Tuesday, December 20, 2011


When is sentencing a rapist to prison utterly and completely pointless? When the rapes occurred 30 years ago and the rapist is now a diabetic, blind, wheelchair-bound double amputee who has suffered a stroke.

Now I may be a defense attorney, but I'm not exactly a huge fan of rapists getting a free pass. So ordinarily, I would approve of a man who broke into homes and raped women in their beds doing a little time. But I don't think throwing prison terms at any and all criminals is very sensible crime and punishment policy. If I had my way, a whole lot fewer people would be in prison because I'm just not sold on the idea that it's in society's best interests to incarcerate that many people. And I'm also a pragmatist.

In Mr. Brewer's case, the pragmatist in me wonders what on earth anyone hopes to accomplish by putting this man behind bars. He has now admitted guilt in two rapes from 1981. The man who was originally wrongfully convicted and sentenced to prison has long since been released, exonerated, and financially compensated. That man, Eddie Lowery, actually seems to be doing quite well. He is married and has two children with his current wife. He has also been able to reconnect with the daughter he lost when he was sent to prison when she was 2. So sending Mr. Brewer to prison isn't necessary to make anything up to Mr. Lowery.

MSNBC aired a special about Mr. Lowery's case last Friday. Mr. Brewer was interviewed for that special. He is truly a pathetic specimen at this point in his life. He does not have prosthetic limbs to replace the feet he has lost to diabetes. I'm not sure how much good prosthetic limbs would do  him, anyway, as he is blind and has had a stroke. He quite simply does not pose a threat to anyone.

But he does require a great deal of medical care. In prison, he may well be confined to the infirmary. From a cost standpoint, it seems likely to me that taxpayers will pay for his medical care whether he is in prison or not. But in prison, he will be a drain on limited prison resources. An inmate with such serious medical issues will take up more time from the overworked staff that is already stretched too thin.

And what do we as a society possibly gain from punishing a man like this with prison time? I don't really feel like letting him serve some kind of house arrest or probation would be letting him get away with his crimes. The reality is that the ship sailed on that one a long time ago. I'd say once he got to live over 20 years without facing consequences, he's pretty well gotten away with it. Sometimes, we just need to accept that there's really nothing we can do about a crime that happened so long ago. This is one of those times.

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