Monday, April 7, 2014

What Laws for the Rich?

Guess somebody must have let slip how inmates treat child rapists. Especially rich, fat, privileged rapists of their own three-year-old children.

Funny how the question of how well someone might do in prison never seems to be an issue when the person in question is not white, male, xian, hetero, and what's that other thing? Oh, yeah. Filthy. Motherfucking. Rich.

Emily Bazelon at Slate:

What is wrong with Delaware Judge Jan Jurden, who gave a DuPont heir, Robert H. Richards IV, probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter?* In her mind-boggling order suspending Richards’ eight-year prison sentence, Jurden gave one rationale that should launch a tidal wave of hate mail: Richards “will not fare well” in prison. To ask the obvious, so what?

There are three crucial justifications for criminal punishment: retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation. It’s the first two of those goals that should be front and center when the crime is the sexual abuse of a child, with the welfare of the rapist coming in a distant third. Probation for raping a child is the kind of leniency that gives mercy a terrible name.

It’s also part of a disturbing pattern of late in which judges treat sexual assault crimes as worthy only of a slap on the wrist.


Richards, who had no previous record, also has the benefit of money and family connections. He pleaded guilty to one count of fourth-degree rape after his daughter told her grandmother, at the age of 5, that she didn't want “my daddy touching me anymore.” (Richards was convicted in 2009—the details of the case are only coming out now because of a lawsuit his ex-wife recently filed against him.) In Delaware, fourth-degree rape is characterized as a violent felony, and the sentencing range goes up to 15 years in prison. But Jurden seems to have decided to treat Richards primarily as a patient, noting that he had “significant treatment needs which must be met.”


Sentencing reform for truly nonviolent crimes, especially drug and gun possession, is very much in the interest of justice. But to let off a convicted child rapist, who just happens to be living off his trust fund in a mansion, thanks to his wealthy and famous family? That seems like the definition of injustice.

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