Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jul 1999
Source: Standard-Times (MA)
Copyright: 1999 The Standard-Times
Author: Jeffrey J. Wrobel, Mattapoisett
Related: and



A recent article and editorial on the leniency shown to Raymond Gadbois by
Judge Bernadette Sabra bordered on the ridiculous. Nobody bothered to take a
step back and give this situation some thought before spouting off about the
failure of our criminal justice system and the need for stiffer sentences.

I urge you to let me take this opportunity to attempt to shed some light on
some of the politically charged issues that everyone seems to be in favor

First, very little was known or reported about the particulars of this case
and its mitigating circumstances (if any). To see the charges, then the
judge's ruling leaves out the most important part of the proceeding: the
case against him as interpreted by the district attorney's office and the
defense lawyer's arguments during the court proceeding and prior to

Yes, we heard about the drugs that were found and their quantity, but we
were not privy to the weight of the evidence nor its relevance to Mr.
Gadbois. A judge's job is to somehow reach a reasonable conclusion within
the law when presented with arguments from both sides, the defendant's
remorse and how he has conducted himself while awaiting trial, and the
likelihood of recidivism. She must reach a just conclusion that at once
satisfies the commonwealth's need for redress, community risk, and the
benefits of incarceration to both the community and the defendant.

It is too easy to just lock someone up and forget about them. What happens
when they go to prison? Many people seem to think that prisoners are coddled
in a "country club" environment, when in fact prisoners get isolation,
attacks from both guards and other inmates, poor food, and deplorable living
conditions. There is no attempt at rehabilitation (unless you count working
on a chain gang!).

The prisoner is eventually released and is often depressed, angry, and
helpless. Do you want this person moving in next door to you?

District Attorney Paul Walsh was quick to say that we must take the power
away from judges because they are appointed and put it in the hands of the
elected district attorneys. That is like Congress trying to abolish the
Supreme Court because the justices are appointed. They are appointed for a
very good reason: to keep the legislative and executive branches in check.

A judge does not mete out justice on the whim of the people, he or she is
supposed to do what is right and just according to our Constitution.
Mandatory minimum sentences have taken away the very discretion that judges
have to maintain fairness and constitutionality on a case by case basis.
Judges are rendered powerless and without function. No one would ever
advocate the removal of the prosecutors or defense attorneys because, like
judges, they too play an essential role in our justice system.

The editorial closed with the statement, "Drugs kill people; they kill
cities." It seems as though we haven't learned from our own recent history.
The Temperance movement convinced a number of people that alcohol was
inherently evil, and as a result the disaster of Prohibition was enacted.
The banning of alcohol created a black market which became the genesis of
significant organized crime.

The alcohol was not evil; it was the criminal element that profited from the
black market in alcohol and continues to thrive today on the black market in
drugs. The criminal activity is what destroys communities, not the drugs. We
almost universally agree that Prohibition was a failed experiment in
intolerance, but we fail to see that same intolerance in our present day
drug policy.

Each one of us has the power to take responsibility for our actions. We are
not helpless victims of a chemical . It is all too easy to blame the
problems in our society on a few psychoactive compounds than to realize that
the problems are a direct result of our individual and collective behavior.

I too, was a "victim" of drugs for many years. Unfortunately, the punishment
and treatment given to me by society were often obstacles to my recovery.
Despite that, I have been clean for years now and I see the drug problem get
worse under our current criminal justice strategy.

- ---
MAP posted-by: Don Beck