The headline in HuffPo reads:
James Degorski, Man Who Killed 7 At Brown's Chicken Restaurant, Awarded $451,000 In Civil Suit
So I was interested to see how a convicted killer was awarded money. Could it be related to his murdering 7 innocent people? I didn't think so but I had to read on.
CHICAGO (AP) — A former handyman serving life in prison for the 1993 murder of seven people at a suburban Chicago restaurant has been awarded nearly a half-million dollars in a civil lawsuit in which he alleged a jail guard punched him in the face.
Degorski, now 41, accused a Cook County Jail guard of punching him and breaking his cheekbone and eye socket in 2002.
As it turns out, this was really not about the inmate's crime, but about the inmate's treatment. His abuse. His being deprived of his civil rights. Degorski's attorney put it this way:
"I think it's a beautiful day for civil rights when a jury can put aside emotions and say we are all entitled to our civil rights," she said. "It's about protecting the constitutional rights of the least among us."
Well, I'm not so sure that it's a beautiful day, but I do feel strongly that we have constitutional rights which, contrary to popular opinion, are not relinquished when someone's sentenced to prison.
Why should we care, or more importantly why should a jury care to the tune of nearly half a million bucks?
Simple. We have the eighth amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The jury heard the facts, the details of this brutal attack on a brutal man who was in his care. Yet a prison sentence doesn't give the guards the right to dispatch their own kind of justice. Guards are there to serve the justice system, not create their own. And this guard evidently thought he could. Now the state must pay, which means the people of Illinois have to cough up half a mil for this crime.
If it seems like I'm taking the side of a killer, you're wrong. I'm taking the side of justice. We can't allow people behind bars to become animals, pets, treated unkindly by brutal guards. If we do, there's no chance at rehabilitation. I don't think prison should become a vacation spot, but basic human rights shouldn't be denied, either.
This prisoner who was beaten could just as easily been incarcerated for fixing the books at a financial institution or possession of a controlled substance. His crime got him put there for just punishment, not to become a guard's punching bag. But this guard took justice into his own hands, abused it and a jury found him guilty. Hopefully he will lose his job for this. But most certainly, the good and innocent people of Illinois will be covering the tab. Perhaps that's the real injustice in this case.