Friday, March 14, 2008

Harris DA's Office Seeks Justice For Some

Mark Bennett shares a recent email exchange with an ADA from the Harris County District Attorney's Office (now under new management), where Bennett opined:
Our next DA needs to know that he or she is not part of a dynasty, is only temporary, is human and fallible, and answers ultimately to the families of the accused, who greatly outnumber the families of the victims.
The reply was particularly telling - one of those moments where first order assumptions spring forth that the (anonymous) correspondent has probably never seriously considered or even spoken out loud:
I’ve felt compassion for defendants from DWI offenders to murderers. But their families? . . . . I don’t think I owe anything to a defendant’s family.
Amazing. And we wonder why locking folks up doesn't reduce crime. Children of incarcerated parents are 6-8 times more likely than their peers to wind up in prison themselves. That's not all because of bad parenting - particularly when the "bad parent" is locked up. It's much more about depression, anger, resentment, confusion, despair, loneliness and an array of other emotional dynamics that face youth with incarcerated fathers and/or mothers.

But who cares? That's not a prosecutor's problem, right? He'll lock them up later, I guess. Do you think this ADA feels the same indifference toward victims' families? If so, it would at least be intellectually honest and consistent, perhaps even justified. If not, though, the view is hypocritical.

The state's biggest victims' rights group is called "Justice for All," not "Justice for Some," and prosecutors are charged to "seek justice," not convictions. I'm sure Mark's correspondent believes he is living up to that code, but to judge by the attitudes emerging from his emails, I don't.


Anonymous said...

OK, someone has to do it. I nominate Mr. Bennett's post as the goofiest of the month, thus far.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

Why's that, Plato? I especially liked the line, "Even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked."

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bennett's post shows the attitude of most who work in the DA's office. They want to win and don't care who they hurt. To have the attitude toward children of those who are unjustly or some justly sent to prisons, children shows the inhumane way the DA's office has been run in Harris county since Rosenthal took over.

I hope when a new DA when elected, removes everyone who works in that office and replaces them with a person who truly care to get the truth and not just win at all costs.

Mr. Bennett has no idea what attitudes like his do to families and I would suggest he might find another line of employment, one where he can not get with the Judge and decide how a case is going to come out and then say if this person's children are hurt and angry, he will lock them up later. Mr. Bennett, you need to have a long talk with your Maker, and that Maker is not the DA.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bennett, my apologies to you. I misread the article, you only wrote the article and I took you on. I want to show the attitude of persons who work in the DA's office in Harris County and when a new DA is elected have the new DA clean out the entire office and start anew. Please accept my appoligy.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks for recanting that, I was just about to respond. Perhaps Plato misunderstood, too - I actually thought Mark's was a pretty good post.

Mark Bennett said...

I have corrected a typo that screwed up the sense of a major point I was trying to make and may very well have rendered the post, closely read, goofy.

The kicked dog line is not mine' It's Oliver Wendell Holmes's.

Anonymous said...

The DA who decided my husband's sentence length remarked that he was giving my husband the "opportunity to have a relationship with his grandchildren". When I asked him, "what about his relationship with his CHILDREN?" I got no reply.

I understood his reasons for the length of sentence, but not his reasons for that comment.

Anonymous said...

It is the attitude that our society has been fed for a very long time now. I venture that No One gets through life without making a mistake and/or breaking a law. Lots of us don't get caught. Unfortunately we are very comfortable in the self-righteous, holier than thou vision that "they" are all bad guys and "we" are the good guys. I am actually surprised to hear the da's comment about not caring about families; I didn't think they even knew we existed. I applaud Mr. Bennett for exposing a very troubling mind set. Education is a crime deterrent. Mental health services and rehabilitation are deterrents to crime, gainful employment is a deterrent to crime. Prison is not a deterrent to crime. It is a training ground and convict offspring are apprentices to the system. There are so many parts of the criminal justice system that punish families as much or more than the offenders, they may as well be sentenced by the judge. Change must happen.

Ron in Houston said...

I think it would be a fascinating study to peer into the minds of people who are long term DA's.

I really think many of them develop some internal disconnect where they see the accused and those connected to them as somewhat less than them.

Anonymous said...

OK - so now DA offices have victim coordinators or something similar. Will they now set up coordinators for defendants offspring. Somewhere along the line, people have to be held accountable for their behavior. Too bad for the spouses and children. I feel for them (I see scores of them daily sitting in my lobby). I just have no idea how to break the cycle.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Plato, that at some point people have to be held accountable for their behavior.

When you're peering at families in your lobby, consider them as potential *partners* in the effort to hold someone accountable. Families are often acutely aware of their loved one's problem behavior and want nothing more than for him/her to stop exhibiting that problem behavior.

Re drug/DWI offenders: Sure, families may be opposed to their son/daughter/husband/brother/sister being incarcerated somewhere unsafe and far away, but would they complain as much if their loved one were being forced into victim-offender mediation, residential treatment, and then placed intensive probation with outpatient treatment? Nope. And, those options, IMO, would do far more to hold an offender accountable than prison.