and if its one of you - congrats on the diary rescue!
What Passes for Justice in America Today? Hotlist
by Red no more [Subscribe]
Thu Apr 10, 2008 at 09:57:47 AM PDT
I wrote a diary yesterday that spent much of the evening at the top of the rec list. The diary detailed how officials at the highest level of our government planned, approved and even choreographed the torture of detainees. It’s truly an appalling tale, made even more so by the fact that these individuals will likely escape any punishment for their actions, and will probably go on to lucrative careers as lecturers, consultants and lobbyists.
This is a diary I have meant to write for some time, but since there's an big article about me in the Philadelphia Inquirer today, today seems like the day. Please follow me across the fold as I thoroughly "out" myself on this site, and expose myself for the convicted felon I have recently become.
* Red no more's diary :: ::
Today I find myself at the opposite end of the spectrum of what passes for justice in America. There is an article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer that chronicles my plight. In some respects it is good news; the main thrust of the article is that our government had shown unprecedented magnanimity by declining to confiscate my home. Unfortunately, "justice" requires that I lose my job heading into the teeth of a recession, that I join the legions of America’s uninsured, and that I abandon my pursuit of an advanced degree.
Have the people we have chosen to lead this country lost touch with reality? Excuse me, that’s a rhetorical question. When the administration of justice requires that productive, contributing citizens be forced to join the ranks of America’s unemployed, uninsured, uneducated and homeless, something is clearly amiss.
Here’s the lede on today’s article:
Why the burglar alarm went off, Steve Haver still doesn't know.
Because it did, while Haver and his wife, Karen, were away in the Poconos on the morning of July 8, 2006, Reading police searched the couple's semidetached three-story home and found five pot plants growing under lights.
Because of that discovery, the Havers were soon caught in a swirl of legal decisions that overturned their lives, prompted questions about the enforcement of marijuana laws, and served as a lesson to homeowners with security services.
Here's the house that the government says I can keep:
In Pennsylvania, possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use is a misdemeanor – as long as you buy it from a drug dealer! That’s right, our brilliant legislators in this commonwealth have codified a "support your local drug dealer" statute. Because if you don’t support your local dealer and you attempt to grow even one plant yourself, possession become "manufacturing a controlled substance", and you become a felon.
Steve Haver spent a weekend in jail on $1 million bail, wound up with a felony conviction for drug manufacturing, lost his driver's license for six months, and expects to lose his job as general manager of the performing arts center at Penn State's York campus.
The case has been on the front page of the local paper more than most murders, he said.
There are some reasons that the case has received so much press. We are (were?) both high-profile people in our community. I was the general manager for the opening of a new 7200-seat hockey arena, and a renovated 1800-seat performing arts center. These projects, which cost approximately $50 million, were the cornerstone of a concerted effort to halt the slide of Reading’s downtown. Paid for with a combination of federal, state, and local funds, the facilities have enjoyed exceptional success, operating at a profit nearly every year since they opened. As anticipated, they have spurred a significant interest in development downtown, an area that was nearly given up for dead 10 years ago. Several major corporations have relocated or expanded their operations downtown. New residential projects are beginning to spring up, including a planned $1 billion riverfront development expected to break ground this summer. An amazing new community arts center has flourished, and a IMAX multiplex is about to be completed.
I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging that I was the savior of Reading. I came in at the right time to take advantage of years of hard work by a large number of people. As general manager, I was in a high-profile position that naturally attracted much of the credit for the results. I was also on the board for the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, was a founding member of the sports commission, and we brought a number of high-profile events to town, such as Skate America and a world title boxing match with HBO and Don King. I serve on the board for Centre Park Historic District, the oldest historic district and neighborhood association in the city. I served as chairperson of the Christmas House Tour, our largest fundraiser, for three years. I also chair the building committee, supervising and assisting in renovation for the headquarters building that we acquired in 2005. In addition to office space, it provides a community meeting room and space for our Artifacts Bank, an architectural salvage operation that supports the organization. I also volunteer for Berks Arts Council, managing production for their nationally-recognized Jazz Festival, and volunteer for Opportunity House, a homeless shelter and transitional housing and services provider.
My point with all this is: I do not fit the profile of your typical drug addict. Yet the law knows no distinctions. Through this experience, though, I have found out exactly how such people are treated. I think everyone will agree that fundamental American values include having a job, maintaining access to health care, owning one’s home, and improving one’s station in life by pursuing an education. However, it seems our justice system has taken it upon itself to pervert these values as a means of controlling citizen’s behavior.
When justice perverts such fundamental values, is it any wonder that crime runs rampant in our country? When you take away everything that matters to people and sever their connection with society, when you leave people with no options, nothing to lose, and little hope for the future, is it any wonder that many give up and become enmeshed in an endless cycle of crime? After my nightmare with the criminal justice system, I can certainly understand how someone’s frustration with the system would lead them to pick up a gun. I only spent two days in jail, yet I can understand why someone would prefer to die on the street in a hail of gunfire than be sent back into that hell hole.
All of this destruction merely because someone succumbed to the allure of using an illegal substance? The real irony here is that the case concluded on the 75th anniversary of America’s war on beer. Beer was once so reviled that its prohibition was enshrined in our constitution. Proof that things can change!
I could go on about the evils of a failed strategy of prohibition, but will save that for another post. I realize that reforming our drug laws and reducing our world-leading prison population is a "third rail" of electoral politics. So I know this is a non-starter in a critical election year. But this is a critical domestic issue that needs to be addressed. Even overlooking the fundamental unfairness and destructiveness of it all, law enforcement and prisons are sucking up an ever-increasing amount of money, money that could be better used for treatment, education, training, and health care; things that could really go a long way to solving the underlying problems.
One thing is abundantly clear: We won’t solve the drug problem OR the crime problem until we separate the two. I think that’s something we can all agree on.
I’ll leave you with a picture of the evil felon, waist deep in his tomato manufacturing operation!
I'm sorry I can't stick around for comments. I have a doctor's appointment. I need to get my health taken care of while I still have insurance!