Many of you know I have had legal experiences. If you don’t, now you do. In the early 2000s, whilst struggling with gender dysphoria, I was dysfunctional. During that period I was self-employed, and the combination of inability to be a functional person when I was the sole person in the business meant something had to give, and what gave was not at all pretty – and solely my responsibility. I accepted responsibility, and over five years later, plead guilty to a felony charge that resulted in me spending 21 months (out of a sentence of 24) in a federal prison camp.
After my meltdown but before my plead, I pulled myself back together. It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen by the second paragraph as it does here, it happened over months and months. Where it led was to employment as an adjudicator of unemployment compensation benefits, where I wrote short legal decisions on whether an issue resolved for or against a claimant. What I wrote the claimant or employer could appeal, and what I wrote needed to be rooted in facts and law.
In December 2007, I served on two juries, both as foreman – shouldn’t that be forewoman, or foreperson, but please not foreplay – and found juries to have an inclination to judge absent facts, unless someone is present to hold them to facts, which I did. And in January 2009, I formalised my felony.
I write this because while I make no claim to being a wizard when it comes to criminal law, I do have some opinions on certain segments of legal activity, and some basic experience with the system from both sides.
Here are a few loose facts for you to ponder before I go onward with this rant. First, the US has 5% of the world’s population, yet an incredible, astounding 23.5% of its prisoners. (Am I making a case I should not have been one? No. I was guilty, and I accepted my responsibility.) The rate of recidivism exceeds 60% within a few years of release, which means people are more likely to commit another offence than not.
What this tells me is we as a society, who understandably want results, are not getting them. A lot of that is on offenders – you have to get your life in order and take it forward – but a lot of it is on our legal system that rides herd on them. I can tell you what I witnessed, within a federal camp context, and where it comes up quite short. I cannot tell you how things work with the harder core folks.
Okay, that is great nelle. We know about you and all, but…where are you going with this post? Well, I read the report and watched a snippet of Lindsay Lohan’s revocation appearance before a judge in LA today, and I feel rather ill about it all, it just screams at me about how we do things more out of a need to punish rather than a need to rehabilitate.
What I saw in her case was a judge, exasperated by the violation of terms of probation, fluff up her feathers and rule based on her annoyance. Sorry, in my opinion, no can do. Um, nelle… the woman blew off her responsibilities…
Maybe. I heard keywords in there that made me wonder, words that implied Lindsay was working overseas. Would that cause missed community service? It sounds like it did. Lindsay left early from work as well, because she wasn’t doing anything fulfilling, to which the judge implied it is supposed to be punitive and not fulfilling.
What that part tells me is Lindsay wants to help people, and the judge thinks it should not be about that but about making Lindsay miserable as a deterrent. Remember that 60% recidivism I mentioned? Now to me, 60% means 6/10 of the way to total failure of our legal system to do what it is supposed to do, so I would think judges would be looking for a model that rather chops those numbers, hard. Yet, we keep getting judges who stick to what produces that 60% figure. She has someone here who wants help others and make her miserable. Um, a bit of foresight here and maybe the judge can use that wish to help in a positive legal way.
Further, it was mentioned Lindsay was doing Red Cross work, but the judge was having none of that – she didn’t authorise Red Cross work even though probation apparently did, and so it does not count. Instead, the judge ranted on how no one can mess with her decisions, not even probation. True enough, but that just makes her a legal goddess with the power to do, not a right goddess.
What is the end goal here? I would say it is for Lindsay to be a productive, responsible citizen who does not trod over people doing things like… drive whilst under the influence or steal jewellery. What I fear here is the result will be her hitting a new low down the road, and perhaps an irrecoverable bottom. What she needs is someone not out to build his or her legal career on the back of her celebrity, or exploit her for fame or money. Too much of this goes on. What she needs is a friend who only cares about her well-being. When one of the prosecutors admitted to not having read the report of her missing work at the women’s shelter, the judge should have halted proceedings and told that prosecutor to come back prepared next time. How in bloody hell do you argue to incarcerate when you mail in the effort? We are talking a life here, one probably flailing and failing. Care, dammit.
I suspect Lindsay wants to find a positive way forward. I suspect she wants to be seen in a positive light. Yet, when you lose your way, when in the darker space as I was over eight years ago, it is like being in the road with traffic whizzing by you in both directions. Which way do you run, and how do you choose when your senses and mind are overwhelmed?