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Naked City Justice

Received some news today from my next-door-neighbor, who happens to be the brother-in-law of the alleged “New Year’s Manuscript Thief” (pretty tasteless, I know, but an appropriate name). Turns out his wife’s wayward little brother, caught red-handed at a few other petty and not-so-petty thefts (a police scanner?! really?), including another one in the building itself, was recently arrested, and so now he (since no family member will post bail for him) awaits trial at our city’s infamously-awful Riker’s Island. He’ll probably go to jail for 7 years or so.

My liberal guilt is pounding, as I feel directly related to my neighbor losing her brother to the NY State prison system, once again. His Holiday Thievery escapades obviously point to a man who wanted to be caught and go back to prison–the place where, after serving 20 years already, he’s clearly most comfortable. Do we best serve this man by sending him back to that awful place? While out and free, he couldn’t hold a job, find a place to live, or deal with his neighbors or family in what society would consider a civilized manner. If by his actions he demands to return to the only place which (I would guess) feels like home to him, have we failed to provide him with the tools and opportunities necessary for him to re-enter society? … or is this completely his choice? I can only guess. Perhaps The System tried its best, and failed. Perhaps the system sucks rocks, ignored him, and/or provided no way for him to safely or realistically re-enter his old society after 2 decades of incarceration. I’m guessing only he knows. And I’d say it’s moot at this point, but I don’t think it is. There are thousands of men just like him, and what if they don’t want to make the same post-incarceration choices he did? My fear (now a red, burning, very present fear) is that they can’t, he couldn’t, and that the path to Riker’s is circular by design.

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