parole with another charge, and got sentenced or rather re-sentenced to finish the original term.

Can you see the wasted time with all the "Dismissed in furtherance of justice" and "Prosecution rejected" actions. All we did with this guy was to teach him how to play the system, and as he did this, we watched his offenses grow with severity.

From drunk driving, causing fights, Battery’s, Assaults with deadly weapons, Resisting and obstructing officers, Threatening/preventing a witness, All the way up to attempted murder. Helloooooo! Anybody home? ATTEMPTED MURDER!

What if this guy got the maximum sentences for everything he did as soon as he demonstrated a pattern of criminal behavior.

What we did with this guy, was give him a warm stove to put his hand on, time after time. I’m wondering what the outcome would have been if we had given him a message with a red hot stove right from the beginning.

Parole and Probation may be OK for a first time offender who can prove that he got the message that society WILL NOT TOLERATE criminal behavior. If a first time offender blows it, then think about delivering the 3 sets of sentences that are listed in the penal code. Someone put those in there for a reason.

Time served?

Good time credit?

School time credit?

Work in the kitchen credit?

Give me a break!

What about the time served by the victim who was stabbed in the face, lost an eye, and is now disabled?

What about time served in hospitals and rehabilitation centers?

What good time credit does this law-abiding husband, father, and tax payer get?

Will he get credit for attending schools to be re-trained to do a simple job because he can’t manage at his old job that he went to 4 years of college for?

Will he get credit for working in a kitchen somewhere as part of a disability placement program?

There are 2 victims here.

· The actual victim of the crime.

· And the person we didn’t teach a lesson to when we had the chance.

And we blew it all the way up to letting Attempted Murder take place.

It isn’t working folks. Put a bookmark on this page and go pick up the newspaper. Tell me our corrections system is working.

Here, don’t get up. Let me save you the trouble.

From the blood that has been stained on my uniform,

From the tears streaming down my face over the lifeless body of a child shot by a ruthless gang banger,

From the hatred I see on a daily basis from the predators who bounce in and out of the system,

For everything that the Badge on my Jacket stands for,

I tell you here and now….

It isn’t working!

And it’s not going to work, until you get sick and tired of seeing innocent people like yourselves being victimized, being hurt, and being killed, by persons who keep getting their hand put on a warm stove for doing wrong. People with no remorse for what they do. People with no sense of right or wrong. People who need to be taught a lesson of zero tolerance.

Hey, I’m a cop, not a politician. But I’m thinking we had better make a quick decision on what we’re going to do here.

Make some noise.

Contact your lawmakers.

Contact victim advocate groups.

Work towards a positive change.

Someone screwed up the system allowing this mockery of the justice system to take place. Someone turned down the burner on the stove. All of us can unscrew the mess we have by all working together for positive change. It’s so simple. Would somebody please turn up the burner on the stove?

Hey, let’s talk about Jails:

Laugh at me if you must, but this is my theory. The person who is going to become financially secure beyond one’s wildest dreams after the year 2000, is the person who buys a whole lot of land and opens privately run correction facilities.

Professionally trained staff.

Adequate food and housing.

Educational opportunities made available for diploma’s not time credits.

And proper medical and dental care administered.

You’ll make a bundle! You think I’m kidding? Civilian and privately owned prisons are going to be the thing of the future!

Look at the demise that state prisons are in across America.

Overcrowding

Over budget

Over violent

Under staffed

And inefficient

Someone got the bright idea to start a "new generation jail". One that was less "threatening" and "harsh" to the inmates. One that was painted with colorful "Dorms" not "Cells". One that put one or two deputies inside a dorm like setting with 125 inmates free to roam around. We want our deputies to "interact" with the incarcerated. One that provided color TV’s with 50 different cable channels. Contact visits with relatives so that drugs could be smuggled in. Juice makers, Coffee Makers, Microwave ovens, Wall to wall carpeting, Free computers to use, Free stationary supplies, Free Library privileges.

Give the inmates keys to their own rooms. That will give them a sense of responsibility!

We need to be more "touchy feely" with these poor souls.

I have two words to say and the first one starts with Bull —-!

What we’ve given the violent criminal offender with these new generation jails is nothing more than "Time Out"!

When I was a new Deputy, this older inmate approached me at the deputy station. Keep in mind that the "deputy station" was a little wooden podium near the center of a 2-story housing unit for 120 inmates. The inmates were out in the open free to roam where they wanted. The deputy or two on duty wasn’t in a control station. They had to walk around amongst all the bad guys!

"Perry" walked up to me, shook his head, and asked me "if I was new."

I said yes and asked him why he had asked.

Perry asked me "if I had ever worked the old jail." I told him that I had not.

(The old jail had cement floors, iron bars, and rather basic accommodations.)

"Deputy" Perry stated, "I’ve been in and out of prison all my life, all on my own accord."

"But this place" he said as he looked around "This brand new place will be a disaster before you know it".

Perry told me that jail should be a place that you never want to go back to.

Perry told me that jail should be unpleasant.

Perry told me that jail should be a reminder to do good on the street or else you’d return to jail.

Perry shook his head and said, "All you guys are doing, is giving these people a whole lot of reasons to want to come back for. They got way more here than they ever got at home. You’re rewarding them for being inmates!

I’ll never forget Perry’s word’s as he walked away from the deputy station with his 63-year old shuffle,

"Deputy, with all due respect to your profession, I hope you didn’t pay the guy that thought this up too much because you could have built 10 of the old jails for the cost of this one…If that ain’t embezzlement I don’t know what is…"

Perry was right. I heard it from older inmates. I heard it from older deputies that had worked in the old jail.

In this county jail that was supposed to house somewhere near 500 inmates, we soon had counts as high as 900. Double bunks in rooms that were supposed to be single rooms. Mattresses on the open floors where there were no rooms.

The concept was to make jail a more relaxed place for inmates so that violence would be discouraged & deputies would have an easier work environment.

Perry was right!

We had escapes.

We had fights.

We had suicides.

We had riots.

We had assaults against staff.

We had weapons smuggled in.

We had drugs smuggled in.

We even had a murder where an inmate was strangled by other inmates for "being a snitch" just overhead of where the deputy was at the desk on the lower floor. (So much for the direct supervision idea)

We had all this, even with all the luxurious "touchy feely" benefits that we gave to the inmates.

A place where violence is discouraged?

I’m thinking someone needs to tell that to the dead inmate.

These new generation jails cost MILLIONS to build. They cost hundreds of thousands to staff.

When people who feel sorry for these guys come to their defense and say that I’m out of line, go work a shift in the jail. One deputy. One hundred and Twenty inmates. Work there for a year and watch the same inmate faces coming in over and over again.

There’s a reason why inmates fear going to prison, because the conditions there are "harsh". Really harsh!

There are county jails run just like prisons, and there are county jails run like a hotel or college campus.

Think about what old "Perry" said, and then think about everything I stated previously about the system.

What we built was a multi million dollar "warm stove". And we wonder why we suffer from over crowding? In my 5 years of working behind bars, hundreds of inmates told me this infamous saying that old cons passed down to the young ones.

"If you’re gonna do the crime, be prepared to do the time".

STOP right there!

I am not some cold-hearted badge wearing insensitive member of the establishment. I’m a good cop and have to prove that to no one. I have been your best and only friend in your time of need, and I have also been your worst enemy when you have brought tragedy and havoc to the innocent.

Many of the inmates I met I felt sorry for. We all make mistakes but we are supposed to learn by those mistakes. Life is full of choice and we each choose our own path in life. I am all for giving someone a second chance. But God help you if you blow that first shot at probation or parole and end up back inside.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am not an expert. I have just been in the trenches for 14 years and have seen what really goes on in the real world.

Can probation and parole work? Yes! Is it working? No! MAKE SOME CHANGES!

Are "touchy feely" new generation jails a good idea? No! Do they work? No! MAKE SOME CHANGES!

Is sentencing a travesty of justice? Yes! Is sentencing proportionate to the crime rate? No!

"Make some Changes"

Perry, you’ll probably never read this but I thank you. You taught me a lot when I was a new deputy and you never even knew you were doing it! Even though you were an inmate and bragged about being behind bars long before I ever got out of high school, I admired you for taking responsibility for your actions.

You were sincere, you were level headed, and you had integrity. (I can’t call you honest because of your past track record) but I will say this. Out of all the inmates I ever dealt with, you demonstrated an inner strength and a sense of "class" that not many others had.

I don’t know what ever happened to you, but I sincerely wish you the best. You never physically hurt anyone; you just had a bad habit of stealing their stuff to support your dope habit. It’s like you taught many of the younger inmates, "You do the crime, be prepared to do the time".

Most of all, I remember you teaching the young inmates who looked up to the "old timer" that you should "Always Deserve Attention, not Demand it". Kids on the street and behind bars can learn a lot just from that one phrase.

Thanks again Perry. I will always wish you the best regardless of where you are. I know that wherever it is that you ended up, it was because you chose to be there and that you play the cards that are dealt to you. I wish that others had that trait. Maybe they wouldn’t end up as an inmate talking to a deputy at the deputy station!

From the Deputy that you called "Rambo".

Lets talk about Inmates:

Let’s not and say we did!

For the first time offender, show your true colors, show some remorse, take advantage of probation or parole, and get your act together. I don’t judge someone by what they did, I judge someone by if they do it again after they pay their dues. The choice is yours. Blow it again and you "got nothing coming!"

For the repeat offender,

Read the story about the snake in the grass at the end of civil matters!

JL

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