The Daily Aztec

Equal crime deserves equal punishment

by Jasmine Mouzon, Contributor

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How many times have you scrolled down your Twitter or Facebook timeline and seen that someone has been sentenced to a lengthy amount of prison time for selling marijuana?

How often has this person been black?

Now how many times have you turned on the news and seen a murderer given a light sentence due to an insanity plea?

How often has this person been white?

Now, if you’ve been paying attention to current events, I’m sure your response to both of these questions is, ‘often, if not, always.’

As much as people like to  reject this statistical fact, black men in America are more likely to receive harsh sentences for minor crimes, while white men get off with little more than a slap on the wrist for even worse crimes.

This has become such a widespread, consistent trend that I am no longer surprised when I turn on the television or read the news.

If we can agree that a crime is a crime, no matter what, then shouldn’t we also hold every person equally accountable?

Now, I’m sure many of you have heard about the two young black women who were brutally assaulted by a white man on the BART train in Oakland. This attack resulted in the death of 19-year-old Nia Wilson, who was stabbed in the neck by the assailant.

Initial reactions were as expected.

The media touted the idea that the attack was “random,” that there was no motive behind it. Ignoring the historical component to white violence against black bodies, especially white male violence against black women.

This is something the black community is all too familiar with.

Her death is one of the many that hit a historical nerve for us.

It wasn’t just a random crime. It was a racial, violent one. Now, months after her death, the question still remains — will there be real justice for Nia Wilson? 

Wilson’s murderer, 27-year-old John Lee Cowell, has a prior criminal record, but like we’ve seen with other white criminals, claiming insanity often leads to reduced sentencing.

We see this with many of the white male mass shooters who claim that their battle with mental illness is to blame.

It’s impractical to expect change overnight, especially considering the political climate we’re in now — an administration that is doing absolutely nothing to make our criminal justice system equitable. But it’s not impractical to ask for judges to begin sentencing people according to the severity of their crimes.

If we are going to punish black criminals to the full extent of the law, then why can’t we do the same to white criminals?

I believe all groups of people should be held accountable for the crimes that they commit. But, let’s not pick and choose who we decide to prosecute harshly.

I hope there is justice for Nia Wilson.

Her life was brutally taken from her and it is only right that her murderer pays the full price for her death.

But much deeper than this one specific instance, is the larger issue with the ways in which our justice system punishes white violence versus black violence.

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2 Responses to “Equal crime deserves equal punishment”

  1. Leo on August 27th, 2018 10:48 am


  2. Mary Sheldon on August 27th, 2018 12:40 pm

    I feel you on racism in our country.
    And (not but) AND there are a few details you leave out in your opinion piece.

    John Lee Cowell has an extensive history of psychotic illness. In our country, it is status quo for seriously mentally ill children to turn 18 and deny all services. Parkland shooter (who is actually biracial) is the poster child of this. Often, psyhotic people become homeless and rack up criminal charges BECAUSE THEY ARE PSYCHOTIC. Cowell had just been released from Atascadero State Mental Hospital. As he received NO TREATMENT beyind release, he became psychotic again. It is only whena floridly psychotic person gets prison time, that they are actualky provided treatment, duch as with James Holmes, who is now in a federal prison with a large mental hospital facility.

    A few books to read which explain discrimination against psychotic people:
    Insane Consequence – Dj Jaffe
    Noone Cares About Crazy People – Ron Powers

    A few factors of discrimination against mentally ill people are the culprit.
    1) IMD exclusion. This law excluse people 18-65, from obtaining ANY public assistance funding for mental health/behavioral health inpatient treatment in a facility with more than 16 beds.
    2) “Right to be ill”. Civil rights violations are often sighted in a multitude of court cases as psychotic people resist treatment. SAMHSA and MHA have funded legal proceedings to relieve psyhotic people of the treatment they need to stablize.
    3) Closing of mental hospitals. This began 50 years ago to eliminate “asylums”. Community options and lower levels of housing were supposed to materialize and were never funded. This left very psychotic people in the carw of their loved ones ONLY.
    4) HIPAA handcuffs. HIPAA is over used by many mental health care providers, to keep families from knowing ANYTHING about a psychotic person. Families do not get info on medications, follow up appts, aftercare or even release dates/times.
    5) Committment laws often demand dangerousness. Say your psychotic loved one is saying they are going to kill people, burn the house down, etc. Welp, they actually have to he doing these things before the law kicks in.
    6) Legal limits on forced comnittment. Typically, after your psychotic loved one FINALLY hurts themselves/others, and they are committed, they are put on a 72 hour hold. REGARDLESS OF HOW THAT GOES, the psychotic person is usually released within that 72 hour window (and often released to the street or a homeless shelter). Very rarely, a psychotic person (with extensive advocacy from an astute and well experienced person) can be held up to 30 days. Beyond that, the psychotic person is released, again, streets or homeless shelter.

    Racism is not the only discrimination in our country. Seriously mentally ill fill our streets, jails/prisons and morgues.
    And, for the record, people of color whom have a serious mental illness, are more discriminated against than any other.

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