I can’t really imagine a story that more perfectly illustrates how totally broken the criminal “justice” system in the US is.
Robert H. Richards IV, a rich unemployed heir to a chemical baron fortune who lives off his trust fund, was convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter. He also allegedly admitted to abusing his toddler son. But a Delaware state Superior Court judge decided that he “will not fare well” in prison, so he should get probation and treatment instead.
As a public defender in the state notes, the sentence might make the public skeptical about “how a person with great wealth may be treated by the system.” Um, ya think?
Nobody fares well in prisons. Because they are terrible, dehumanizing places. And, while treatment is sometimes presented as an alternative to incarceration–usually in cases of drug addiction–in the vast majority of cases, the US criminal justice system does not give a flying fuck about how prison affects the incarcerated. If it did, the system would look nothing like it does today. If it did, solitary confinement would be understood to be torture and outlawed as such. If it did, prison rape would be treated like the serious epidemic it is instead of as a punchline. If it did, literally millions of black men would not be condemned to second-class citizen status for minor drug offenses. If if did, there would be no mentally ill people in our prisons. If it did–if rehabilitation was really considered the goal–the world would probably be a better and safer place.
But that’s not the world we live in. As Kendall Marlowe, executive director of the National Association for Counsel for Children, says, “Our prisons should be more rehabilitative environments, but the prison system’s inadequacies are not a justification for letting a child molester off the hook.” If we’re gonna start giving a shit about whether incarcerating people is really a productive way to address criminal behavior–which, again, I would love for us to do–I can think of way better places to start than with a one percenter who raped his daughter.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.