DUSTY RHOADES: You Mean All Our Prisons Are Just Leaky Sieves?
As a lawyer who does criminal defense, I've recently discovered some words of comfort I can give clients charged with serious crimes.
That word is: We've got nothing to lose, because even if you go to the Department of Corrections, you will be almost immediately released into whatever community the prison is located in.
I have this on no less authority than the Republican Congressional Leadership, who have been in an absolute frenzy of pants-wetting fear over the prospect of Democratic President Barack Obama's order to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and transfer its inmates to U.S. prisons to await trial.
Of course, the Republican Congressional Leadership has been in an absolute frenzy of pants-wetting fear since Sept. 12, 2001, but this one seems to really have them shaking in their Gucci loafers. For you see, according to them, American prisons are simply not up to the task of, well, imprisoning anyone.
"Most local communities around America don't want dangerous terrorists imported into their neighborhoods, and I can't blame them," Minority Leader John Boehner fretted.
Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas said, "I don't think we ought to be releasing these dangerous terrorists into our community in any way, shape or form."
Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia was even more scared by the prospects. "What we are going to have is, all of a sudden, in all likelihood, the release of some of those individuals into our society," he shuddered. "We know they are mean, nasty killers."
You hear that? These Republicans are warning us that American courts and prisons are like sieves.
Why, I'll bet World Trade Center Bomber Ramzi Yusef, Unambomber Theodore Kaczynski, Medellin Cartel Chief Assassin Dandeny Muoz Mosquera, accused 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, "Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid, and any number of other vicious criminals are, even as we speak, released by craven federal judges, out of their federal "Supermax" facilities, and roaming our streets, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, making lewd remarks to our women, and generally making all kinds of mischief.
It must come as a great comfort to our country's worst homegrown killers that our prison system is so porous that even World Trade Center bombing mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman can bust out of the federal prison in Butner, N.C., whenever he wants -- and he's blind!
And who knew that the military was so incompetent at the whole prison thing? I sure didn't until Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., introduced a bill to keep Gitmo detainees from being transferred to military prison facilities in California. Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas introduced similar measures to keep detainees from being transferred to the Army maximum security prison at Fort Leavenworth.
In Jenkins' words, "Fort Leavenworth is the military training center for the best and the brightest the United States Armed Forces have to offer. ... Transferring suspected terrorists to Fort Leavenworth would jeopardize this vital mission and would severely undermine the education and training of military officers around the world."
Thanks, Rep. Jenkins. Without you I would never have known that the Army was so slack when it came to holding prisoners that they can't be trusted to keep them from wandering out of their cells into the classrooms, and onto the training ranges at Fort Leavenworth!
Of course, that puts them at odds with Sen. John McCain. Remember him? He actually ran for president once! McCain said a while back that he'd close Guantanamo Bay and move the prisoners to Leavenworth. Good thing he didn't win, because according to his fellow Republicans, the military prison system is apparently run by the Three Stooges. The Republicans are supposed to be all pro-military, too, so you know if they're worried about the military's ability to hold these bad guys, then something must be really wrong.
All of this will undoubtedly come as a relief to America's criminal defendants. After all, if the federal system can't hold on to bad guys, how lame must the state systems be? The state prisons are probably like ghost towns, with the wind blowing tumbleweeds through them.
Wait, what's that you say? We actually have been able to convict, imprison and hold terrorists in custody? The people I've listed above are safely behind bars on American soil after receiving actual trials, with lawyers and everything? How can such a thing be? That would mean that the Republican leadership is stirring up irrational fear for obstruction and political gain! It would mean that all of these bills being introduced are political stunts and complete wastes of time! And we all know they'd never do that, don't we?
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage.
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