America suffers from unequal justice under the law

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My week began with reading Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy,” a book recommended by Maine Hospice Council Executive Director Kandyce Powell. I’ve worked with Kandyce on prison hospice projects.

Mr. Stevenson, a lawyer, heads up the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit engaged in pro bono work for the poor, children, and women. I found “Just Mercy’s” true stories of people wrongly imprisoned, imprisoned without legal representation, or serving extreme prison sentences, sad and perplexing.

Much worse, is Stevenson’s telling of people within the legal system, top to bottom, refusing to change when Stevenson presents proof of a prisoner’s innocence. Better to keep the innocent in prison than to admit wrongdoing, is a cancerous mindset. Stevenson’s stories of human disregard for life, especially the innocent, is impossible to understand. Human infallibility alone neither explains nor excuses such behavior.

In remembering one of his innocent clients who spent several years on death row, Stevenson writes, “Walter made me understand why we have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent.”

That analogy was on my mind this week when the President delivered his State of the Union address to Members of Congress, and illegal immigration was front-and-center.

Illegal immigration was also front-and-center in 1986 when President Reagan and Congress passed a new law granting amnesty to three million illegal immigrants, promising America they would tighten US border security, and increase penalties for employers hiring illegal immigrants.

Presidents Clinton in 1995, and Obama in 2009, were still promising America would “fix” our “broken immigration system.” It’s 2018, and a new President and Congress have not fixed, and are not fixing, our broken immigration system. But they are talking about amnesty for almost two million more illegal immigrants.

Bryan Stevenson’s experience of helping a poor woman, an American citizen, sentenced to a decade in prison for bouncing a check is all the more maddening against our elected officials’ cavalier attitude on illegal immigration.

What laws do American citizens get to break, then receive amnesty? Are we a nation of laws? Of equal justice under the law?

Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Fix our immigration system. Stop playing politics with people’s lives.

My week closed with news of federal government collusion at the highest levels to flip the outcome of a Presidential election. This situation truly concerns me. So do politicians, activists, and media pundits who, in the face of such news, put men and party ahead of the law.

America is founded as a nation of laws with equal justice under the law. Unequal justice under the law, left unchecked, will surely destroy our beautiful nation.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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