Institutional crimes


These two headlines led the front page of last Saturday’s New York Times. Readers had followed the two stories for years, repulsed but fascinated by stories of vulgar crimes by trusted representatives of respected institutions — the Catholic Church and Penn State University. Both institutions failed their constituents to protect the institutions from embarrassments.


What are the similarities between George Zimmerman and O.J. Simpson?

The second-degree murder charges against George Zimmerman mark a major turning point in a case that triggered a nationwide debate about racial profiling in America and about Florida's "stand your ground" law — which allows people to use deadly force anywhere they feel a reasonable threat of death or serious injury. The case also highlights glaring and saddening contradictions on how American blacks and the media reacted to O.J. Simpson's alleged killing of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman two decades ago.


Misplaced leadership

With 95 percent of black homicides committed by other blacks, the Congressional Black Caucus members are offering a resolution to honor Trayvon Martin.

For what, being killed? Are we going to honor every victim now, or just every black victim, of a purported interracial crime?

The CBC time would be better spent engaging issues of gang warfare, drugs, black youth unemployment, than eulogizing Trayvon Martin and trying to make him a heroic symbol.


Disgraced in the hood

As a show of solidarity with Trayvon Martin, many people wore hoodies to church yesterday.

Church is suppose to be a place of reverence. A place where God is worshiped, and not a place where we honor the concerns of men above those of God.

There is no question that there was an injustice in the case of Martin, and there are appropriate forums for true justice. To denigrate the house of God for any reason is unjustified and continues to downplay the importance of true faith in our society.


Premeditated murder

It is an obvious pollution of our justice system that George Zimmerman is allowed to walk the streets as a free man.

Anyone with a modicum of common sense, after listening to the tapes, can only conclude that Zimmerman committed murder in the first degree.

How could Sanford, Fla., law enforcement officials not have arrested this menace to society?


The costs of imprisonment

When I was involved in prison-reform efforts with ex-offenders, as an activist in courts and as a critic in articles and books decades ago, I was surprised to find that conservative judges were better at enforcing change than liberals. They were, it seemed, more comfortable exercising power once they were convinced of the injustices demonstrated.

That irony — one would presume that liberals were more humane — was apparent again recently when reports showed that conservative states had cut prison populations by way of programs diverting prisoners, in appropriate cases, to community-based programs rather than incarceration. The motives were founded on economic grounds; the costs of incarceration were escalating with no reduction in crime rates to warrant them. The wisdom of the result is more important than the ground for getting to it. So we should celebrate getting to a better place in the criminal justice system.


From Casey Anthony to Wall Street: Crime pays

Soon Casey Anthony will be a wealthy woman while her child, with her mouth and nose closed shut by duct tape, her body stuffed in a bag with vermin eating at her corpse, rests in peace, in heaven, with God.

Once again, crime pays. Nobody will be punished for the death of this child. But who was punished for their role in the scandals on Wall Street? Who will go to jail for them? Who was punished for committing what is now agreed was illegal torture? Who will go to jail for that? I could go on. You get the idea.


No justice, no peace of mind

Casey Anthony.

Do we yet have another O.J. Simpson-like case in which someone who is obviously guilty walks free, to the dismay of so many?

The little that we do know as fact is confounding at best. The mother does not report her child missing for a month; that in and of itself is unimaginable. When it finally is reported, she relates that the child was abducted by a housekeeper who does not exist, then it somehow becomes her wealthy boyfriend who abducted the child — until it becomes clear that he did not exist.


The world meets Jessica Mah

Say what you like about Whitey and Catherine, but they went in the right direction, to southern California. And in the end they made a handsome couple in that excellent and iconic courtroom drawing, their final portrait together; Whitey Bulger with that distinguished beard, like a South Boston white-trash Lawrence Ferlinghetti, his handsome mistress framed slightly behind and to his creative left side. The west is the best, and the best final destination for those of us who, like Whitey’s family and mine and Tip O’Neill’s and five generation of Kennedys, lived virtually on the same block since we arrived from Ireland these last 150 years.

Whitey’s epic journey might well be the last for the Southie Irish and all of Europe’s “huddled masses” who made the Atlantic crossing. It might even mark the end of Europe, as long-term economic forecasters have been suggesting; the final death cough of life as we learned it in Europe: 500 years, described by Jacques Barzun from “Dawn to Decadence,” with Whitey and Catherine at the very end sunning in Santa Monica.


Getting smart

Half a century ago, President Lyndon Baines Johnson set up a National Crime Commission to study the broad and confounding subject of crime in America. A useful report was published in 1967, but for the most part the systemic reforms hoped for by the sponsors and participants have not occurred. In fact, many of the problems analyzed then still exist, and some have gotten worse.

That was the subject of a new report, Smart on Crime, just released by the Constitution Project. It included contributors from a collation of 40 interested organizations that run the ideological range from the ACLU to the Cato Institute to the Open society, ABA, PEW Center and others. Its aim is to present Congress and the administration with an agenda for reform of the criminal justice system, and hopefully to provide a proposed national commission now before the U.S. Senate with a jumpstart of recommendations.