Every person I have encountered is angered over the outrageous sentence, the mock trial and the mistreatment or lack of medical treatment that resulted in Mr. Warmbier’s current condition. To be clear, the charge, the sentence, and his mistreatment were archaic and deplorable.
Yet, before we go to further, maybe we should examine what we do in America? We must remember that North Korea believes that its laws are appropriate, their trials fair enough, and their medical care is sufficient. Is the United States doing the same thing that we rightly accuse North Korea of doing?
At recent lawsuit in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, claims prisoners with serious mental illness are taken off their prescribed medicine, housed in inhumane sized cells, and housed with other seriously mentally ill inmates. If you deal with mental illness or family members with the mental illness, you are aware of what happens when medicines aren’t taken or abruptly stopped – it is always a bad result.
Prisoners in many state prisoners are routinely raped and brutalized, generally by other inmates, due to lack of security (Terror in the Prisons: Rape and Why Society Condones It (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974). Stories of brutality and death from guards were headline news in Wilson County, Tennessee just a few years ago. Is this fair and deserved treatment of inmates or unfair like Mr. Warmbier’s cruel treatment at the hands of the North Korean regime?
Outrageous sentences are routinely handed out in our country. Life sentences are handed down in America for “drug conspiracies”. This is when a defendant is convicted but the defendant never touched or sometimes never received a dime from proceeds from a drug sale. Sentences are set based on the drugs others sold but that the Defendant never touched. I have seen a decade added to the sentence of a defendant who did one act to further one drug transaction. His sentence was increased by 10 years because those he helped moved a lot of drugs over and above just the one transaction he himself was involved in (the judge thought it didn’t need to be proven). The law is clear that the punishment for the crime will be handed down even though the defendant didn’t even know what they did. Is this fair and just treatment of our citizens or is it arbitrary and unfair like the 15-year sentence for the theft of a government sign given to Mr. Warmbier by a North Korean court?
Decades are added to sentences and parole eligibility denied in Tennessee for drug offenses “in school zones” even when the person is driving down an interstate and their car is stopped in an area close to a school zone that is off the interstate. The same for $10 drug transactions near schools, even ones permanently closed, just because they are still owned by the school board. This occurs in the United States of America. A fair sentence or unfair like Mr. Warmbier’s?
We have trials where the attorney is paid far less than 3 weeks’ pay for McDonald’s high school employee for the investigation, trial and sentencing in a murder and other serious trials. A fair trial or a sham like Mr. Warmbier’s?
We should be outraged at what happened to Otto Warmbier. The U.S is not North Korea, yet are we as blind to our injustices as they are? Do we equally see our actions as right and justify them as North Korea did? Our prisons are full of nonviolent criminals. Do those on the outside looking in judge us, or perhaps using us as the example we try to be to other governments, find us similar to North Korea or do they see much of a difference at all? A mentor of mine once told me, “you judge people by how they treat those that no one else cares about.” (James Carter Martin, circa 1986).
My desire is for America to condemn North Korea while being able to say that we don’t do such unfair and unjust acts here, that we provide medical care, and don’t have sham trials.
I wish it were true.
In the defense of those who cannot defend themselves,