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27 Years Is A Harsh Sentence But Not The Only Harsh Sentence

Cross-posted to DovBear: Harsher Sentences Are Not The Answer

This is what the shoe feels like when it’s on the other foot.

For decades, right-wing / republican / conservative / Judeo-Christian Valuists have talked a big game when it comes to fighting crime. Running on “Law and Order” platforms and promising harsh sentences for criminals was a sure way to gain support.

On the other hand, bleeding heart liberals have been trying to model the justice system after the softer Euro sentencing structures.

Traditionally, middle class white people support Law and Order style justice. Harsh sentences make them feel safer and they are less likely to know someone who will be incarcerated, thus they are removed from the effects of the harsh sentencing of criminals.

Lower class folks usually support softer punishments. They are the ones who are more likely to have friends and relatives in the justice system. For many of them, the softer the punishment, the sooner they get their daddy back.

It was real easy for us middle class white (Jewish) people to support strict sentencing guidelines when it didn’t really affect us. But after witnessing one of our own fall prey to the system we helped create I am sure we all feel differently. (Of course I am aware that there are some middle class white Jews who vote democrat and support liberal causes, I am talking to everyone else.)

27 years is a long time. Rubashkin is a crook but his sentence is very harsh. We now feel what lower class communities have felt for so long. Some of us now think the system is out to get us. They have felt that way all along. Some of us now are horrified by the sentencing guidelines and the leeway given to particularly strict judges. They have been saying this is a problem all along.

Perhaps it is time for our community to more fully support softer punishments for all criminals. In some states (like mine – California) we are spending millions and millions of dollars locking up “3 Strikes” criminals for LIFE (including non-violent, minor felonies). That is even harsher than Rubashkin’s sentence. If we are outraged over his sentence let that outrage spill over into more socially conscious, activist role and help modify our current justice system.

But please, for intellectual honesty’s sake, be consistent. If you think Rubashkin got a raw deal, do some research and learn about how other people who made mistakes in their teens will spend their entire lives in jail because of America’s love of retribution. Help everyone who got shafted by the system and let’s try and prevent this from happening again, to anyone.


17 Comments
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  • Noah Roth

    You are begging people to be consistently liberal. What about those of us consistent conservative Jews, who believe Rubashkin got a fair or light sentence?

  • http://finkorswim.com rabbifink

    There are such people?

    • http://finkorswim.com rabbifink

      I kid, I know there are a few people like that. But if I were wagering, I would say upward of 99% of frum Jews feel the way it was expressed in the post.

      • http://twitter.com/MarkSoFla Mark

        In general, do you think the frum news sites accurately represent the views of the frum people?

  • Noah Roth

    I’d be very surprised if that were true. Many if not most people I talk to believe that he was guilty and his religion should not be a reason for leniency.

    Most felt the same about martin Grossman in Florida.

    • http://finkorswim.com rabbifink

      Have you read the frum news sites and their comments? Are your friends all outliers?

  • http://ilanadavita.wordpress.com/ Ilana-Davita

    Well-balanced post.

  • Adam

    Sentencing guidelines for white collar crime have nothing to do with three strikes.

    If a frum Jew committed three felonies, I’d also want him or her locked up for life. I don’t care how non-violent or minor they are – if yirat hashem doesn’t stop such a person from criminal activity, at least the first two convictions should!!!

    I haven’t been following the Rubashkin case. If his sentence is longer than other people received who were convicted of similar offenses, something is wrong here. If not, not.

    • http://finkorswim.com rabbifink

      Sentencing guidelines for white collar crime have nothing to do with three strikes.

      Yes they do. White collar crimes are also felonies.

      If a frum Jew committed three felonies, I’d also want him or her locked up for life. I don’t care how non-violent or minor they are – if yirat hashem doesn’t stop such a person from criminal activity, at least the first two convictions should!!!

      With friends like you, who needs enemies!?

      I haven’t been following the Rubashkin case. If his sentence is longer than other people received who were convicted of similar offenses, something is wrong here. If not, not.

      Shkoyach.

      • Adam

        white collar crimes are also felonies – true, and it’s a shanda when a jew (let alone a frum Jew) commits a crime of any kind. I’m ashamed and embarrassed of the crime itself, whether or not he/she gets caught.

        Some of the Jewish criminals do get caught. Some get convicted for their white collar felonies.

        How many of them get convicted, serve time, and then come right back out and do it again??????

        I stand by my support for three strikes. Get convicted once, shame on you. Get convicted twice, shame on us. Three times, stop clogging up the court system already!

        As a side note, I do support any reasonable measures to make jail more rehabilitative and less purely punitive. In Israel, many small time thugs and gang bangers come out of jail as chozrim b’tshuvah. Some of them do indeed slide back out of Judaism and into old habits – but many remain (secular and jewish) law abiding citizens.

  • Izzy

    I think that the “traditional right-wing / republican / conservative / Judeo-Christian” view is more nuanced than you allow. Many people (myself included) think that stiff sentences are appropriate for violent crimes, and larger-scale white collar crimes, (think Madoff, Skilling, etc), but support lighter sentences for non-violent crimes/white collar crimes that are of a smaller scale. Along those lines, I think that Rubashkin got a raw deal, but Martin Grossman did not.

    • http://finkorswim.com rabbifink

      The government does not consider Rubashkin’s crimes to be of a “smaller scale”. Did you read the sentencing memoranda?

      • Izzy

        “Smaller” is a relative term. Does the sentencing memorandum address the relative strictness of the sentence compared to other sentences received for similar crimes? I have not read it, but I dount it, and that is really the crux of the matter, as is illustrated by the following story that I saw quoted on cross-currents: of “a famous exchange between Harvard’s racist president, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, and the great American judge Learned Hand. Lowell announced that he wanted to reduce the number of Jews at Harvard, because, “Jews cheat.” Judge Hand replied that “Christians also cheat.” Lowell responded, “You’re changing the subject. We are talking about Jews.”

        • http://finkorswim.com rabbifink

          The memo does address the strictness of the sentence but not in comparison to others. There are not that many similar cases. And the closest I can find is Skilling who got a very similar sentence.

          The fact that you assume that the crux of the matter is that “we are talking about the Jews” is not based in reality. Lowell SAID he was “talking about the Jews”, here the court is NOT talking about the Jews, it is talking about a Not Guilty plea where there was overwhelming evidence against a plaintiff and sentencing that was within guidelines and in fact expresses some leniency in the sentencing.

          Don’t get me wrong. I am against harsh sentences. But Rubashkin’s harsh sentence is not anti-semitically driven.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlie-Hall/683997138 Charlie Hall

    Well said. Three Strikes has helped to bankrupt California while not having a major impact on crime.

    Rubashkin’s sentence is long yet within the sentencing guidelines. I wish more people would actually read the sentencing report. 

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      It actually was the minimum sentence.

  • Izzy

    “The memo does address the strictness of the sentence but not in comparison to others. There are not that many similar cases. And the closest I can find is Skilling who got a very similar sentence.”

    I don’t think it is fair to compare the Enron fraud to the Rubashkin fraud. Skilling’s fraud resulted in a loss of $40 Billion, including the life savings of many people, and many jobs. I live in Houston, where I have met many people who’s live were thrown through a lurch because of Skilling’s fraud. I have seen different amounts reported for Rubashkin’s fraud, but all of them were less than $40 Million.

    “The fact that you assume that the crux of the matter is that “we are talking about the Jews” is not based in reality.”
    I do not assume that Rubashkin is a vicitm of anti-semitism (although I think its a possibility). My point was that it is impossible to call a sentence fair if others with similar (or worse crimes) received significantly lighter sentences.

    “(H)ere the court is NOT talking about the Jews, it is talking about a Not Guilty plea where there was overwhelming evidence against a plaintiff..”

    The funny thing about modern day anti-semitism, when it exists, is that it is almost always cloaked in other terms (e.g. “human rights”) so that even when they are “talking about the Jews,” they never use the word “Jew.” Which is what makes the Lowell story even more relevant. After a public outcry about Lowell’s intent to set quotas on Jews at Harvard, Harvard instead adopted policies that involved background checks of all applicants, which allowed them to limit Jewish enrollment without explicitly doing so.

    “Don’t get me wrong. I am against harsh sentences. But Rubashkin’s harsh sentence is not anti-semitically driven.”

    Judicial discretion, by its nature, lends itself to the possibility of improper exercise of that discretion. If the improper exercise is motivated by a defendant’s Judaism, that would be anti-semitism. Without reading the judges mind (I only know one Bochen Levavos), how can you know what motivated her?