Legislators Should Make Changes to a Biased System of So-Called Justice that Favors the Super-Wealthy Elite.

By · Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

On Tuesday, 6 January 2009, Pallavi Gogoi reported on the Bernard Madoff scandal for USA Today. The reporter identified Alan Goldstein, a 76-year-old investor whom Madoff had swindled for $4.2 million. Those funds represented all of Mr. Goldstein’s retirement savings. “He had to cash in his life insurance to make his mortgage,” the article reported.

Meanwhile, Madoff continues to enjoy the spoils of his plunder. He has his own private security detail, whose agents don’t inconvenience him too much, apparently. Prosecutors have charged that despite the surveillance, Madoff sent out $1 million worth of assets through the mail. Still, Madoff enjoys hot baths and sulka pajamas in his Manhattan penthouse.

As a long-term prisoner, I am revolted by the way America’s system of justice favors the rich. When I was in my early 20s, I made the bad decision to sell cocaine. No one made allegations of violence in my case. The government claimed that, with only consenting adults involved, my case did not make victims of anyone.

I dispute the government’s position. By locking a non-violent, 23-year-old young man in prison for a quarter century, the system of so-called “Justice” has made a victim of my mother. She has suffered mightily as she struggled through decades of my confinement and had to endure absurd prison rules that tore asunder her relationship with her only son. The system has made victims of both my sisters, as my prolonged imprisonment has removed my presence from their lives and the lives of their children.

The system has made a victim of my wife. Carole may have married me during my confinement, yet by transferring me from one state to another, locking me in segregation because of my efforts to connect with society, stripping our access to communicate by phone, severely limiting visiting opportunities, and depriving her of my earning potential, this system fleeces my wife of her right to a family.

An enlightened society should use more than calendar years of imprisonment to measure justice. Prison reforms ought to consider individual efforts to reconcile with society.

Legislators should make changes to their biased system that favors the super-wealthy elite.

In the 21-plus years that I have been locked in prisons of every security level, I have worked every day to earn freedom. I can certainly handle the additional four years this so-called system of justice requires. Yet the injustice so flagrantly displayed through disparities in treatment between ordinary Americans and the wealthy ought to stoke the ire of every citizen.

Despite the real victims in the Madoff case who lost billions, if I were a betting person I’d place a large wager that the sentence he eventually receives will pale in comparison to the time thousands of non-violent drug offenders serve in America today. Today’s system of justice stinks, making real victims of Americans like my mother, my sister, my wife, and all ordinary Americans. Even you.

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