Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The criminal justice system fails again

I was appalled and very sad to read of the death of Officer John Maguire of Woburn, MA. He was 60 years old, and on the point of retirement. The Boston Herald reports:

The town’s post-Christmas peace was shattered by ex-con Dominic Cinelli, 57, of Woburn, and his plan to use the blizzard’s cover to knock over the department store. His scheme ended in the exchange of gunfire, which left him dying on the snow-swept, diamond-strewn pavement.

. . .

Maguire, son of the late Woburn Police Chief Thomas J. Maguire, had just come from talking a woman out of committing suicide, the current chief said. Responding to the robbery call, he cut off Cinelli’s escape in the parking lot, traded fire with him, and died almost immediately after being shot four times in the torso. Cinelli, also shot multiple times, died on the spot.

There's more at the link.

To make matters worse, Cinelli was only able to kill Officer Maguire because of flawed decision-making in the criminal justice system.

Dominic Cinelli, the career criminal whose jewelry heist left him and the cop who stopped him both dead in the snow outside Kohl’s in Woburn on Sunday night, had three decades of violence and hard prison time behind him when it all came to a bloody end on a snow-packed parking lot.

Cinelli was on parole when he killed Woburn Police Officer James “Jack” Maguire, a married father of two, in Sunday night’s exchange of gunfire, authorities said.

. . .

He was ... serving three life sentences, when in 2005, a state appeals court ruled that he should be eligible for parole, according to a record of his parole hearing. After four years, the Parole Board released him, and he walked in February 2009, state records show.

Again, more at the link.

Speaking as a former prison chaplain, I've seen this pattern repeated far too many times to be comfortable with the present system. Over and over again, I've seen parole granted to convicted felons solely on the basis of what psychologists, or sociologists, or academic specialists 'think' or 'feel' about their prospects. In many cases, the felon's atrocious conduct record behind bars has been ignored or disregarded by the parole board. They haven't considered it 'relevant', or they've argued that conduct in so unnatural a setting as a prison is no indicator of how someone will behave in 'normal society'. As a result, good men like Officer Maguire end up dead.

In my memoir of prison ministry (as yet unpublished, but I'm hoping for good news in 2011 - watch this space!), I said this:

... we can't keep [inmates] locked up once [they've] done [their] time. Sometimes we [prison staff] wish we could go to court and say bluntly, "If you let this man out, he's going to hurt or kill others. He's a permanent danger to society. He needs to stay behind bars." Very sadly, we don't have the legal right to do that, and the courts don't have the right to order permanent incarceration for such offenders. Every year we're legally obliged to discharge inmates on completion of their sentences, in the sure and certain knowledge that someone out there is going to suffer, perhaps even die, because we're doing so. It tears your guts out sometimes.

In this case, there wasn't even the excuse that Cinelli had completed his sentence. Someone got all touchy-feely, and let him out early. As a result, a good man is dead.

May the soul of Officer Maguire rest in peace, and may his family receive whatever comfort can be given, by God or man, in such a tragedy.

Will there be consequences for those who let his killer loose, to kill again? I doubt it . . .



Anonymous said...

When there is a justice system that criminals are afraid of, and more potential victims armed than not, then there will be peace. Clearly, not before.


Dirk said...

Similar case here in Georgia. Someone with a long record, reportedly including some felonies, is still out on the street, and killed a state trooper during a traffic stop for a minor offense.


Jerry said...

No vest?

tpmoney said...

Also worth noting is that this paroled convicted felon managed to get his paws on a gun. In MA, despite state and federal laws to the contrary. Perhaps this is yet another danger of "gun control" laws. We make these laws with all the power of a paper tiger, and so we feel better about a repeat offender violent criminal being let out of jail, because "they can't get a gun, it's illegal!!!"

Perhaps we should do away with ALL post incarceration punishments, and then remind every jury, every judge, and every parole board that the very day this person is released from jail, they are once again a full fledged member of society, legally able to walk down the road, buy a gun, liquor, hang out at the park and everything else that every normal citizen is allowed to do.

Maybe then people would realize that you should only let someone free when you are ready and willing to trust them.

Seth from Massachusetts said...

This happend less than 20 miles from where I sit. Happens depressingly often in Massachusetts. And this is a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Not too long ago a peson was run over and killed by a man who was still driving after nine drunk driving convictions.

Glenn B said...

A crying shame is what it is. They who freed the convict ought to be horse whipped at the very least.

Anonymous said...

Places with strictest gun laws are the most sympathetic to real criminals and least sympathetic to law abiding, hard working citizens. It is part and parcel of a regressive, oppressive 19th century movement's ways of destroying a nation and taking over.

LabRat said...

Perhaps my grasp of psychology is flawed, but when considering the indeed-unnatural environment of a prison, it is my intuition that an individual that will hurt others when the odds of immediate and severe reprisal are near-certain will absolutely do so, and with more eagerness, when they aren't.