Sunday, January 13, 2008

Marion Jones already punished, why send her to prison?

News that disgraced world-class sprinter and 32-year old mother Marion Jones will be serving her six month prison stint in Bryan, TX, gives me a Texas news hook to mention that I'm as disgusted with the feds' pursuit of this star athlete as with the perjury prosecution of Barry Bonds and coercing the informant against Roger Clemens with threats of federal prison time. (You can read Jones' own account of events here.)

I tend to agree with Alan Gold, writing in The Australian, that prison for Jones consitutes the least of her real punishment, and serves no public safety purpose:

The six months, though, is only a small part of her sentence. Quite as punishing has been her exposure before the world's media, an admission to her family and her fans that she's a liar and a cheat; being stripped of her medals; and the expurgation of her name from the record books. Not allowed to represent her nation at the Beijing Olympics, Jones no longer has an athletic career, her life is in tatters and all the years of sacrifice and exhaustive training have come to naught because of her weakness and artifice. Her use of drugs and the lies she told to avoid punishment have ruined any future to which she might have looked forward.

Which begs the question, what additional value is there in locking her up in prison when she is already serving a sentence of humiliation witnessed by people across the world? ...

For Jones, and for criminals who pose no real threat to society, to be sent to prison for their misdemeanours adds a substantial financial burden to the state and exponentially increases the severity of the sentence. In Jones's case, prison is arbitrary and unnecessary. What value is there, other than revenge, in Jones's incarceration? As one of the world's most brilliant athletes - with or without drugs - surely society would be far better served by her doing neighbourhood charitable work, or training youngsters, or sweeping the streets under a community service order. By doing so, she would be purging her crime to society, benefiting those less fortunate and returning daily to her young children.

As to her punishment for her crimes, or the rehabilitation which is the theoretical value of incarceration, the fact that no American team or event will accept her as an athlete is surely chastisement enough.

Over at Sentencing Law & Policy, commenter William Jockusch made a comparison that shows how bizarre this punishment seems to me:

[C]ompare Marion Jones with Mike Nifong:

A prosecutor lies to try to get three innocent people convicted, continually denies his crime, gets a state sentence of 1 day, and the Feds decline to investigate.

A non lawyer lies to investigators about steroids. A federal prosecution ensues. The defendant pleads guilty and gets 6 months.

What is wrong with this picture?

What's wrong, indeed? That observation gets a lot closer to my own beef with the hypocrisy of steroid investigations in sports: Federal investigators are ignoring a rising epidemic of steroid use among law enforcement officers, while targeting athletes many of whom committed no crime at the time they took the since-banned substances. Where are the headlines about feds securing indictments against juicing police officers or military contractors?

Marion Jones will be and has already been punished ... by her sponsors, by her sport, by her friends and peers, and through her general public disgrace. What is gained from locking her up away from her family compared to all that? I sure don't see it.

UPDATE: Marion Jones talks to Oprah.


Anonymous said...

Maybe Bush will pardon her, like he did Scooter, who lied about something far more serious but didn't serve a single day behind bars.


Anonymous said...

Oh! Please.......Martha Stewart is on in prime time, no one cares about their stupid message.

Incarceration nation is alive and well. Judges in this country live in ivory towers and have no earthly idea what is really going on in the real world.

Anonymous said...


Agreed. What a waste of a prison bed.

Anonymous said...

Are judges that clean? They may not be doing steroids & drugs but their under the table dealings aren't that clean. I agree with the commentors who say it's a terrible waste of a prison bed!

Anonymous said...

Would they be using her to set an example to others that steriod use and drug use will not go unnoticed?
Maybe using her to try and make the youth of America stop and think about steriod and drug use?

Did I hear on the news that she also had some bad checks? I am just asking the question here not saying I am correct.

Should she serve time in jail, No, she has been punished enough and her negative fame will follow her the rest of her life.

Anonymous said...

BB: Bush didn't pardon Libby --he commuted Libby's sentence, but the fine remains. It turns out Libby was accused of lying about a non-crime. The individual who admitted actually committing the "crime" never was in legal jeopardy. I don't want to see Marion Jones go to jail, either, even though she admits to breaking the law AND lying about it.

Anonymous said...

The answer to Mr. Jockusch's question will probably be found in the character and ambitions of the US Attornies making the decisions to prosecute or not prosecute. They ain't all the same, and those that have agendas which go beyond doing a good job will probably go for the main chance, the big deal, the PR penant.

DAC said...

It is an interesting paradox.

True Crime and punishment advocates say she did the crime so do the time.

True Justice would say she has already paid the price so why waste the space.

Still others, we must set an example for the youth, but then is her punishment just for the reason of sending a message or is it to punish her?

And the still others, commute her if the this is compassionate conservatism (interesting phrase that I never believed in). Lying to us about government work (even if it is lying to congress about a "noncrime" so no one else will see the light of investigation) vs lying to us about cheating at sports.

Personally, I think we have a better use of our resources than millions on sports investigations, but that's me.

Sam said...


Agreed as well. I believe the Feds should prosecute Nifong for civl rights violations as well.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

dac, what I don't get is how all this $$ can be spent investigating sports, when I could write a report from public sources about steroid use in law enforcement that's as damning as the Mitchell report, or more so. Besides all the other problems, black market purchases expose police to corruption and blackmail and are a direct security threat.

By comparison, who are you more worried about, the juiced up cop indulging in 'roid rage at a traffic stop, or a long jumper squeaking out an extra few inches at a track meet?

Priorities, people!

Anonymous said...

If Marion were not sent to prison, people would say she hadn't been treated as harshly as other criminals. She's been "punished" already because she had a lot to lose, namely, a career, money, and her good name. Should she be spared the penalty other criminals would suffer because part of her punishment is occurring in the public eye?

What about the fact that other people who had competed with her had been essentially robbed of what they had earned because of Marion's dishonesty? Marion's and her coach's actions prevented other athletes from attaining the careers and recognition they deserved. And if you really believe that victims are the ones who matter when crimes are committed, and Marion's victims think she deserves prison time, shouldn't we consider their wishes?

I think it's terrible that Marion is being split from her family, and I am absolutely sure that she's suffering and sorry for what she's done. I don't think every person who uses steroids should go to prison, but if the steroids are being used as a tool to defraud others for personal gain, the morality gets a lot more complicated than whether or not steroid usage should result in prison time.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"If Marion were not sent to prison, people would say she hadn't been treated as harshly as other criminals."

I don't buy that. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of baseball players used steroids according to the Mitchell Report allegations, but only she and Barry Bonds are being singled out for prosecution. I think she's being treated MUCH more harshly than most others in a similar position.

Anonymous said...

Whether I agree or not, she's coming to Bryan and it isn't such a bad place to do time. Her Austin loved ones can make it a day trip and the Offenders at the
Fed Camp do a lot of good community service that is appreciated. I hope that she will serve as an inspiration to other prisoners.... She may be humiliated but she has shown that she was raised right with a moral center. It ate her up and she came clean. do the time and make some good come from it. We're all rooting for her.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I am a RN and know medications well. Those who chose to use HGS, know the projected problems related to the use of steroids. My question: Why is the Senate of the US taking this time away from more important issuses to destroy the lives of some of our greatest atheletes.

If you read the indications and possible reactions to any medication you take, it would scare you beyond words.

The US has far worse problems that need to take up the time of these over zealous Senators than ruining some atheletes life. Those who chose to use HGS, know the associated problems with taking this drug,but what business is it of Senator Mitchell and his other cronies. Let's look into your medicine cabinet and see what you have!

Leave Marion Jones alone and also Roger Clemmons, they only law they have broken can only hurt them and not any of us.

Senator Mitchell and those associated with your hearing should be doing something for the good of all of us and not harrassing sports heros, which none of you are!!

Anonymous said...

Have any of you "village idiots" that feel sorry for Marion jones prison stint even thought about her fellow track stars that trained for hundreds and thousands of hours, that were clean and will never again have the opportunity to run or compete in the olympics because a "Juiced up" Jones prevented them from competing and winning? Get real. I hope the worst possible thing happens to her.