Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong judge, right colour.

I have not mentioned this before, but many young men of colour face the following dilemma & with no one to guide them.
A few months ago my son was faced with a choice of pleading not guilty to an offence that he did not commit; if found guilty he ran the risk of receiving 8 years imprisonment, or plead guilty to a much lesser charge, which held a sentence of probation, or up to 8 months imprisonment. 

If pleading not guilty he had a 50% chance of walking free; alternatively, if found guilty, he had a 50% of going to prison for something that he did not do.

He was placed in front of a judge 15 years over retirement age & according to both defense & prosecution barristers, he always gave maximum sentence to young men of colour.
I advised my son to plead guilty to the lesser charge, although he had a chance of beating the unjustified case, the risk was to great. He took my advice. Once in court it was clear how ignorant & racist the judge actually was. My son pleaded guilty & was referred for probation & social reports.

It was recommended, after an interview & background checks, that he should not be sentenced to prison, as he had no previous convictions & did not seem to run the risk of reoffending; a term on probation was advised.
The judge ignored the expert advice & reports, he casually gave my son to an 8 months prison sentence; the maximum he was allowed to give.

My son was distraught; I explained:
1. He was lucky; given the chance the judge would have given the full 8 years.
2. He should not blame the judge; he alone put himself in a position that gave the system control over his liberty.
3. Although he was not guilty of the original accusation, he was not completely innocent on all accounts; he was unfortunate to be placed in front of this particular judge.

He was released from prison on tag, after serving 2 months, long enough to open his eyes to the realities of life. He was on 23hour lock up, plenty of time for him to think. 

I actually think it has done him some good. He is now more respectful, reasonable & humble, appreciating that he is more fortunate than some of the kids who are happy to be incarcerated, just to have food & shelter.

For the majority of kids imprisonment does great harm, as they have no support. They become victims of a system that offers no rehabilitation. Many reoffend, they have been shown no other path.

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