A South Carolina teen, whose family is from Syria, conspired with another ISIS inspired jihadist to steal firearms and murder U.S. Servicemen in the state. You will be sickened to find out how long he spent in prison.
The Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Federal Office of Justice is very concerned about the self-image of convicted felons.
She is so concerned that she is prohibiting Office of Justice employees to refer to convicted felons as “convicts” or “felons”.
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A South Carolina parole board’s decision to grant early release for a teenager who served just one year of a five-year sentence on a gun charge rattled local law enforcement because authorities said the teen was attracted to the Islamic State and plotted to kill U.S. troops in North Carolina.
The 17-year-old was not identified, but apparently benefited from the state’s lack of terrorism laws. The state could only charge him with the weapons crime and no federal charges were reportedly ever sought.
The city of York’s police chief, Andy Robinson, said terror charges could have been leveled by the federal government, but “that bureaucracy is very complicated.”
“Apparently someone in Washington decided this wasn’t worth pursuing or it wasn’t in their parameters,” he said.
Consternation over the parole board’s decision was felt widely by local law enforcement and elected officials. York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant said he was “devastated” that the teen will be released. The teen reportedly laid out plans to live in nearby Charleston with his mother and two sisters.
“This is a person who has threatened law enforcement, threatened military personnel,” he said, according to The State newspaper.
Another law enforcement official told the newspaper that he does not believe the teen’s ideals have changed and local law enforcement will request that the FBI “keep tabs on him, because we don’t have the manpower…or the capability.” The town’s mayor, Eddie Lee, echoed the concern and said he is outraged.
The teenager was identified as an American citizen whose family is from Syria.
The prosecutor charged that the boy was plotting with a Muslim militant from North Carolina to rob a gun store near Raleigh, N.C., with plans of killing soldiers as revenge for U.S. military action in the Middle East.
The teen was “wholeheartedly sincere in his beliefs, and we are very concerned for the safety of the community and the country,” Solicitor Kevin Brackett said at sentencing. “He had a plan to randomly shoot American soldiers.”
Defense lawyer B.J. Barrowclough said the parole board made the right decision. Traumatic life experiences like the death of his father and the mistreatment by a family member contributed to him being led down the wrong path, he reportedly said.
Barrowclough previously said his client didn’t want to hurt anyone in the U.S. Instead, he wanted to fight the regime in Syria that had hurt and killed members of his own family, he said. One of the teen’s lawyers said his client had an exemplary disciplinary record and did all that was asked of him in custody.
Barrowclough asked the judge for probation, saying the teen had no criminal record and was in school and working to care for his mother.
The teen’s mother and uncle also spoke to the court, saying the boy was a good youngster who believed in the laws of the U.S. and didn’t mean any harm.
A Justice Department division will no longer refer to people released from prison as “felons” or “convicts” because of the stigmatizing effects of the terms, an agency official announced in a Washington Post editorial Wednesday.
Instead, Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason said the “disparaging labels” will be replaced by “person who committed a crime” or “individual who was incarcerated.” The new lexicon is set to be utilized in “speeches, solicitations, website content and social media posts” emanating from the Office of Justice Programs.
“I have come to believe that we have a responsibility to reduce not only the physical but also the psychological barriers to reintegration,” Mason wrote. “The labels we affix to those who have served time can drain their sense of self-worth and perpetuate a cycle of crime, the very thing re-entry programs are designed to prevent.”
OJP is responsible for research and development efforts to fight crime, but takes no direct law enforcement actions. The agency also works with state and local authorities.
But not everyone is on board with the shift in vernacular.
J. Christian Adams, an attorney and ex-DOJ official, said the move is the latest attempt by the Obama administration “to destigmatize the most abhorrent behavior.” Referring to ex-cons as “felons” is a good thing, Adams told FoxNews.com.
“It helps people make important decisions about hiring, about renting, about associating with people who have shown a proclivity to break the law,” he said. “Shame is not a bad thing. It’s helped civilization rise. And people who cannot be trusted, who have committed violent crimes in the past, there’s nothing wrong with calling them exactly what they are – and that is felons.”
Mason, who has headed OJP since 2013, wrote the editorial on the heels of National Re-entry Week, last week’s attempt to bring attention to the plight of those recently released from prison. A set of measures to make it easier for ex-cons to obtain state IDs once released from jail was announced in April as part of the initiatives.
The American Bar Association documented nearly 50,000 “collateral consequences of criminal convictions” during a four-year period, Mason wrote, citing penalties such as employment and voting issues that plague ex-prisoners years after they’ve been released. Experts believe that number may be low, given that local ordinances also often present barriers for ex-cons to gaining employment.
“Our words have power,” Mason wrote. “They shape and color our estimations and judgments. They can build up or tear down.”
The OJP move is certainly not the first time officials have tried to rebrand convicts in an attempt to make their return to civilian life easier. In October 2013, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter proposed amending the city code to replace “ex-offender” with “returning citizen.” He had already issued an executive order making the language swap mandatory for city employees.
Adams said it may be easy to shift the recent tide of softening language if a leader with “courage” is in place. But he’s not necessarily optimistic about the prospects.
“In the past this has been a one way ratchet, that every time these attempts to delegitimize American society are put in place, nobody has the courage to reverse them,” he said. “They don’t want to be criticized.”
Professor Paul Markel
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