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4547The Sociopaths in Our Criminal Justice System

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  • EditorialOpinion@aol.com
    Feb 29, 2008
      By Sal Osio, JD
      From the Publisher's Corner/HispanicVista.com
      March 1, 2008
      The Sociopaths in Our Criminal Justice System
      By Sal Osio, JD

      Lack of moral judgment, amorality, is the domain of the sociopath. It is a behavioral syndrome prevalent among the caretakers of our criminal justice system. Sociopaths are ambitious, aggressive, results oriented individuals. In her best seller – “The Sociopath Next Door” - clinical psychologist, Martha Stout, Ph.D., describes this behavioral pattern as “…not having a conscience, none at all, no feeling of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers … no struggles with shame … the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs …”

      The sociopaths includes  the law enforcement officer who frames and arrests a suspect; the conviction driven, albeit at the expense of justice, prosecutor who conceals or manufactures exculpatory evidence; the former prosecutor, now a judge, who presides in a trial stacked against the defendant; the prison guard who administers arbitrary sanctions against a vulnerable and helpless inmate; and, the probation or parole officer who capriciously and arbitrarily ushers the accused back to prison to begin the cycle anew. The sociopaths who are the fiduciaries of our justice system are, in fact, the perpetrators of injustice. To them the ends justify the means. They make no distinction between the innocent and the criminal.

      Most Americans normally do not run afoul of the justice system. The closest that one gets to taste the injustice is at a traffic court trial when a police officer perjures himself and fails to tell the truth or conceals and manufactures evidence. Although he accepts the guilty verdict reluctantly, our neighbor is left with a bad taste and a lasting distrust of the justice system. He concludes rightly that one is deemed guilty unless proven innocent as opposed to the myth that one is innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

      If injustice reigns in our traffic courts, how do we expect that there be a different standard and result in our criminal courts?

      The underprivileged, economically deprived, members of our society, predominantly are the ethnic and racial minorities: The Black and Hispanic. These minorities account for an estimated 80% of the prisoners in California. Does this statistic indicate that society criminalizes the underclass? Is it that the haves condone the removal of the have nots from the mainstream of society in order to eliminate a perceived threat to the economic elite? This explanation is supported by some prominent sociologists. For instance, review the analysis offered by professors Thomas R. Dye and L. Harmon Zeigler in their treatise “The Irony of Democracy” who document the dynamics of the dominant elite in preserving the status quo by suppressing the underclass.

      Arguably, the sociopaths in the criminal justice system are doing the dirty work of the social elite. So, we turn our cheek and ignore the injustice. And, now and then, we crucify “the rich and the powerful” with much pomp and ceremony, in order to paint a sense of fairness across the board.

      I would like to bring to your attention the study guide for churches, prepared by Progressive Christians Uniting (PCU), on The California Criminal Justice System, entitled “The New American Apartheid.” The following are relevant and astonishing statistics in California of which we should all be aware:

                  California’s prison population ranks 1/3rd in the world, next to China.

                  Over 75% of the inmates have a drug or alcohol related problem.

                  Over 1/3rd of Los Angeles born Blacks go to prison.

                  An estimated 80% of women inmates are mothers.

                  An estimated 75% of released prisoners return to prison within 18 months (Parole/Probation violations).

                  Over 70% of former prisoners are unemployed.

                  Nearly 200,000 children have a parent in prison.

                  Over 4,000 “three strikes law” inmates are serving 25 years to life for non-violent, non-serious offenses.

      Minorities are given life sentences at the rate of 13 to 1 over whites.

      Our criminal justice system is flawed, seriously flawed. It is costing the taxpayer billions of dollars annually, which amounts, if spent on prevention, education and social programs, would eliminate at least one-half of our prisons. For instance, substance abuse should be decriminalized and treated as an addiction, a health issue. Medical treatment and rehabilitation clinics should be substituted for punishment and prisons. This alone would eliminate the need to imprison almost 75% of the inmate population. Parole/Probation should be limited to one year supervision following release and the felons should be returned to prison only for commission of a crime as opposed to a technical violation of probation, such as missing an appointment with the parole officer or driving a vehicle with an expired license. Probation should not be the revolving door strategy to continue the cycle of imprisonment.

      Another shocking revelation: According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Justice, in mid 2005, there were 2,186,230 prisoners in local jails and state and federal prisons. Approximately one out of ten, and as many as 16%, suffered from severe psychiatric disorders. In other words, we arecriminalizing mental illness in much the same manner that we are criminalizing substance abuse. Prisons are our largest psychiatric facilities. In a 1996 source book, the cost to incarcerate the mentally ill is $15 billion per year, and increasing, particularly since the mentally ill are not properly treated and cured in a prison facility. It is an economic waste. But more, it is an unconscionable injustice to our infirm and our society. The obvious solution, instead of jails, build mental hospitals and clinics that treat, cure and release the patients.

      The only justification for the injustice of our system is the economic benefit, the profit, to the system’s custodians and contractors. A reduction of one-half the jails, the courts, the prosecutors … would eliminate the profit to the system’s caretakers. It is a system that relies on the fear promulgated by vested interests in order to garner the support of the gullible electorate. But more, it is a system which exists as a result of the sub-conscious agenda of the dominant elite who fear the prospective competition of an upward mobile underclass.

      It is time for a change. The injustice to our minorities and our underclass is an albatross to social progress and undermines our democracy. The economic setback and the social stigma to the families of the imprisoned are unfathomable. The cost to the taxpayer is inordinate and over burdensome. We need to change the fear generated mind set of our electorate and revise our criminal statutes. To start with, we need to decriminalize substance abuse and mental illness. We need to build hospitals and clinics, not prisons. We need to promote the rehabilitation of our prisoners and the welfare of their dependents, particularly their children. We need to clean house and get rid of the sociopaths. This means the reorganization and supervision of law enforcement agencies, the removal of former prosecutors as judges, the evaluation and promotion of prosecutors for pursuing justice instead of convictions as the standard. We need professional and compassionate caretakers among prison guards and parole officers.

      It is not surprising that tourists to Baja California in a recent survey stated that the main reason for their visit was “I want to feel free.” Fellow Americans, we need a reality check. We are eroding our freedoms through our complacency. We need to feel and be free at home.

                Sal Osio, JD is the publisher and CEO of HispanicVista.com (www.hispanicvista.com). Contact at: SPosio@...

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