Question Time with Shane 

Shane - After being denied psychiatric medication by ValueOptions, Shane turned to illegal drugs financed by burglaries. For stealing a few hundred dollars worth of goods, he was sentenced by Judge Ron Reinstein to 11 years. Shane is the author of the blog Persevering Prison Pages

Chris H wrote:
Can I start a possibly controversial post?

Does anyone else agree that there should be different rules for different crimes?

Paedophiles, for example. I don't think that any punishment currently administered can make up for the crime these people commit, yet many cases in the UK get sickeningly short sentences and even then get the opportunity to apply for parole even sooner.

I know none of this applies to Shane - and I'm not implying anything like that at all - but I think that your average, law abiding citizen puts that kind of logic to all prisoner victories.

I agree that 11 and a bit years for stealing is ridiculous. People SERIOUSLY get less for child abuse/assault etc.. But do you not think that certain crimes deserve a lot harsher sentences than they currently receive, more so maybe than more lenient sentences for less serious crimes?

Shane replied:

I completely agree that there should be different rules for different crimes. A sex offender, for example, should not be getting less prison time than someone caught smoking pot. Of course society should be protected from all predators, whether sex offenders, murderers or burglars. But it seems punishment is the goal and not true public safety. Otherwise, wed still have parole boards, instead of a mandatory early release date at 85%.

Instead of a board determining whether offenders have behaved, changed their ways and arent a threat if released early, Arizona simply makes offenders do 85% of their prison sentence and releases them.

In court, judges are bound by sentencing charts, and hand out prison and probation based on the class of felony, prior convictions, and other criteria. A judge doesnt have much leeway.

Example: A man molests an 8 year old. The chart says he gets anywhere between 3 years probation and 6 years prison. I burglarise an apartment, but because I have one prior conviction the chart says I get between 8 to 16 years in prison. The child molester gets the middle sentence of 3 years and I get the middle, which is 11¼ years.

Judges should be able to hand down more severe or less severe sentences based on the circumstances of the crimes and other factors, and not be bound to ridiculous sentencing charts. Its not the crime itself that should only be considered, but all the circumstances too.

Also, Shaun Attwood is right, all of those corporations and organizations that profit from prisoners and their families should have zero influence on sentencing laws.

Thanks for the question Chris H!



Here’s a link to Shane’s prison blog:

Our friends inside appreciate your comments and questions. To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun P. Attwood


Jon said...

And what about the people who get hundreds of years for exercising their right to a trial? In my case it was made clear that if I didn't sign a plea bargain and took it to trial and lost, my charges would be stacked (the sentences would run consecutively) and I could end up with up to 200 years. I saw decades handed out to many defendants, not only as punishment for taking it to trial, but also as a warning to others to not take it to trial. Trials cost the government a fortune, so they want as many people as possible to sign plea bargains.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree on different sentences. Plus often people are convicted of non violent crimes by juries who don't know about mandatory sentencing. Drug offenders should get rehab and community service. Help them! Violent criminals are a different sort. They and Pedophiles should be removed from society as I question their ability to be reformed. Burglary is often a last resort out of desperation-WHY did that person need to steal? Shouldn't the whole point be to keep people OUT of prison and in society learning how to be responsible citizens?

leigh said...

lots of "violent offenders" are pressured into pleas, threatened into pleas by everyone from the judges, the prosecution, and even their own attorneys. this is especially true when the death penalty is involved or can be threatened. it is incredibly important to look at each case as they are truly each different. no matter what the charge or conviction.

perhaps a sex offender is at question----read this article and know the case is not completely unique

race, class, etc play greatly into the pressures placed upon those who are charged with any crime and so those convicted of drug related things, those charged with so-called violent offenses and even those charged with sex offenses should be given a fair shot at having their specific situation addressed without regard to the pre conceived notions held by society.

Jon said...

and if you refuse to sign a plea bargain because you're innocent, and you lose at trial, that's the worst case scenario, because the judge will aggravate your sentence for not showing remorse, i saw a few inmates refuse small plea bargains to maintain their innocence and end up with decades

Anonymous said...

But Jon & Leigh,

What about the victims of crime and criminlas getting what they deserve?

Law Abiding Citizen

leigh said...

victims can never achieve peace within themselves based simply upon the results of sentencing someone who allegedly committed a crime against them. peace can only be found within themselves. victims have a long road of healing. this must be kept separate from the "criminal justice system" and so long as it is not the system will be vengeful, spiteful and immoral, unethical and wrong.

no matter what a victim is a victim----no one can take that away from them and it is something only they can deal with and as such they cannot obsess over the person who may or may not have victimized them. that is unhealthy and prevents healing. i am a victim of more than one sexual assault and i have focused on my healing. those who attacked me have never been brought to trial. one was a mentally ill man who is in a way himself a victim of a failed system of addressing and caring for those who suffer from mental illness.

those who are sentenced are sentenced for whatever crime they may or may not have committed (sometimes the only thing they've done is been poor, a person of color, or another outcast/ minority). the prison industrial complex would have you believe that these folks are taken in and rehabilitated so as to become more contributing members of society upon release. my experience as an activist and someone with a loved on behind bars is that this could not be further from the truth.

the prisons make money off each inmate. the do nothing at all to create an improved and rehabilitated member of society. drugs get into prisons by guards as do cell phones and other contraband. the prisons make money off the exorbitant costs of phone calls (my in state calls cost just under $5 for 15 minutes and are often interrupted by a guard who decides to count at an off time in order to catch a sports game or because the guard has gotten distracted and lost track of time). sometimes the phones just don't work and cut off prior to the end of the call. sometimes the company just charges you for no reason. when visiting the prisons vending machine are available to purchase foods which is good in GA because on weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) as well as holidays inmates get only breakfast and supper. so the $3 sandwiches help a bit. especially since the meal portions have been cut back to two oz portions.

prison is certainly punishment. but it is more. it is barbaric, inhumane treatment that no one ought be subjected to and that is no matter what they may or may not have done. those who run the prisons are far beyond corrupt and the lack of transparency allows them more power over the lives of people who have almost no/ if any rights.

should a warden who covers up the murder of an inmate by calling it suicide continue to be a warden? should a warden at one prison be able to tell someone that they will not be treated for a degenerative disease because it is not on the list of examples of chronic illnesses? should an inmate be denied parole for not having a GED when he has not only completed high school with honors but also done a year of college?

you cannot deny the suffering of a victim of a crime. we cannot accept the inhumane treatment of another human being who may or may not be guilty of victimizing someone else. our system should have evolved beyond "an eye for an eye" and sadly it really has not.

remember that each person behind bars, each monstrous inmate, each convict, each felon is to someone else a son, a brother, a father, a life partner, a friend and most of all a human. victims of crimes must heal and should be able to see that their victimizer is held accountable. they must not continue the cycle of victimization via imprisonment in such atrocious conditions.

leigh said...

Law Abiding Citizen,

i'm not sure what is up with your name----it feels a little bit condescending in relation to those who have been convicted of crimes or to those who have done time. ask yourself, have you ever done a bit more than the speed limit? have you had a tail light go out and driven in your car? have you parked facing the opposite direction on the street? have you gone through a little late on a yellow light? has your parking meter run out of time or have you crossed the street outside of a crosswalk or when the do not walk sign began to flash? have you followed closer to the car in front of you than is specified by the state law? have you downloaded media without paying for it or made a mixed tape for a friend? have you dropped a piece of trash accidentally and not been able to collect it? have you purchased something online without paying taxes for it? have you dated a check incorrectly? have you waited outside a store for a friend, loitering or made a little bit of loud noise after a certain hour? are you completely innocent of having broken any law?

if so, maybe you should utilize this skill to work with kids in lower income/ at risk areas of your town. because i, a former PO can say that i have most certainly broken laws unintentionally for the most part. no one is perfect really then are they? just think about that when you consider relating to or discussing those who have landed behind bars.

Anonymous said...

this law abiding citizen character flames this blog all the time. it is apparent by this individuals posts that they are just trying to stir the pot and talking out their ass.

Anonymous said...

Au Contraire, it isn't 'law abiding citizen', but the various 'law breaking citizens' and their brethren that are talking through their collective asses.

It is disgusting to see all the whining that goes on here. Obviously people are okay 'doing' the crime but baulk at doing the time. If you don't want to go to prison and face the heinous CO's and others, the solution is simple DON'T do the crime.

And what is so wrong about an eye for an eye? It may be barbaric, but it is freaking effective. How many times will you steal or threaten someone if you lose a hand at every offense? Not to mention the money we will save in putting the criminal in jail.

As to sentencing guidelines, they are in place to ensure fairness across america, judges should ALL be sentencing criminals based upon the same standard and not arbitrary insight into the criminal mind. Look at Huckabee's pardons and the Seattle killings for an example.

What is wrong w/ plea deals getting it easier than trials? It is a matter of risk management? If you are confident of your case and go to trial, you should take the chance you could be put away for a long time.

These laws have been put in place by the majority will of the people. And despite all the moaning, groaning and prisoner loving crap I see posted on this blog, I seriously haven't seen any due cause to vote against the rules we have in place right now, other than to make them harder.

Anonymous said...

I might be more inclined to listen to LAWABIDINGIT if and when those maintaining the law also obey the law, and are treated the same as those they incarcerate when they break the law. I also expect LAC to present at the gates of their local prison if they find they have broken any law whatsoever. Let he who casts the first stone... or don't throw stones in glasshouses. If you find it hard, I'm available and doubt it will take long to find something suitable.