At the end of his speech to contributors at the Boulder Hill Country Club last Thursday night, Republican State’s Attorney candidate Patrick Kenneally spoke of the effects of crime on families of the law breaker.
Reflecting on the Multi-Generational Effects of Crime
We do this job because we know that at the heart of much of the human misery and unhappiness that people must endure, there is usually a crime; whether itPatrick Kenneally Raises Money for State’s Attorney Race be drug addiction, domestic violence, or coping with a prior victimization.
And the effects of crime can be inherited and often ripple down through generations.
I had a case involving a young lady named, let’s say, Amy.
While growing up, she and her sister were raped on a weekly basis by her uncle who she went to live with after her father died. Amy ended up running away and later had a child out of wedlock.
At 20, she returned to get her sister who had just drank part of a bottle of DRAINO in an attempt to kill herself and was in the hospital after having to get half of her stomach removed.
Upon returning and seeing the state of her sister in the hospital, Amy finally felt compelled to tell the police what was really going on. We prosecuted Amy’s uncle and he was convicted and sentenced to over 20 years in prison.
Sadly, this was not enough for Amy.
Shortly after her uncle’s conviction, she started using drugs and I don’t know where she is.
But I do know that now, Amy’s son, whose mother is now a drug addict, will have to deal for a lifetime with hardship because of crime committed by a man he never knew.
Putting monsters like Amy’s uncle away is deeply gratifying and a no-brainer.
But very few of the people we prosecute are irredeemable sociopaths.
Most of the defendants I see in criminal court remind me of people I have know at some point in my life.
Further, many of these defendants were themselves victims before they victimized.
So as much relief as I feel when the court has reached the right outcome and defendants are sentenced and punished, the whole enterprise is always tinged with sadness.
We as prosecutors are asked to step into the breach of people’s chaotic lives.
We are asked to solve a defendant’s problems once and for all while at the same time satisfying a victim’s rightful demand of punitive redress.
We usually give a defendant every chance and try to divert those willing to make fundamental changes away from prisons and to programs that can help them.
But for those who are too selfish, immature, or cruel to accept the eminently reasonable restrictions imposed by society, they must e held accountable by us.
That is justice.
Justice requires faith.
Justice does not always leave everyone involved with a smile on their face and mailboxes filled with thank you cards.
It is often hard and unbending and when looked at out of context, may seem unkind.
Essentially we are forcing obstinate and unruly people to face up to the consequences of their actions, which creates upheaval in their lives. But in the long run, holding people unflinching accountable for their criminal conduct is in the best interest of society, the victim, and, most importantly of all, the defendant.
That’s what we try to do.
I’ll leave you with a quote that I think best sums up the ideal prosecutor who must balance all the competing demands they face:
“The qualities of a good prosecutor are as elusive as impossible to define as those which mark a gentleman.”
And those who need to be told would not understand it anyway.
A sensitivity to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power.
And the citizens safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes and who approaches his task with humility.
Lou Bianchi is this kind of prosecutor.
I hope to be that kind of prosecutor