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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/17/10

Crack crime vs. white collar killers: shouldn't be a contest, but the killers are winning

Follow Me on Twitter     Message Monica Davis
The kinfolk of 31 year old Jadrion Griffin will be traveling up the road for the next 30 years for visits, after Griffin was sentenced to a three decade term for conspiring to distribute "more than 50 grams of crack cocaine" and other infractions. Because of his "criminal history", Griffin's sentence was "enhanced" according to local media reports.
Now, compare this with the crimes of various white, white collar managers whose arrogance and alleged criminal dismissal of work safety laws kills thousands and injures millions. Where are the prosecutors, judges and other elements of our criminal justice system when managers and owners continue to violate work safety laws, throw out wage and our statutes and trample over labor laws?
Congress passed "ground breaking" mine safety laws four years ago, thinking it had solved the problem. But how can you solve problems if laws are not enforced, fines are not taken seriously, and miner's continue to work in unsafe mines, operated by people who skirt laws, don't pay fines and ignore safety laws?
CNN reports that "Two West Virginia mining accidents within 17 days in January 2006 killed 14 people and prompted Congress to pass the most sweeping mine safety legislation in 29 years." One would think that the legislation would make mine operators think twice about continuing operations of unsafe mines.
Apparently not, if one investigates how many fines continue to go unpaid, and how many unsafe conditions remain uncorrected. As CNN noted, "Now, another West Virginia mine explosion that killed at least 25 miners raises questions on how such a disaster could happen after all the congressional hearings, enhanced policies and industry commitments to prioritize worker safety."
Indeed, how could such a thing happen? One would think that after all of the angst, hand wringing, speechifying and grandstanding, that the situation would have been rectified.
Yet, chronic offenders, scofflaws, literally scoff at the law and ignore its existence. "... mine experts interviewed by CNN said the MINER Act and the MSHA regulations have proven insufficient to crack down on chronic offenders." No kidding.
The government throws fines around like a kid going through a Halloween candy bag, but chronic offenders toss off the fines like King Kong defecting bullets. And more people die, victims of a government that will not go after corporate killers with the same vigor that it pursues street corner pushers and low level dealers.
We keep coming back to the "low level" and "street corner." Rarely do any big wigs, corporate crooks or big crime bosses do the evening perp walk in chains. They do their killing with policy and procedure, ignoring worker safety, working behind the scenes masterminding crimes, ignoring worker safety laws with criminal intent, ignoring laws routinely.
These are the creatures who sit behind desks in their well-polished shoes and thousand dollar suits, keeping well-paid legal eagles on staff, ready to charge up the hill and fend off any threat to their master's wealth.
The authors of an article on note that "Coal mining companies have successfully thwarted tough new safety rules that were intended to help prevent a disaster like the one that killed 25 West Virginia miners Monday, top labor and mine safety officials said, by overloading the regulatory system with appeals."
The author say the appeal rate has gone up 50 percent. "The backlog of appeals has shot up to 16,000 cases. And federal safety officials are waiting out appeals over $210 million dollars in contested fines."
Meanwhile, while a company is appealing a series of fines, another mine disaster at one of its facilities kills a few more expendable miners, generates another fine, and the dangerous merry-go-round goes around and around.
Common Dreams notes that, "The company that operated the mine for Massey Energy, called Performance Coal Co., has had roughly 1,000 violations processed since 2007. Of them, 335 are still being contested, while 80 more show the company is delinquent in paying fines that were levied."
In response to the Common Dreams article, "a miner, Chuck Nelson, made some pretty alarming accusations of Massey - fradulent (sic) use of personal resporable (sic) dust monitoring devices, blatant ventilation defficinecies (sic), 19th century-style production quotas and mandatory long hours, and blacklisting of troublemakers."
Now, the Supreme Court has compounded the issue by declaring "corporate personhood", whereby corporations are legal humans under the eye of the law. Well, if that is the case, then we should be as harsh on corporate killers as we are on human ones. Particularly when the criminals continue to commit the same crime over and over again.
Thirty one year old Jadrion Griffin was charged with a variety of drug offenses, and prosecutors enhanced his sentence because of prior convictions. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If these corporations want to be considered the equal of a human under the law, the life and death sentences should also apply.
Sentence them down to 10 years, 20 years of not being able to do business. Confiscate their assets. Treat them the same as alleged drug dealers are treated: strip them of what they own.
Unfair, you say? As the "accused" drug dealers whose cars and homes and bank accounts have been siezed and disposed of BEFORE THEY HAVE BEEN CONVICTED.
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Monica Davis is an Indiana-based marketing specialist, author, radio personality, columnist and public speaker. She specializes in economic, history and public policy issues and has written articles on land loss, bank failure, institutional (more...)
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