Senator Stevens Escapes Justice

By · Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

As I waited in my prison cubicle for a census count to clear this morning, I listened to an NPR news broadcast over the radio describing how the former Senator Ted Stevens would avoid a term in prison. Senator Stevens had been convicted on political corruption charges last fall. Ever since then, I’d been waiting for the judge to sentence him, as I expected that he would likely serve his term here at Taft Camp.

The radio news broadcast reported that Attorney General Eric Holder decided to drop the case against Senator Stevens, which effectively nullified his conviction. Although the evidence against Senator Stevens seemed overwhelming, government prosecutors relied on dirty tricks to convict him. Rather than focusing on the imminent sentencing hearing, the judge was concentrating on the prosecutorial misconduct. He even held the prosecutors in contempt for their failure to follow his order.

The Attorney General reviewed the case himself. Mr Holder’s inquiry led him to conclude that the Justice Department could not defend the manner in which prosecutors tried the case. Taking the defendant’s age into consideration, along with the fact that he is no longer a U.S. senator, Mr. Holder decided to send a message to other prosecutors that he would not tolerate misconduct and then dropped all charges against the former senator.

As a long-term prisoner, I had been hoping to serve time alongside the former lawmaker. I wanted him to experience the prison system and to share his experiences with his former colleagues. As Justice Kennedy reportedly told Senator Jim Webb, few judges have any idea about the culture of confinement. I suspect the same may be said about law makers, and even taxpaying citizens.

I write with hopes of shedding light on the need for prison reform. Although I may write volumes that describe the millions of lives that languish inside prisons, someone like a former U.S. senator could truly advance the call for prison reform. Once a man of power stands beside the ordinary citizens who serve years for nonviolent offenses, he sees more clearly the injustice in America and the need for immediate prison reform.

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