Sunday, February 20, 2005

Criminal Sentencing in Texas makes Little Sense

A little over two years ago, Hollie Winn, a very close family friend and girlfriend to my brother was killed in a car accident. Hollie and her friend both died instantly from the head on collision with a person whose BAC was twice the legal limit. Hollie's life was taken and we all grieved, but at the time it didn't seem real, because I knew her and everyone loved her. It was surreal to have such tragedy happen in my own world, so close to home. The shocking new addition to this story is that the man who was responsible for her death is scheduled for parole this September 2005 after being in jail for only two years. This case poses several questions. Should a person who has taken two lives be put in jail for his whole sentence or should he have early release option? Is it really a lighter sentence to kill two people when you have been drinking and serve less time than someone who is serving time in Texas prisons for drug problem? These are the questions that we need to ask ourselves.

In the state of Texas the prison system is overcrowded and in deep crisis over bedspace. It is problem facing the system today because of tougher laws imposed on nonviolent criminals in the state. The tougher laws are never meant to deter criminal behavior, because if they carried any weight in the first place people would obey them. The tougher laws do however cram the jails full of people who do not belong there in the first place like nonviolent offenders. Tougher laws on nonviolent criminals have inadvertently caused an overcrowding in the prison system and now the reality of the matter is that violent offenders leave the prison population because the prisons need more room to house the nonviolent offenders. "Release people who have left a trail of victims, we need to send that drug addict to jail!" The mantra for the Texas prison system is not equivocal to justice for victims and their families. Some guy who can't kick his smack habit has only victimized himself so why does the system think he has some debt to pay to society for only hurting himself. If justice were to be served on a case by case basis we would lock up all criminals convicted of crimes involving a victim and help Joe Smack addict get treatment rather than releasing more violent criminals back into society.