Monday, September 9, 2013

New Hampshire: Lessons from a Goofy Editorial

The Concord Monitor features an editorial entitled: "Two Lessons from a Pardon Denied." It is an exceptionally goofy effort which well illustrates two lessons very well.

First, the piece states the Monitor was "neither surprised nor disappointed" that one Thomas Schoolscraft was denied pardon. Presumably, the lack of surprise is not a real feat as it is probably the case that the majority of the State's clemency applications fail. Which is to say, we are not impressed. But no "disappointment" that a pardon was denied? The Monitor must know something. What?
Schoolcraft is the type of turnaround story that you mostly hear about in the movies. He dropped out of school in ninth grade and, by 19, had pleaded guilty to committing nine burglaries - including some in which he invaded people’s homes at night when they were inside sleeping. He served nine months in jail but used the opportunity to set himself on a better path. He got his high school equivalency degree, followed by a bachelor’s degree from Keene State College in criminal justice. At college he met the superintendent of the Cheshire County jail who offered him an internship and then a job as a corrections officer. After two years, he left to continue his education: He’s now a student at Boston University, working toward a master’s degree in criminology.
OMG! Who on earth would want this monster receiving clemency? (sarcasm alert). The Monitor further explains:
without a pardon his ability to pursue a future career in law enforcement will be limited. Having a felony record, for instance, precludes someone from being hired by the state Department of Corrections as a prison guard or a probation or parole officer.
At this point it is easy to see why the Monitor rejoices. A clearly reformed convict is looking for gainful employment. How could this happen, right here in the United States?

So, you are wondering, at this point, what particular mind-altering chemicals fueled the creation of this editorial? Well, here comes further explanation. The Monitor says pardons are "rare" in New Hampshire and that is "as it should be" because:
For the governor or Executive Council to step in and overrule the decision of a judge or jury is a serious matter indeed. 
There you have it. The editors of the Monitor as as dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to clemency, even when trying to opine in a serious manner. The judge and jury had their say. They found Schoolcraft's level of criminality so low he didn't even serve a year in a local jail. There is no indication whatsoever that the judge and jury had eternal damnation in mind for Mr. Schoolcraft. But, in a lame attempt at rigor, the Monitor says:
Granting a pardon to a convicted felon - even one as compelling as Schoolcraft - simply to help him pursue a specific line of work doesn't necessarily meet the bar, especially when his crimes were committed less than a decade ago. 
In sum, the Monitor recognizes - then coolly tosses aside - Schoolcraft's rehabilitation and damns his attempt to get a job because wanting a job is not enough, in and of itself, to warrant pardon. Straw men everywhere are hanging their heads in shame. What a stumbling, bumbling effort.

The editorial then ends with an even worse attempt to be appear crafty, subtle, attuned to the art of distinction. It says  a pardon "granted years ago" seemed "more justified." It was the pardon of one June Briand, who murdered her husband. The Monitor insists supporters "convincingly argued" that she had "turned her life around" (Schoolcraft hasn't?) after "a long stretch in prison" (so judges and juries deemed her a much, much worse criminal than Schoolcraft) and there were "extenuating circumstances."

The profound lessons these cases teach us? The Monitor says, "Actions have consequences" (patent pending) and "Rehabilitation is clearly possible" (for convicted murderers at any rate, but not petty criminals with phenomenal life turnarounds).

The profound lessons we see? The media remain the primary facilitators of the bone-headed notion that clemency decisions which merely restore civil rights somehow overturn the decisions of judges and juries, and the impression that pardons spring hardened criminals from prisons, out into the streets once again, to work their evil. These erroneous images make good copy. And, simultaneously, render readership clemency illiterate. Alexander Hamilton, in the Federalist papers, argued there should be easy access to clemency. The Monitor rejoices that it is otherwise, and with impudence, demands worse. In sum, we are not surprised to read this kind of commentary, but we are disappointed. See full editorial here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Newspapers are always looking to use people who can't fight back to increase circulation.

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