Opinion

The Great Debate

from Stories I’d like to see:

A follow-up on Dasani, fitting Credit Suisse punishments, when Hollywood meets Beijing

credit suisse

1. What happened to Dasani?

Remember Dasani Coates?

She’s the homeless Brooklyn girl whose plight the New York Times’ Andrea Elliott chronicled in a moving series of Times features last December. The last we heard about Dasani in the Times was this February 21 follow-up by Elliott and Rebecca R. Ruiz. They reported that New York City officials had decided to move 400 families, including Dasani’s, out of the squalid shelter where she had been living and into rent-supported apartments.

What’s happened since? One would think that with all the attention Dasani received -- much of it focused on how intelligent, articulate and determined she was in the face of unspeakable adversity -- that she might have been recruited by now into a prestige private school or otherwise showered with attention and even donations that would have dramatically improved her circumstances.

Is that true? What about her parents and siblings? And what about the trust fund established for the family following Elliott’s series?

2, Credit Suisse and corporate guilty pleas:

I’ve never been able to understand how corporations can be convicted or allowed to plead guilty to a crime. Corporations don’t do good things or bad things. People, including people running corporations, do.

credit suisse -- ceoAnd the fundamental purposes of a criminal justice system are deterrence and punishment. Only people, not corporate seals or buildings, can be deterred. And the only people punished when a corporation is fined are the shareholders -- who presumably had nothing to do with the crime

from Stories I’d like to see:

Sealing deadly court files, and Obama and his Cabinet

1. Sealing deadly court files:

In the wake of continuing disclosures about General Motors’ failure to acknowledge critical safety issues related to faulty ignition switches, there’s a looming issue that has not been addressed: How litigation settlements negotiated by private parties can result in court-sanctioned cover-ups that endanger the public.

We now know that there were several cases in which the families of people who died in crashes after ignition switches failed quietly received cash settlements from GM.

In return for the cash, the plaintiffs not only promised to withhold the settlement details but also agreed with GM that the court files would be sealed. In some cases, those sealed records included documents and transcripts of pre-trial deposition testimony that contained evidence gathered about the dangers of the faulty switches.

Holder follows GOP lead in easing harsh drug laws

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a directive last week, instructing all U.S. Attorneys to revisit current drug cases involving low-level, non-violent offenders and waive harsh mandatory sentencing requirements where appropriate.

In doing so, the White House is turning its attention to one issue — criminal justice reform — where Democrats and Republicans have actually found common ground.

Though crime levels have been falling for the last 20 years, incarceration rates and prison costs have sharply increased. It is the states, particularly those under Republican control, that are leading the way here — enacting reforms that have cut incarceration rates and costs and led to significant taxpayer savings.

The myth of youthful drug offenders

Attorney General Eric Holder’s call for ending mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders has sparked a national debate on drug policy that should have begun 25 years ago.

During last Monday’s speech on drug policy reform, Holder repeatedly singled out “young people” as a special target, particularly “the fact that young black and Latino men are disproportionately likely to become involved in our criminal justice system — as victims as well as perpetrators.”

This is a common refrain — but increasingly untrue. Law enforcement and public health agencies data now shows that U.S. drug abuse and crime problems have been shifting to older and whiter demographics over the last two decades — creating new realities for debate and policy.

Bradley Manning and the real war on leaks

Army Private First Class Bradley Manning in handcuffs for his motion hearing in Fort Meade in Maryland June 6, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana

The most significant dispute over leaks this week is not in Washington, where Attorney General Eric Holder is under fire for the searches of journalists’ files. It’s 40 miles north in Fort Meade, Maryland, where the trial of Army Private First Class Bradley Manning begins Monday.

Manning is facing a court-martial, or military prosecution, for sending 700,000 government documents to Wikileaks.  It was the “biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history,” as Reuters reported, and the U.S. government believes that makes Manning an enemy of the state.

The failure to prosecute corporate crime undermines U.S. justice

Imagine you are driving down the highway at 90 mph where the posted speed limit is 55 mph. As a result of your speeding, you lose control of your vehicle. And you cause a wreck that kills people.

Here’s a sure bet ‑ you will be convicted of a crime. You will admit wrongdoing. And you will be punished.

Now suppose a corporation engages in illegal activity while operating a coal mine. And that illegal activity leads to the death of 29 of its workers.

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