The prison sentence imposed on former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald has stirred understandable outrage with its perceived leniency compared to the frequent longer prison sentences given for lesser crimes.
It is a graphic reminder of the inequalities exacerbated by our criminal justice system. But it also invites us to examine how we can make criminal sentencing more responsible and just. Those of us committed to rolling back mass incarceration need to make the case for fewer and shorter prison sentences that better serve justice.
In that spirit, what if we used Van Dyke’s sentence, of 81 months, as the upper limit, reserved for extreme violence?
It could serve as a precedent for defense attorneys to counter every proposed sentence that exceeds this new standard, with proportionality in mind. No longer should we witness long prison sentences for burglary, robbery and other felonies. We would cut back on incarceration in favor of probation supervision, paying fines or restitution, community service, accountability, and alternatives to prosecution.
While we have fixated on how much time Van Dyke should spend in prison, what about healing for McDonald’s survivors and accountability for the offender?
Vengeance will not deliver either. It distracts us from the greater challenge to make amends, to enhance public safety, and to seek reconciliation. Experience shows that we can achieve all of this by thinking through what justice requires, and acting accordingly.
Douglas Thomson, retired professor of criminal justice and sociology, Chicago State University
SEND LETTERS TO: email@example.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.
Release the Mueller report
It is imperative that Congress do whatever is necessary to obtain and release the full Mueller report to the American people. Congress members from both parties have called for the release of the full report. President Trump has said so too. The American people deserve to see the report in its entirety, not just a summary letter written by a Trump-appointed attorney general.
If Congress must call or even subpoena Robert Mueller and his team to testify, so be it. We need to know the full scope of his team’s report. If the Department of Justice won’t do its job, then Congress must step up to the plate.
Steve LaPorte, Logan Square
Historic mayor’s deserves media spotlight
On the last Tuesday of Black History Month, real history was made. The two top vote-getters in Chicago’s mayoral race are black women. Regardless of what happens April 2, Chicago will elect its first black female mayor.
Happening just before International Women’s Day, you would think this monumental event would have plenty of media attention. Surely, David Muir could take a few minutes from his endless snowstorm clips to cover this story. Surely Gayle King, who has the time to ask a couple of R. Kelly’s girlfriends if they engaged in a ménage a trois, could interview the two candidates, whose life stories are so interesting and so different. Fox could report this as proof that Americans are not racist, sexist bigots. MSNBC could tout this as a shining example of how women and minorities can triumph over adversity.
Why hasn’t any of this happened? Is the media unable to comprehend its importance, or too lazy to do the reporting? Or is there some other excuse for failing to cover a monumental event in our country’s history?
Mitchell A. Levin, Cedar Rapids, Iowa