Delusions Prior to a Criminal Trial

By · Saturday, October 11th, 2008

When I was 23 years old, I was arrested by federal authorities. They charged me with crimes related to trafficking in cocaine. They did not seize any cocaine from me. Nor did they have any recordings of my voice, or tangible evidence that I thought would convince a jury that I was guilty. I was wrong. Dead wrong.

My criminal defense attorney had told me that there was a huge difference between a criminal indictment and a conviction. I believed him. Many, many others provided testimony against me. They had been caught in the act of trafficking and had agreed to cooperate against me in exchange for leniency at sentencing. I was foolish enough, or delusional enough to discount the strength of the government’s case against me.

Now that I have more than 21 years of imprisonment behind me, I understand that many individuals who are charged with criminal offenses live with similar delusions. When an individual proceeds through the criminal justice system for the first time, he frequently lives in denial. As a young man who knew he was trafficking in prison, I should not have lived like an ostrich. When I was apprehended by law enforcement, I should have worked harder to understand the system that was about to sink me. Rather than putting my fate completely in the hands of my attorney, a man who had a financial interest in prolonging my legal proceedings, I should have learned about the experiences others have endured as they struggled through the criminal justice system. Instead, I proceeded blindly. Every decision I made was wrong, and as a consequence, I was sanctioned with a severely punitive sentence.

Many professional businessmen will soon find themselves targeted for criminal prosecution for white collar crime. The financial crisis on Wall Street is resulting in numerous criminal investigations that will yield thousands of years in prison. Those who are susceptible to criminal charges ought to learn more about this system before they made bad decisions that dig them in deeper. They ought to understand their options, and one resource they might consult is the Topical Report series I have written that profiles the lives of other white-collar crime prisoners.

Those who do come to prison ought to work hard while they serve time to ensure that they emerge successfully. The prison system itself does not offer much to reduce recidivism, as seven out of ten people who serve time return to confinement after release. To change that appalling statistic, administrators ought to offer incentives that would encourage prisoners to earn freedom and become productive citizens. Instead, the current focus is on punishment and warehousing individuals. My experience suggests that it is up to each prisoner to commit to strategies that will enable him and empower him.

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