Fair Punishment Project’s Really Unfortunate Choice

The name of its publication may be appealing to the more passionate and myopic, but makes me cringe a bit. It’s called In Justice Today. Who doesn’t like the word “justice”? It’s smug with righteousness, while allowing one side to claim it as if justice was that simple. Whatever, it’s an organization trying to capitalize on a popular word that appeals to supporters of the Fair Punishment Project.

The Fair Punishment Project is helping to create a fair and accountable justice system through legal action, public discourse, and educational initiatives.

These words are vague enough that the organization could easily be pro-defense, pro-prosecution or pro-sound policy. That’s the beauty of fluffy yet empty rhetoric. Anybody can claim it. But their publication makes their purpose clear:

ABOUT IN JUSTICE TODAY

We are accountability journalists. With accurate, thorough journalism, we spotlight stories about local officials throughout the country who have the power to fix our broken justice system.

The “broken justice system” is the giveaway of the cause, but the “accountability journalists” makes a promise that they need to deliver. And the list of “contributors,” even if they have only one post to their name, is impressive. There are some very smart, knowledgeable and experienced people on the list, who have independently earned credibility when it comes to “our broken system.”

Then again, the Fair Punishment Project is run out of Harvard, so one might expect it to have serious people on board. And it’s because they have serious people on board that this headline is so jarring.

Cops Who Slap Homeless Women, Rape Prisoners, Assault Children, and Keep their Jobs … and Other Unseen News from The World’s Most Carceral State

That’s awfully hyperbolic, and a lot to prove through “accurate, thorough journalism.” The byline, however, is revealing. The post is written by Shaun King, their “writer-in-residence” and the former Daily News panderer to the terminally outraged and perpetually ignorant. So what if he was the crown prince of cluelessness, compelled to claim competence to capture the unwashed crowd. He’s now writing at In Justice Today, and surely he’ll do better.

We live a deeply problematic era in American history. As I type this, the nation is reeling from yet another mass shooting in which 26 people were shot and killed in a rural Texas church. Federal prosecutors are currently investigating and indicting members of Donald Trump’s campaign team for various levels of corruption. And while all of this, and so much more, goes on, police brutality, prosecutorial misconduct, and other problems within America’s criminal justice system continue with less and less scrutiny.

Okay, he’s got serious focus issues and struggles with vague hype because he’s got so very many things to be outraged about. But what about the headline?

Here, we cover many incidents of injustice from the past week that you likely have not heard about, but deserve our time and attention.

Injustice? Not likely heard about? Deserve “our” time and attention? Sounds serious, even if it stretches the meaning of accurate and thorough. King assumes a position that might play well with the groundlings, but can he play with serious people?

A Washington D.C. Police Lieutenant Arrested for Child Abuse

Lieutenant David Hutchinson, 55, a longtime veteran of the Washington D.C. Police Department, was arrested and charged with cruelty to a child. According to the Washington Post,

A person, who is employed as a police lieutenant, was arrested for child abuse. That’s disturbing, though news of this was published in WaPo, so it seems likely that people have heard about it since WaPo has a great many more readers than In Justice Today. But at least there’s a connection to “abuse children” in the headline.

“Police said Hutchinson’s abuse on Oct. 30 left the child’s face, ears, eyes, neck and mouth bruised and swollen. Hutchinson told police he didn’t assault the child and didn’t know how the child was injured, according to the charging document. The child initially reported being injured from falling down the stairs but later said it was from Hutchinson, according to the charging documents.”

Did this happen on the job or was this a guy who happens to be a cop accused of child abuse, which he denies? The WaPo story says this was a family member, so there’s no cop connection per se. There’s an accusation and a denial, so there is no basis to condemn him yet. And it just happened on October 30th, making it shocking to King that he hasn’t been fired? Why, Shawn? Why?

This should come as no surprise. Police officers have a rate of domestic violence 400% higher than the average American.

This Georgia officer was also just charged with cruelty to children.

Which proves absolutely nothing about this cop, but seizes upon the same stupidity used to smear defendants regularly. There’s a disputed allegation, no trial, no conviction, generic statistics to suggest propensity and a demand for punishment before guilt. Way to go, Shawn, you’ve managed to wrap up everything that’s wrong with the system in so few paragraphs, except that you’re the one promoting the worst, most baseless, most irrational aspects of the “broken system.”

There are mediocre writers, and extremely bad thinkers, like King out there pushing out posts that reflect the worst and stupidest crap possible. And make no mistake, this is crap. But more importantly, it’s false, wrong and contrary to every notion of intelligent criminal law reform. He won’t win a Pulitzer, but he has certainly earned a Billy Madison Prize. None of this, however, comes as a surprise.

What does, however, come as a surprise is that a serious advocacy group like the Fair Punishment Project would associate with such crap. Are they now in favor of convicting without trial? Should people be punished first, proven guilty later? Do they propose defendants be presumed guilty based on propensity or generic statistics, or because somebody in Georgia was charged (not convicted, just charged) with a similar crime? And what does any of this have to do with his being a cop, or do they just hate cops so much that connections no longer matter?

Given the stable of smart, knowledgeable and experienced people who contribtue to In Justice Today, who support the Fair Punishment Project, this is a smack in the face, an insult. They are now tainted by Shawn King’s stunning ignorance, and that’s because FPP made an extremely unfortunate decision to bring a blithering idiot aboard. Not so much for the Fair Punishment Project, which made its choice when it knowingly took on this fool and squandered its credibility to bask in King’s base, but for the other contributors to In Justice Today who worked hard to provide intelligent ideas, and are nonetheless now connected to this crap.

7 comments on “Fair Punishment Project’s Really Unfortunate Choice

  1. Sgt. Schultz

    A: King has millions of followers.
    B: But he’s a moron.
    A: But millions of followers means millions of dollars!!!
    B: But he’s a moron. He dumber than dirt.
    A: Millions and million of people who love him!!!
    B: But we’re serious people, academics, lawyers, judges. We’re friggin’ Harvard, for crying out loud.
    A:

    1. SHG Post author

      I have no clue whether this is about money, growing their base of support or both. Or something else, for that matter. But whatever it is, I hope it was worth the price of their credibility and integrity.

  2. B. McLeod

    So, they really meant to call it “Injustice Today” (or “Injustice This Week”) but an extra space got in there.

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