Two stories, one aired and one published, from the United States really caught my attention last week.
One, a rehash on Michael Smerconish’s show on CNN with the individual involved, concerned a black man who had spent 26 years in prison for shooting a woman in the face in 1990 when he was 13, 18 of those years being served in solitary confinement.
The other was a Washington Post story out of Atlanta, GA, which said that records show that undercover officers sometimes engage in sexual contact with spa workers during stings in which they plan to arrest the workers, a move trafficking experts say dehumanizes the women and has spurred calls to set limits on police.
In the first story the teen at the time of the shooting, Ian Manuel, was sentenced to life in prison without parole, even though the woman, Debbie Baigrie, lived.
I thought the life sentence with no parole excessive in itself but it was the 18 years in solitary that really caught me. How does anyone survive that?
It was to answer that question that Smerconish had Manuel on his program.
Manuel said it was through extensive use of his imagination, thinking of getting out of prison and what he would do with his life.
He was in a small windowless cell. My imagination wouldn’t help me survive a week. After that time I would be insane.
At the beginning of his sentence, prison officials placed Manuel in isolation because of his age and size, according to The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama nonprofit whose attorneys have been involved in the case since 2006.
But being alone over endless days, he repeatedly acted out during what interaction he had with corrections officers, resulting in his separation from the general prison population for 18 years, mental cruelty in the extreme.
Manuel was released from prison in 2016 mainly because in 2010 the Supreme Court threw out life sentences for juveniles and the victim, Debbie Baigrie, began advocating for Manuel’s early release, arguing he had served sufficient time
Baigrie’s involvement was the silver lining in the piece.
Manuel had phoned her collect at Christmas after a couple of years in prison to apologize and then began writing her letters, which she thought had to be written by someone else since they were so articulate.
“As soon as she accepted the call I said, ‘Miss Baigrie, this is Ian. I’m just calling to tell you I’m sorry for shooting you, and I wish you and your family a merry Christmas,'” he said.
“That’s what I blurted out. What do you say to somebody you shot, you know?”
Baigrie said she was shaken by the call since it was so fresh at the time.
But she had found it heartbreaking when the judge sentenced Manuel to life in an adult prison and after the call she corresponded with Manuel, becoming a friend and advocate.
I contrast the treatment Manuel received to that of the police involved in the stings in Atlanta, who as far as I am concerned are guilty of actually accepting sexual favours to get the goods on the women they are there to arrest.
They call it a sting.
I call it entrapment.
The Washington Post said police descended on three massage businesses along a stretch of Georgia highway, part of what they described was a broader campaign against the illicit sex industry in Coweta County. An investigator said the goal had been to root out “human trafficking and child exploitation.”
But The Post said records the paper obtained detailing the raids showed that while authorities said they found no evidence of human trafficking at the three spas, undercover officers engaged in sex acts with some of their workers, then arrested them.
In one encounter, a sheriff’s deputy repeatedly grabbed a woman while she masturbated him, the documents say, while another undercover officer paid $200 and received oral sex.
Police charged eight female spa workers with prostitution, according to local media outlets, which posted photos of their mug shots on the evening news, a move I see as lowering themselves to the level of the police in this instance.
Apparently while such tactics by police are generally permitted by law, policymakers are beginning to propose new limits on physical contact by police, which they say serves to dehumanize — and potentially traumatize — the very women the raids are purportedly meant to help. The spa owners and operators targeted by law enforcement, experts said, often go unpunished.
As I ponder these two cases, I must say I am glad I am a Canadian.
Keeping a person in solitary confinement for 18 years is an atrocity.
Participating in a sex act and then arresting the other person in the act should not “be generally permitted by law.”
Actually, these two cases are just a small part of what it going on in the United States that I abhor.
Although President Joe Biden is bringing some cohesion to the fight against the Covid virus, many governors are working directly against him, shedding mask mandates.
As well, nearly all the Republican governors are attempting to pass legislation that would make it harder for some members of society, mainly black, to work.
There is the George Floyd incident, in which he was killed by a police officer who is now on trial for murder and there are many more.
We may complain about our politicians and many things that happen in our country but I can’t think of a better place to be.
And with the control of the Covid virus that has been done so well in our area as of this writing, I am especially happy that I live in Sault Ste. Marie.