And here is part 2:
I was browsing the blue side of AN recently and came upon my article from a couple of years ago when this was so raw and open. Thought I would give an update. Did you know that the US has the most incarcerated citizens per capita of any civilized nation - says something about us as a nation, doesn’t it?
I’ve learned a lot over the past 2 ½ years since I wrote the first article. Here’s some of what I’ve learned:
Lawyers are expensive! When we started this journey, it was recommended that we hire a private attorney. So, off we go to interview. We interviewed a total of five practices for a total of seven lawyers. We called more but several didn’t return our calls or emails so we quickly crossed them off our list. We were quoted anywhere from $5000 to $130,000 for a plea deal. Rehashing the details took its toll too. In the beginning, we cried in their offices, towards the end, we could recite the details without a tear.
It really truly matters WHERE you commit a crime. If you commit a crime in a large city, the punishment is similar in most instances. However, if you commit a crime in a small, rural county where crime is uncommon, the penalty will be much more severe.
Visiting in jail, behind glass is impersonal at best. You go in, sign up for a time, then return to your car to wait - whether that be 15 minutes or 2 hours, you sit in your car and wait your turn. When the time arrives, you sign in, and get assigned to a phone. You know now to bring in bleach wipes to wipe down the phone, and immediate area as it is always filthy. Your loved one is led in, handcuffed and shackled and he picks up the phone and you start your very stilted visit thru glass. During your visit you are surrounded by four other visitors who may or may not be happy to be there - you hear arguing, yelling, cursing, crying, sobbing, anger, sadness, many emotions flood the tiny visiting room. All too soon the 15 minutes is up and you must leave.
Our judicial system is S_L_O_W - it takes months (and can take years) before a trial or plea bargain is negotiated. Trials are expensive, plea bargains are expensive too but more in terms of emotions:
Plea bargains are like games between attorneys only the pawns are real life people
The accused’s attorney throws out a number, then the DA counters with another number and back and forth you go.
The families/prisoners go along for the roller coaster rider: first its 18 years, then 15, then 12, then ? and finally the number is set.
Truth in Sentencing - another topic for discussion. These laws were enacted to prevent early release for certain crimes. It means that what you are sentenced to is what you WILL serve - there is no “good” time, no way to reduce the sentence.
Aw - so probably the worst day of my life was sentencing. You go into a very austere, wood-paneled courtroom, filled with people you don’t know, media is sometimes present, the victim (if any), and the accused’s family. They bring your loved one in chains and handcuffs, shuffling along like in the movies only this is REAL. They look pale and disbelieving.
The judge reads the charge and then states the sentence…”I sentence you to x-amount of years in the Department of Corrections” and bangs his gavel. As his Mom, I’m just numb, the tears flow, not just sad little quiet tears either, but big, messy loud sobs. My son is led away by the bailiff still pale and disbelieving. Our lawyer leads us to a quiet room so I can stop my sobbing and manage to get to the car without falling.
Its over - no more courts, no more lawyers - we are onto the next step in this journey - prison.
The Caging of America