The State of Washington has for the third time this year made national news, and once again, not in a positive light. A few days ago, four Lakewood, WA police officers were gunned down, or rather assassinated at a local coffee shop by Maurice Clemons near the town of Parkland, WA. On Halloween night of October 31st, Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton was slain by John Monfort, and back in June of this year, Kurt Husted, a 16 year veteran of Loomis armored cars, was killed by Calvin Finley at a Wal-Mart store in Lakewood, WA. This is all the more distressing because the assailants were Black men and this will undoubtedly not be a positive step towards healings the feeling of animosity, tension and distrust that typically exists between Law Enforcement and the African-American community. It is anyone's guess as to whether these isolated incidents will increase the scrutiny and racial profiling towards Black males that come into the proximity and attention of White police officers who, despite their extensive professional training, may feel the sting, anger, and frustration of a Criminal Justice system that they feel does not protect the public adequately from criminal activity, and who may feel potentially threatened and act instinctively to protect themselves by what they may perceive as a 'War' on Law Enforcement.
Ironically, this latest victim of the fallout and collateral damage from Maurice Clemons apparently unprovoked murderous vendetta is former Arkansas Governor and Republican Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee. Huckabee approved the recommendations from the Arkansas Parole Board to commute Clemons 108 year prison sentence to 47 years in 2000, making him eligible for parole; which he made. Maurice Clemons was 16 years old when he was sentenced to the exorbitant and excessive prison time for robbery and theft, a sentence that even the most vicious of criminals would not have been subjected to. For Mike Huckabee, this is like former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis' "Willie Horton" moment when he as a first term Governor, furloughed convicted murder Willie Horton who later committed rape and assault in Maryland after his release. So, where do we lay the blame; on the Courts, State Legislatures Criminal Law Codes, Parole Boards, Governor's Executive authority to pardon, family environment of the criminals, or society as a whole?
Is the disparity that exists in American society which cuts across all educational, economic, and racial sectors to blame for these deadly outbursts; and if so, what is the solution before-the-fact; not after-the-fact? Unfortunately, we do not have the benefit of the aquatic telepaths in the science-fiction movie, "Minority Report," who predict criminal acts of the perpetrator before they happen. No, we are not so fortunate and the laws as they are presently written do not penalize someone for a crime that is about to performed in the future. The slippery slope on which that leads to would be the eventual outlawing of "thought crimes." No, there is no simple answer and the anecdotes or recriminations are not helpful as they only tend to focus on the problem but offer little in the way of a solution. The thing is that recidivism among those released from incarceration is at 90% or more, and rehabilitation of inmates is quite rare and minimal at best.
Not only that, but the first penal system brought over to the North American Continent from Europe by those beloved God-fearing Quakers is ineffective with regards to reintegrating people back into society nor does it serve as an ideally effective deterrent to antisocial behaviors resulting in criminality. Instead of the dismal failure of civil remedies, perhaps a spiritual solution should be given more serious consideration because the teaching of the holy Koran and Islam seems to have promising results to those African-American prisoners who testify to having a greater sense of peace and less violent tendencies. Also, there are numerous prison ministries among the Christian Church with varying degrees of success also, so why not support these outreaches with more of our prayers and other resources for healing the wounds, pain, anxiety and hurting that is prevalent in American society; besides, what do we have to lose but very much to gain?
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December 2, 2009
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