Baseball great Barry Bonds is set to be sentenced Friday in his Federal Obstruction of Justice case. Bonds was indicted on perjury and obstruction charges in 2007. He was found guilty of one count of obstruction of justice in April 2011. This has been a long road for Bonds and the US Justice Department. The wheels of justice do turn slowly. You may recall that this case actually began in 2003 in what is known as the BALCO steroid scandal. Yes, 2003! It was then that Bond’s trainer Greg Anderson of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) was indicted in 2003 and charged with supplying anabolic steroids to his clients. This led to a major investigation by the Feds and Major League Baseball into the use of performance enhancing drugs. Bonds later admitted to using “the clear” but claimed he did not know what it was. Hmmmm.
So, do we really need to spend millions of dollars to put somebody like Bonds or Martha Stewart in Prison? Yes and no. Nobody should be exempt from following the rules and laws of our country. But, there is no doubt that our incarceration rates are soaring and our criminal justice system is a mess. In the Bonds case, the probation department in its recommendation to the judge is suggesting a substantial sentence of community service, home detention and supervised probation. The U.S. Attorney’s office wants Bonds to serve 15 months in Federal Prison. Now, what good will that do society at large?
Punitive vs. Rehabilitative
In an era of too much violent crime and cases in the news like Sandusky, Blago and Bernie Fine, we must differentiate between those who make poor choices and those who can acknowledge their actions and rehabilitate and learn from them. This is where our system breaks down. We have not figured out if all prison should be punitive or if some should also be rehabilitative. We have also not figured out who can be rehabilitated and how to do it. As the majority of people incarcerated in the U.S. are there on drug related crimes, we best figure this out, and fast. California has renamed is department of Corrections, The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Facts about inmates
Get real people!! The fact of the matter is that most people in jail and prison right now are coming home and most of those in 5 years or less. So, this is an issue that we need to address. Further, the cost of incarcerating people is soaring. This is a cost that is sometimes necessary and yet other options like the Bonds recommendation, will work. The one thing I know that works for sure is accountability. Believe or not. The accountability Community Service and probation provide is often enough to put time and distance between the offender and their crime so that it does not happen again or manifest in other ways. If you do not believe this look at the recent case of Lindsay Lohan and how she is thriving with the tight restrictions the judge placed on her. As I have often written, community service is a no cost way to provide the needed accountability and “punishment” while actually being good for the community and the offender.
What should happen to Barry Bonds?
Barry Bonds admits he broke the law and has offered apologies that seem genuine. I am sure we will hear more of this Tuesday. It is this acceptance of responsibility that shows character and matters. Blago tried it but it was too little, too late and his crimes were not a one-time event, rather a long-standing pattern of behavior. There are criminals, criminal thinkers and people of good character who get trapped by their own lies and think they can make it better. Bonds appears to be one of those. Had he told the truth to the Grand Jury, he would not be in this situation. Secrets and lies often lead to prison. That is a fact. Remember that obstruction is a cover up and always it is a lie one is covering up. Just ask Martha Stewart! It cannot be forgotten that Stewart served one year and a day, part of it on house arrest for her Obstruction conviction. Did that help society or the many Martha Stewart employees? Yet, Martha was NOT sentenced to any community service. That itself is a crime when so many could have been helped by Stewart vs. paying for her prison stay.
This insider believes that Bonds should be sentenced to community service, home detention and probation in the ultimate Alternative Sentence. Should Bonds have been prosecuted at all? Yes, in the world I hope we will have, equal justice is key and nobody is above the law.