Thursday, February 16, 2006

Jails and Schools

Court Systems and Education Systems

Today I experienced life in the courtroom while waiting for the plea of a man that held a gun to my head a few years back (but that's a different story).

I arrived at 8:50 for a 9:00 court date.

I was greeted by the victim's advocate and told that it shouldn't be long before my case was up. The first case started at 9:10.

Prisoners/Defendents were brought into the courtroom through a side door with shackles on their wrists and ankles. They were shackled together in groups of 6. They all wore the same uniform, a grey pullover shirt with PC Jail (Pierce County) printed across the front and back, matching pants were included. They all wore a pink tshirt underneath. A few harder criminals wore an orange suit. Someone said this was to identify them as such.

I sat with the observers and it turns out that some defendents were sitting among us as well. There were two glass barriers between us and the judge, probably to prevent one of us from going postal on the defendents that may have offended one of us victims. Or maybe it's to protect the judge in case we didn't like her verdict. At any rate the glass formed a transparent hallway between courtrooms to transport prisoners and to separated me and the other visitors from the actual court room.

As I waited for my prisoner's turn to have his day in court, I watched as defendant after defendent made "an Alford plea. In this plea, the defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence, but admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty. Upon receiving an Alford plea from a defendant, the court may immediately pronounce the defendant guilty and impose sentence as if the defendant had otherwise been convicted of the crime."~Wikipedia which was exactly the case in most of the 21 cases in this courtroom today.

Their offenses included theft, forgery, unlawful possession of stolen property, attempting to elude a police vehicle, solicitation and manufacturing of a controlled substance and assault. My prisoner had the worst charge of the day with the exception of one who was on his 3rd strike.

The defendants include both sexes and many races; most had tatoos and piercings.

The prosecuting attorney suggested a 10 minute recess at 11:00. The judge agreed and everyone left the room except the Deputy Officer that was assigned the duty of escorting the prisoners in and out of the courtroom once they were unshackled from the rest. I sat alone, still waiting for my prisoner's plea.

The 10 minute recess ended at 11:20 and new prisoners were brought in for processing. I was amazed at the ratio of staff to prisoners. At times the room was full of 10 - 12 paid staff and lawyers and only one defendent.

Finally, my prisoner made his Alford plea. Guilty. He was sentenced and it was done. He went back to jail for a couple more years. Just like that, your taxes helped pay to put him there and they'll pay his expenses while he's in there.

In retrospect, I thought about Courts and Education and the money our government spends on each. I thought about Jails and Schools and how we staff each. I thought about Judges and Principals and how similiar their roles are. I thought of Lawyers and Teachers and the money made in each profession. I thought about Prisoners and Students and how we get to choose neither yet both are required to attend and obey. I thought about the Kids/Prisoners I saw in court today; some of which could have been my students, in fact 2 were in my 4th grade class many years ago.

I don't think it's a coincidence that recess is important in both.

3 Comments:

  • What a miserable experience for you not only the incident itself but this whole aftermath. I hope now you can rest a bit easier at least for the next couple of years.

    By Blogger Mountain Mule, at 11:14 PM  

  • Interesting prospective.... the connection between criminal activity and public education provokes some interesting thoughts ... maybe the No Child Left Behind law will make a difference since the examples here show that the current system has resulted in both a high criminal expense to society as well as the increasing cost of public (government) education at the same time... both are costly and until we address improving the education quality for "every" student - the jails will continue to fill along with countless victims shouldering the burden of a failed social system.

    It is time for educators to stand up and demand a change - and it must start from within - the unions - which are made up of teachers - must allow significant reform in the education process - instead of protecting the failed system that exists today.... the unions will not allow true reform - so maybe unions need to step aside for the good of society as well....

    By Blogger pasteducator, at 6:02 AM  

  • I am in strong agreement that or social ills start with the public education - which is a reflection of our active liberal community prospectives. If you don't value life at conception - you don't honor the institution of marriage - you don't value accountability for students or teachers - you don't care about 20% drop-out rates - how then do you care about the social ills of our judicial system - it would be interesting to know how many teachers are divorced - which present the image and standards that our kids see every day.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:22 AM  

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