Monday, October 15, 2007

Pollit, Blumenthal and Rell

Over at the Journal Inquirer, Chris Powell, who has been skewering political gaffers for many years, took a swing at perhaps the most pretentious politician in the state, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

The hysteria over the release of David Pollitt into a neighborhood in Southbury had reached the ears of Governor Jodi Rell, who thereupon reached for her Glock.

As the news of Pollitt’s release dribbled out into the media, the neighborhood surrounding Pollitt’s sister’s house, where he was to be domiciled upon his release, grew ever more anxious.

Their anxiety was understandable: Pollitt’s rapes had been vicious, according to cursory media reports, and his sister, who had agreed to serve as a Good Samaritan upon his release, appeared to be convinced that her brother had been unjustly imprisoned for crimes he had not committed.

On the other hand, Pollitt had served his time, and the state of Connecticut had no good reason to refuse to disgorge him from its burgeoning prison population.

Enter Blumenthal, truly a man for all seasons. Perhaps he could convince a judge to suspend every constitutional law on the books, not to mention a few centuries of common law, and recommit to prison a man who had served his sentence and was due for release.

It didn’t work. The judge Blumenthal was nudging, Judge Susan Handy, ruled strictly on the law and told Blumenthal he had no standing in the case. Unlike the attorney general, the authority of judges is hemmed about by legal precedent and common sense. Blumenthal knows no such constraints and wanders where he listeth, like some vast meandering swamp, until he runs up against a judge like Handy, who seeks to constrain him – for about five minutes, and then he is off again to spout before the nearest bank of cameras and reporters.

That is exactly what happened in this case. Following Handy’s unequivocal judgment, Blumenthal was found in front of the court house holding one of his telegenic news conferences.

Earlier Blumenthal, whose aides and assigns search newspapers avidly for any opportunity to be of service, had fed the beast of unthinking reaction by telling reporters that Pollitt “…was convicted of some very heinous and horrific crimes and continues to refuse to acknowledge his responsibility, so there is a very significant reason for the public to be concerned and my job is to protect the public.”

Blumenthal, never easily rebuked, told reporters outside Handly’s courthouse, “Clearly the justice system has failed today to provide the kind of protection the people of Connecticut rightfully expect and deserve.”

In fact, Pollitt would be more constrained and more carefully guarded under the arrangements under which he was to be released than would be the case had he been released to a half way house. It was from a half-way house that paroled prisoners Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky lept to rape and incinerate their victims in Cheshire . Blumenthal’s job is only incidentally to protect the public; certainly it is no part of his job description to recommit to prison released prisoners who have served their time.

The real problem in this particular case may be that no sanctions are ever brought to bear against people who facilitate bad decisions. There are lots of fingerprints on Politt’s release. Suppose Pollitt does commit another rape; who, other than his victim and their families, will suffer for it? Pollitt certainly would be recommitted to prison, but what of all the other people responsible for Politt’s presence in Southington , principally legislators who have written laws that put communities in danger from the early release of multiple rapists? That is what people are anxious about. Of course, they are also anxious about Pollitt because they suspect that prison time may not be a corrective if the rapist has not undergone some sort of transforming experience. It’s bothersome that the people who may most successfully affect Pollitt’s future believe he was wrongfully convicted. Those are the fears that have brought people out of their house to protest Pollitt’s early release.

The reaction to the Pollitt case is one more indication that people across the state are not satisfied with laws that seem unable to protect them from vicious predators. This is a hopeful sign. It means the gunpowder of revolution is in the air. And when the people are sufficiently aroused by the inability of their government to provide for their safety, they will not be turning to lawyers and judges for succor.
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