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Monday, November 30, 2009
UPDATE: Joe Carter, a former staff member on Huckabee's election team, weighs in on this issue here.
Almost two years ago, I wrote a series of posts on the Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, excoriating him on many of his political positions. One of my main complaints with the man as a presidential candidate (note: I think he's a nice guy on a personal level, but so is Obama) was his propensity to undermine the judicial system by releasing murderers and other dangerous convicts for no apparent reason than his love of "compassionate conservatism" and clearly no real grasp of a Biblical view of justice (Wayne Dumond was the most (in)famous of his monumental screwups). So it was not too surprising to me when I found out today that the main suspect in the murders of four police officers near Seattle this weekend was released by the Huckster in 2000. What was he released from, you ask? From a 108 year sentence for multiple aggravated robbery convictions. He was paroled on the say of Governor Huckabee TWICE {see comment section for more on this}, the second time after being convicted again of robbery. All because Clemmons wrote a nice letter to Huck telling him how he had been raised in a Christian home and was a changed man.

I don't know what his political aspirations are, but let this be a reminder that Mr. Huckabee is not fit for the office of Commander in Chief!


Chris A said...

Darius, you know I'm not a Huckabee fan, and I'm obviously not going to defend him.

But I think you might be inaccurate when you write, "He was paroled on the say of Governor Huckabee TWICE, the second time after being convicted again of robbery." I'm not trying to find fault with you, but that struck me as so outrageous that I had to look it up, and I wasn't able to verify it.

This is what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says, "He applied for clemency in 2000, writing in a petition to Mr. Huckabee that he had simply fallen in with a bad crowd in a bad neighborhood as a teenager, and that he 'had learned through the 'school of hard knocks' to appreciate and respect the rights of others.' Mr. Huckabee commuted his sentence, making him eligible for immediate parole. Within six months, Mr. Clemmons violated the conditions of his parole, returning to prison in July 2001 for aggravated robbery. When he was paroled again by the state in 2004, the police in Little Rock served a warrant on him related to a 2001 robbery."

So according to the Post-Gazette, Clemons' sentence was commuted by Huckabee the first time rather than the second. And when he was paroled the second time, there is no mention of Huckabee being personally involved; I suppose this doesn't mean that Huckabee wasn't personally involved the second time, but I wasn't able to verify that he was.

Darius said...

That's actually a good clarification, Chris. I wondered if I should have been more clear when I wrote that. Technically, to my knowledge, Huckabee wasn't personally involved in Clemmons' release the second time. But his parole board was. And if he was a responsible governor, he would have kept track of the convicts he had released and rescinded his favor if they broke the law again. A responsible governor wouldn't just release a record number of criminals onto the public and not pay attention to what those criminals did. A responsible and honest governor wouldn't lie about his involvement like he did with the Dumond case (multiple members of the Parole board said he pressured them to release Dumond, but he denies it).

At the heart of this issue is Huckabee's lack of compassion for innocent lives and general poor judgment. So yes, he wasn't probably so stupid to personally release Clemmons a second time, but he showed little wisdom or appreciation for the justice system by releasing him the first time.

Chris A said...

Apparently the cops shot and killed Clemmons (the suspect) today.

Darius said...

Yep, thank God! That guy didn't deserve to live another 40 years in some spa-like facility.

D.J. Williams said...


Honest question - do you feel that governors should ever grant clemency to convicted inmates? If so, what is the criteria?

Darius said...

DJ, I'm not opposed to clemency. The criteria I would use is if someone was clearly wrongfully convicted (and I don't mean that evidence was illegally obtained or some other legal loophole is found, but that someone is truly innocent), that person should be freed. Also, I'd be willing to give some leeway to governors over certain situations where the conviction is dubious yet not clearly wrong (perhaps lower the sentence?). What I'm not a fan of are governors who undermine the judicial system or second guess it or fall for the ol' "I've changed" routine. Law and order is not about restoration, it's about punishment. If I commit a crime, it doesn't matter a hoot if I change in prison or if it's a crime I am highly unlikely to commit again. I deserve justice.

What's odd is that Huckabee is a Christian pastor who should know better since he should have a good grasp of the idea of original sin and God's justice.

Chris A said...

Darius, I mostly agree with you with that law and order is about punishment.

Where we may differ is that I actually do believe that it matters whether someone changes in prison or not, because a good number of them change for the worse. I believe that high recidivism indicates that punishment has not been sufficiently meted out. If you're a career criminal and you can adjust to prison life, something is wrong with prison life. No one can really adjust to punishment, so if people are relatively comfortable living in prison, they are not being adequately punished. This is basically what I would change:

1. No prison sentences for drug crimes. If a crime involves violence connected with drugs, then it is a violent crime and not a drug crime.

2. No speaking in prison. Therefore no fraternizing, gang affiliations, and criminal plotting.

3. 2,000 calorie per day diet on very basic foods - beans, rice, and the occasional fruits and vegetables (maybe).

3. No recreation.

4. No education programs.

5. No television or internet.

6. No magazines or books.

7. Letters from home will be communicated by dictation and only once per month.

8. No cigarettes.

9. No visits from friends and family.

10. No rewards for good behavior. Good behavior is a requirement, not something to be praised for.

11. Cold showers only, and only once per week.

12. No currency or extra amenities. Everyone is equal.

13. No dental accept for actual medical emergencies.

13. No prison jobs that require communication, which is prohibited. All inmates are equally responsible for cleaning the facility under supervision.

14. No possessions of any kind.

15. Any violation of any of these rules will warrant 1 day in solitary confinement per offense. Those in solitary confinement are not permitted to eat.

16. The privilege of going outside will be afforded an hour per day every other week, presuming there is not so much rule-breaking that this privilege should be revoked for everyone.

D.J. Williams said...

So if I'm getting you clearly, you'd say that the only time a sentence should be lessened/dropped is when the conviction itself is in question. Clemency should never be granted to one who is clearly guilty.

If that's the case, then it seems to me you should blame our system, not Huckabee. Every Gov. grants pardons/clemencies of some sort. Granted, Huck's were more frequent, but this whole thing just seems like a bunch of people trying to play the blame game after four officers were tragically shot. Huckabee did not release him - that decision finally fell to the parole board, which OK'd his release twice. Does Huckabee bear responsibility for his decision? Sure. I hate to think of what he must live with in all of this. But to chalk it all up as his fault (and this nonsense from the Washington gov. now saying no more Ark. parolees in her state) is irresponsible at best. This feels an awful lot like a witch hunt to me.

Darius said...

"Every Gov. grants pardons/clemencies of some sort."

Actually, DJ, funny you should say that. My own governor and presidential hopeful, Tim Pawlenty, made some news yesterday when he said he has never granted a clemency in his 8 or so years as governor. I actually think that may be a bit too conservative (hopefully he meant that he never found a worthy person rather than meaning that he dismissed all requests out of hand), but at least it shows that some governors have a clue.

Joe Carter's insider look at Huckabee's thinking on this that I posted above is quite helpful. He didn't seem to realize that his decisions could have adverse consequences, and not just on him politically. His decisions have cost people their lives, and that's not hyperbole. Huckabee may not technically have released Clemmons or Dumond (though in the latter case he put so much pressure on the parole board they had to), but he made it not only possible to release them but likely. What parole board would choose to go against a governor who dropped a sentence down to just the right length to qualify for parole? Sure, the governors do that many times so they can have at least a little political cover ("The Parole Board is at fault, not me"), but it's disingenuous at best.

Darius said...

Chris, regarding prison life, I agree that prison should be much more difficult. But at the same time, I'm not sure if it should be a Turkish prison, which sounds close to what you described. I do think that for those who are going to be released back into the public, there should be an attempt made to make sure they come out no worse than they came in. And what you described seems like it would make some people go crazy, since it's basically solitary confinement.

That said, I'm not an expert on what works for punishment. I do believe we should have a ton more capital punishment or at least physical punishment. Singapore has some pretty good methods. Sure, they may be extreme, but consider that they rarely have to employ them, and they make sense.

Chris A said...

When it comes to punishment and prisons, I like Singapore and I like China. People who go in those kinds of prisons generally do not come back.

The idea is not to make you insane, but to punish you by making you think long and hard about what got you into prison. And whenever you can't talk to anyone or enjoy anything, that's pretty much all you can think about. Its a kind of therapy really, rehabilitation if you like.

On second thought, I think it may be good to allow books in prisons, but only those of a religious nature. Think about it like this. People take vows of silence for religious reasons, fast or eat very basic foods, and lead very simple lives confined in places, and it doesn't kill them or make them go crazy - at least not in a dangerous way.

Now if a person gets thrown into the hole, he does go crazy, at least temporarily, but I'm only proposing that happen when people break the other rules. The other times they would be in the company of others, but they would not be permitted to communicate with them.

I'm no expert either, and I'm not saying my proposals would create the best scenario, but I think they would work a whole lot better than what is currently in place. It would alleviate the tax burden on citizens by eliminating imprisonment for drug crimes, cutting expenses in the management of prisons, while at the same time lowering recidivism.

Prison in this country is an industry where it is in the best interest of prison corporations to get as many people in prison as possible so they can bilk the taxpayer. States routinely pay more per prisoner than many of their residents earn in a whole year. Something is wrong with that.

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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

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