This past month, the announcement of Felicity Huffman’s 14 day prison sentence for her role in the college admission scandal sent social media ablaze with comments of righteous indignation. She used her power, influence, money, and connections to cheat her daughter’s way into college with an inflated standardized test score. This sits in stark contrast to numerous legal cases over the past decade in which mothers…usually poor and of color….were handed down sentences ranging from 5 to 10 years in jail for registering their child with a false address to give them the opportunity to attend a better public school. The irony and injustice of these cases spurred a brief outcry from the public that received media attention. And then silence.
Don’t even get me started on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal; the poster child case of a broken system that heavily favors the rich and powerfully connected. The heinous crimes he was accused and convicted of; the laughable first sentence he received; the bizarre circumstance surrounding his most recent incarceration and exit from this world; should make every citizen outraged and embarrassed of our supposed justice system. Why has the mockingbird media suddenly gone virtually silent over this scandal?
Closer to home in Pennsylvania and on a much smaller scale, let me tell you about two separate cases involving individuals charged with a DUI. The first young man was convicted of his Third DUI offense and sentenced to 3-6 months county jail time. He appealed his conviction to the state Supreme Court, where it was upheld. The entire case has taken almost 3 years to wind its way through the system and during that time, this young man has been free on bail pending the receipt of all the Supreme Court case documents back to the original sentencing county. During this time, this young man has been charged with several other offenses including a gun charge in another county and a Fourth DUI just a few months ago. However, he is still driving around illegally and living free on bail while the wheels grind slowly forward. The contrasting case involves a young man charged with his Second DUI offense in the same county. This particular young man had several things working against him from the start. For one, he lives off a fixed social security disability income because he has diagnosed severe mental illness. Due to his multiple mental health challenges, he does not always get the treatment he needs and self medicates with illegal substances. In a moment of clarity, he realized that he needed help to stabilize and found inpatient long term treatment at a dual diagnosis facility. While there, he found out that he had missed a court appearance. Well, maybe missed is not accurate. He told his public defender and social worker that he was self admitting into this long term treatment facility and assumed that they would inform the judge and prosecutor. He found out that didn’t happen when a warrant with his picture was posted on social media and brought to his attention while he was receiving treatment. He panicked and immediately left the facility and turned himself in. His case was heard very quickly by the courts and he officially received a sentence of “Other”. He didn’t understand and couldn’t explain to family members exactly what his sentence meant. He rather quickly then was transferred to two different state prisons and has been incarcerated for close to a year now with no end date in sight, or at least none that he can effectively communicate to his family. A deeper look at these two cases reveals how a person who arguably could be classified as a menace to society with resources at his disposal can receive a different kind of justice than a poor person with documented disabilities.
Change to our current world paradigm is never going to happen from the top down…only from the bottom up. We the people need to be the change we want to see; we need to keep shining light in all the dark places. As our own understanding and consciousness begins to increase, we need to gather together to find our collective power. As the quote from Benjamin Franklin states: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
More on this: Our Criminal Justice System Broken Beyond Repair