Guest MINDSETTER™ Broadmeadow: Justice Tempered by Mercy, Mercy Me

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

 

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Oh mercy, mercy me

Oh things ain't what they used to be

- Mercy Mercy Me byMarvin Gaye

 

I know I’ve compromised the lyrics from a song about pollution to one about the justice system, but the lamentation of the words is appropriate.

A recent headline on FOX News blared,

Florida man gets 20 years for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes

A Florida man who stole $600 worth of cigarettes from a convenience store was sentenced Friday to 20 years in state prison, The Pensacola News Journal reported.

An Escambia County jury convicted Robert Spellman, 48, of burglary and grand theft in August. Spellman went into a Circle K in December, and stole 10 cartons of cigarettes from a stock room in the store manager’s office, authorities said.

The State Attorney’s Office said authorities found Spellman nearby, matching a description of the suspect, and had the cigarettes, The News Journal reported.

Spellman had 14 felony and 31 misdemeanor convictions prior to the cigarette theft, which qualified him as a habitual felony offender, The News Journal reported. That led to the lengthy 20-year prison sentence imposed Friday by an Escambia County judge.

The lengthy prison term prompted outrage on social media, with some people accusing the prosecutor of imposing too harsh a sentence for a seemingly petty crime.

“Just such a disproportionate sentence,” wrote one Twitter user. “[W]ho are these cruel judges?!?” Bradford Betz - FOX News - Monday, September 24, 2018

Somehow, people were outraged that a man could be sentenced to twenty years in prison for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes.

Mercy, mercy me.

They apparently skipped the part that said,

“Spellman had 14 felony and 31 misdemeanor convictions prior to the cigarette theft, which qualified him as a habitual felony offender.”

Now, I will be the first to point out our corrections system is wanting in the rehabilitation department. Our prisons are warehouses and little more. But when an individual, not otherwise suffering from mental illness or incompetence, has been convicted of 45 crimes, including 14 felonies, there is little left for society to do than “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.”

Mr. Spellman could be the poster child for the failed court system. I will bet, if one reviewed the court record, Mr. Spellman was warned by many judges not to return to the courtroom and be of good behavior. To which Mr. Spellman, or most likely his overworked public defender, assured the court he would.

Anything to escape responsibility.

Everyone deserves a second chance, perhaps even a third chance. But 45 chances are bordering on the court being an accomplice to the crimes.

While there are myriad social implications for failing to provide meaningful rehabilitation to criminals, everything from skills training to assistance with job opportunities after release, deterrence and punishment for crimes is still a valid societal tool.

Mercy, Mercy me

How much more evidence do we need?

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Joe Broadmeadow is an author and a former captain of the East Providence Police Department.

 

Related Slideshow: 2018 Rhode Island Criminal Justice Hall of Fame Inductees - June 2018

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Hugh Clements

Colonel of the Providence Police Department

Clements was appointed to the Providence Police Department on May 5, 1985, as a night Patrol Officer in the Uniform Division. He then went on to serve on the Neighborhood Response Team Uniformed Task Force before being transferred to the Special Investigations Bureau, the department’s vice and drug unit. In 1990, Clements was promoted to Detectives where he worked in the night squad. In 1992, Detective Clements was promoted to the rank of Sergeant where he spent three years as a night Sergeant in Sub-District 1, South Providence. Sergeant Clements was then transferred to the Detective Bureau where he served as the Squad 2 Sergeant and spent the next seven years supervising the investigations of all major crimes including murder, robbery, burglary, firearms offenses and gang activity. In a squad that carried an extremely heavy caseload, he played an active role in several major investigations during this time.

In 2002, Hugh was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and transferred to the midnight shift of the Patrol Bureau. Lieutenant Clements was later assigned as District 5 Commander covering the neighborhoods of Olneyville, Hartford, and Silver Lake. Consistent with the department philosophy at this time, the true community police model was practiced with several creative and innovative initiatives carried out in this particular district. He was transferred back to the Detective Bureau, and in December 2005, he was promoted to Captain where he was responsible for all major crimes operations in the Investigative Division.

In 2008, when promoted to Major he was assigned for one year as the Commander of the Homeland Security Division, before being reassigned as the Commanding Officer of the Uniform Division.

He later served as Deputy Chief and was appointed as Acting Chief of Police in July 2011, and on January 6, 2012, he was appointed as the 37th Chief of the Department and promoted to the rank of Colonel.

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The Honorable Walter Stone 

Associate Justice, Rhode Island Superior Court

Walter Stone passed away in September of 2017.

He was named to the bench in October of 2010 by then-Governor Donald Carcieri. He replaced Judge Rogeriee Thompson when she was elevated to serve as a U.S. Circuit Judge.

Before being appointed to the court, Stone was a partner at the Providence-based law firm Adler Pollock & Sheehan.

Stone was a graduate of Fisk University and earned a J.D. from Case Western Reserve School of Law.

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Joseph Stetkiewicz  

Chief, Central Falls Police Department

Joseph Stetkiewicz served as the chief of the Central Falls Police Department from 1946 to 1968.

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Robert McKenna

Director, Roger Williams University Justice System Training, and Research Institute; Lieutenant, East Providence Police Department (Ret.)

Robert McKenna is the Associate Dean and serves as an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the School of Justice Studies at Roger Williams University.

Additionally, he serves as the Director of the Justice System Training & Research Institute, the professional development component of the School of Justice Studies.

Associate Dean McKenna holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and a Master of Science degree in the Administration of Justice from Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island, as well as a Juris Doctor degree from The New England School of Law, Boston, Massachusetts. 

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Stephen Springer

(retired) Detective, Providence Police Department; Investigator, Rhode Island Office of Attorney General

A 1968 graduate of the Providence Police Academy, Stephen J. Springer served in the Patrol Bureau for approximately five years before being promoted to Detective. For the next 30 years, he served as a Detective, largely in the South Providence area.  During that time, he served as the primary or secondary investigator on more than 200 homicides, a number unmatched in Rhode Island law enforcement. He joined the RI Office of Attorney General in 2004 as an investigator, retiring in December 2017.

He has received numerous awards over his career, including the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Award (1978), Rhea Archambeault Award (1984), Medal of Valor (1984), Commissioner’s Award (1993), Rhode Island Justice Assistance “Neil Houston Award” (2001), and FOP Outstanding Police Officer of the Year (2002).

Over the course of his nearly 50 years in law enforcement, Stephen Springer epitomized professionalism, dedication, courage, and integrity, tirelessly working on the streets for his entire career, and in the process served as the face of law enforcement to all those he encountered.

 

Springer and his wife Virginia McGinn reside in Barrington, RI.

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Susan Erstling, Ph.D., LICSW

(retired) - Family Services of RI; Rhode Island State Victim Assistance Academy

Erstling headed the Family Service of RI trauma and loss center, and is a founder of the RI State Victim Assistance Academy.

She has a wealth of experience working with victims, witnesses, and responders in the aftermath of violent incidents, including shootings. 

She and her team also provided training to professionals across the state regarding the effects of trauma.

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Lionel “Pete” Benjamin

Major, Rhode Island State Police

Lionel Benjamin passed away in 2008. 

Benjamin joined the RI State Police Department in 1958, retiring as a Major in 1990, having served 15 of those years as the youngest and longest serving Executive Officer in the country.

As a graduate of the F.B.I. Academy, he was recognized for his expertise in the prevention of organized crime and served proudly under the direction of the legendary Colonel Walter E. Stone.

Consistent with his altruistic nature, he had been a volunteer fireman for the Marieville Fire Department for 15 years as well as a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran of the Korean Conflict.

 
 

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