A brutal and nasty picture is emerging from Honduras. A horrible prison system, coupled with overcrowded conditions and terrible training caused the death of nearly 300 souls.
Looking at the prison system in Honduras, it is actually somewhat incredible that something of this magnitude had not occurred before. Tales of guards beating prisoners in airless cells are being told. One would think that there would have been massive riots before this fire.
As a criminal defense attorney, from time to time I hear people ask me, “How can you defend these people?” And the short answer is that there is absolutely no difference between your average person and the vast majority of “these people” who find themselves in jail. Most of my clients are good people who have made a simple mistake–a lapse in judgment. Furthermore, many other people make similar mistakes and do not get caught.
For example, what really is the difference between the person who has five drinks at a bar and drives home and the person who has five drinks and hits a pedestrian who is wearing a dark outfit and jaywalking? It’s just dumb bad luck.
So “these people” in jail or in prison are just like you or I. And there but for the grace of God go I. So it may be popular to be tough on crime, it isn’t humane. And that brand of politics leads to mistreatment, death and agony for the families of the prisoners.
I have nothing against pink underwear. But criminal defense attorneys hear stories from their clients about abusive policies and procedures in Maricopa County jails. Now even the federal government had to step in. I hope that people will start recognizing that inmates are no different from anyone else, and that everybody deserves dignity.
Nick Alcock is a criminal defense attorney who practices law in Phoenix, Arizona.
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