Thu, June 27

Editorial: Justice denied can have costs ... either way

The old adage justice delayed is justice denied is an antiquated idea in today’s U.S. legal system. Justice is deferred all the time, whether it is a long wait before a trial or a long wait before the implementation of sentence.

For instance, Yavapai County has five men on death row (including Clarkdale’s Milo Stanley), and they have been there for terms ranging from eight years to 26 years. Some are working the appeals process, but some are not; they are just waiting.

Sometimes the injustice is not in delay but in premature liberation.

So at the other end of the spectrum, there are those getting out before their full sentence is fulfilled. For years, malefactors have been paroled early. Jails are crowded and, especially now, the counties and the state do not have the money to maintain these prisoners.

When these are petty thieves or first-time drug-related offenders, it’s easier to shrug a shoulder at the early parole practice. Sex crimes are a different matter.

The fear and supposition is that sex offenders will immediately re-offend, and the longer they are in jail the better. That is the thinking behind a Tucson woman’s attempt to make it law that all sex offenders and abusers must serve their full sentence. No early release. No parole.

While making them serve their full time will not stop recidivism, it will delay it.

But is the chance of recidivism worth the price of housing prisoners? The state continues to foot the bill for long-term death row inmates. Does that outweigh the necessity of keeping lesser offenders behind bars?

When death sentences become life sentences by default, it’s just another added cost, besides being justice delayed.

Early release of less offensive prisoners relieves some of the cost, but if they are the wrong prisoners, what is the ultimate cost to justice?