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Sunday Reading: Crime and Punishment

18 January 2009

Justice… or “just us”?

…the New York Times [12-January 2009] ran a story on the rising number of federal prosecutions for immigration offenses [as opposed to actual violent crimes], which the Department of Justice ostensibly has pursued with increased vigor as part of the government’s broader counterterrorism strategy.  But, the story notes, while immigration prosecutions have skyrocketed over the past five years, “white-collar prosecutions have fallen by 18 percent, weapons prosecutions have dropped by 19 percent, organized crime prosecutions are down by 20 percent and public corruption prosecutions have dropped by 14 percent.”  One might question the wisdom of devoting more and more resources to the prosecution of undocumented immigrants for “illegal entry” at the expense of, say, arms traffickers who actually do have an adverse impact on public safety.

(Walter Ewing, Immigration Policy Center, via Alternet)

One might also question the adverse effect of white collar criminals (say, Bernie Madoff) and corruption by government contractors like Halliburton on the United States versus whatever Jose Lopez didn’t report on his taxes from those jobs he got standing out in front of Home Depot.

“Let the punishment fit the crime…”

SEVERAL policemen have been suspended after four teenagers in north Mexico alleged officers spray-painted their hair, shoes and buttocks to teach them not to paint graffiti on public property.
Emilio Alfaro of Nuevo Leon state’s Human Rights Commission said on Thursday that the youths were fined more than $200 before being released.
(The Scotsman, not the Associated Press:  17 January 2009)
Justice is blind (drunk):

Peru”s top court has ruled that workers cannot be fired for being drunk on the job, a decision that was criticized by the government on Wednesday for setting a dangerous precedent.

The Constitutional Tribunal ordered that Pablo Cayo be given his job back as a janitor for the municipality of Chorrillos, which fired him for being intoxicated at work.

The firing was excessive because even though Cayo was drunk, he did not offend or hurt anybody, Fernando Calle, one of the justices, said on Wednesday.

Calle said the court would not revise its decision, despite complaints from the government…

(Reuters, 15 January 2009)

The wheels of justice turn slowly:

Madrid January 13, 2009 – Today, the Judge of the 6th Chamber of the Spanish National Court agreed to initiate a criminal prosecution in the “Jesuits Massacre,” a crime which has gone unpunished for nineteen years, in which members of the Salvadoran military murdered six priests, their housekeeper and her 16-year-old daughter. Fourteen former officers, including General Ponce, Head of the Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Rafael Humberto Larios, former Minister of Defense, are now formally charged with crimes against humanity and state terrorism for their role in the massacre. Additionally the Judge reserved the right, during the course of the investigation, to indict former Salvadoran President and Commander of the Armed Forces Alfredo Cristiani for his role in covering up the crime.

(Tim’s El Salvador Blog)

Prosecuting a president for war crimes and covering up human rights abuses?  What a concept!

Another country could choose to investigate the war crimes committed on behalf of and authorized by the Bush administration and prosecute top officials of the U.S. government.  Should this scenario unfold in the coming year, what effect will it have on the credibility of our country’s Justice Department?  How will the United States ever regain its moral standing in the world when other nations must prosecute our citizens for committing war crimes?

(Karen Harper, Birmingham Progressive Politics Examiner)

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