The Argument For Stupid on Crime

If Kent Scheidegger didn’t exist, we would never get such artfully turned sentences as this:

All the preening pseudosophisticates congratulating themselves on how “smart” they are on crime can go home to their safe, leafy neighborhoods, while the consequences fall on people like Rachael Russell.

What made the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation spit out such words? Rachael Russell was raped and murdered by her grandson.

According to the lawsuit filed Aug. 8, parole employees supervising Jerome Sidney DeAvila knew he was a danger and “were aware that on numerous  occasions, he had stated his intent to harm, kill, and/or rape his  grandmother,” Racheal [sic] Renee Russell.

The body  of the 76-year-old woman was discovered late February inside a  wheelbarrow in the backyard of her South Golden Gate Avenue home.

The grandson was released as a parole violator because of California’s prison overcrowding, and presumably the people who were supposed to oversee people on parole are overwhelmed because of there being far too many bodies for this branch of law enforcement to manage.  So despite the allegation that law enforcement knew of DeAvila’s danger to his grandmother, he was cut loose and left to do as he pleased. As he pleased turned out to be murder Russell. It’s horrible.

But does the horror of a human being’s death lead to Scheidegger’s conclusion?  Rather, it seems that he’s got it, again, backwards. DeAvila presented a potential for violence toward another person. This seems to be the sort of person that parole supervision kept a very close eye on:

“DeAvila has a lengthy criminal history, including sex crimes, drug use and violence,” the lawsuit says.

DeAvila, 40, had been in and out of jail for numerous parole violations, drug use, other criminal behavior and for going to his grandmother’s house – which he was banned from doing because of the home’s proximity to an elementary school and his sex-offender status.

The plaintiffs say parole agents knew he had “made specific threats of violence and harm” against Rachael Russell.

Yet, the excess number of bodies held in prison resulted in his being released and given the opportunity to act upon his threats. While Kent seethes at the outcome, he gives little thought to what caused that outcome to happen.

Perhaps it had to do with putting every non-violent two-bit drug possessor in prison for mandatory minimum sentences? Perhaps it had to do with making sentencing for every crime from jaywalking up longer and longer, keeping those bodies in prison for as long as possible? Perhaps it had to do with failing to provide poor people with mental illness the ability to receive treatment? Perhaps it had to do with failing to provide poor people with a decent education so that crime wasn’t the only future opportunity that presented any chance of success?

Or perhaps the problem is that California just didn’t build enough prisons to hold all the evil people who Kent Scheidegger thinks need warehousing?  Wait, that’s probably still way too smart on crime for Kent’s tastes: Perhaps judges are way too soft on the scum of the earth that they deem it a problem to make them live ten to a cell, eat one meal a week and live like the vermin they are? Is that it, Kent? Would that have satisfied your vision of a finely tuned system?

The search for the system that gives us a perfect world is as liberal a view as possible, reminding us yet again that the extreme views across the political spectrum tend to eventually end up in the same place. It was terrible that Rachael Russell suffered at the hands of her grandson. It would have been terrible for her to be raped and murdered by anyone. No rational person can feel otherwise.

Yet Scheidegger’s attempt to seize an anecdote to shame the smart-on-crime “preening pseudosophisticates” as if his lock ’em all up and throw away the key would provide the perfect world where no one was ever harmed, is lunacy.  The horrible rape and murder of Rachael Russell isn’t the fault of the “preening pseudosophisticates,” Kent, but yours.

A generation of tough and tougher on crime created the untenable and unsustainable situation that gave rise to DeAvila’s release, his lack of supervision, his mental illness that caused him to rape and murder his grandmother and his sociopathic life choices.

Just maybe, Kent, smart isn’t a bad thing. Stupid hasn’t worked well. It certainly didn’t work well for poor Rachael Russell. Name-calling isn’t going to change who is at fault for what happened to her, Kent, and her rape and murder is the product of your having your way for far too long.

9 comments on “The Argument For Stupid on Crime

  1. Pingback: Clarifying the problems with mandatory-minimums: why it’s okay to let them go | a public defender

  2. Bill Otis

    Who’s responsible for the killing? First by far, the guy who did it. Why is this so hard to grasp? Second, those who fought for a system under which he would be released. Crowding is bad; murdering grandmothers is worse. Third, those who sought his particular release. They full well knew he was dangerous but didn’t give a hoot, because it was, as ever, someone else’s problem, and it’s fun to play Let’s Blame the State.

    The idea that if we just had more rehab and educational programs we could avert this is so much nonsense. The problem is not that his head is empty. The problem is that his conscience, such as there is of it, is twisted. Even this gargantuan government cannot change a conscience. The individual criminal will either do that, or it won’t get done.

    1. SHG Post author

      Hey Bill. Nice of you to join us. Yep, the killer did the killing. Nothing hard to grasp there at all. What is somewhat problematic is the use of outlier instances to inform a system. To the extent there was a flaw in the system, it was that his parole supervision failed, in light of his open threats, to act upon it. But Bill, parole officers are law enforcement; their job is to identify someone under their supervision who is bent on doing harm. They totally blew it here, and a person died.

      So your beef isn’t with parole as a concept, or people who are against overcrowding or warehousing. You hate law enforcement. I get it, but seriously, it’s not good to be such a hater. Even if law enforcement was perfect, there would still be horrible murders. Other than pre-emptively locking up everybody forever, something is going to go wrong. Sad, but real. But being a law enforcement hater isn’t the answer, Bill.

  3. Bill Otis

    “But being a law enforcement hater isn’t the answer.”

    Then you can stop anytime. When I see your new-found appreciation for the cops, instead of the wildly selective, tendentious and misleading stories about them you put up here again and again — stories with your hate only thinly disguised, when it’s disguised at all — I’ll be the first to congratulate you.

      1. Rick Horowitz

        Nor does “wildly selective” fit.

        It’s gotten to the point where one Google query will return hundreds upon hundreds (if not more) links to stories about law enforcement either not doing their jobs, or Cops Gone Wild.

  4. Eric L. Mayer

    Being tendentious is easily treatable with rest and antibiotics. The real problem occurs when, left untreated, you allow it to metastasize into its venereal form.

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