Fair and Equal Justice for Incarcerated Individuals in Maine Awaiting Trial

Fair and Equal Justice for Incarcerated Individuals in Maine Awaiting Trial

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Mainers for Equal Justice started this petition to Governor Janet Mills and

We, the undersigned, present this petition demanding that Maine recognize the rights of incarcerated individuals, and demand that “swift and speedy justice” be available for all, not just for the white collar crimes. We use our voices to call out for justice for all citizens of Maine, to lend our voices to those who cannot speak for themselves as Maine refuses to hear their cries for fair treatment under the law as they wait behind bars. The state brags to the Portland Press Herald that it has given the owners of Susan’s Fish and Chips “swift justice,” yet leaves incarcerated individuals in chronically poor conditions to await trials for months and months, and refuses to recognize their rights.

Take for example the case of Maine v Nobrega. Mr. Nobrega has been awaiting trial for almost a year while he sits in the York County Jail. He is told that the state is “not hearing motions,” while watching other inmates who have arrived well after him have their motions heard by the court. Mr Nobrega’s accuser has a history of making false charges, he would likely have done less time if he had made a plea deal on the charges he is accused of (but should not be forced to admit guilt when the evidence against him is arguably incredibly weak and would not stand up in court,) and yet Mr Nobrega has not even yet had his case heard by the courts. His rights as a prisoner are constantly violated, his rights as a citizen to have a speedy trial are ignored, and he has read stories of Maine’s “swift justice” from his cell. Should he, as a citizen of Maine, be entitled to swift justice?  He instead is forced to remain in York County Jail, a place which has been singled out by the CDC as being one of the worst jails in regards to COVID procedures.  No court will hear his case. His motions are ignored. He is forgotten and left in a cell. He is treated like a bit of dirt to be hidden away, and not at all like a citizen of our beautiful state or deserving of the same “swift justice.”

Take also for example the case of Maine v Versluis. Mr. Versluis has remained at the York County Jail since February 10. His bail originally was set at $2000, and was marked up 500% to $10,000. The case against Mr Versluis is entirely based on wildly contradicting witness statements from the same witness, as an officer of Biddeford Police Department himself noted in the discovery. The “case” would most likely be thrown out of court, - that is, if a court would hear the case in a timely manner. When Mr Versluis’s loved ones attempted to post bail for him, he was denied his freedom despite the egregiously high bail being posted, so he is set to wait FOUR MONTHS, for a crime it is very unlikely he would ever be found guilty of, and within a jail where he has not had a working commissary account for almost his entire stay, where his phone calls to his loved ones cost almost ten dollars apiece, where he is denied medications for his health issues, and under execrable conditions, because the state of Maine feels they do not owe Stephen Versluis “swift justice.” His grievances go unheard to the ears of many as he cannot speak out when muted behind the grey walls of York County Jail. The state treats him instead about as well as we might treat a lobster awaiting it’s end in a tank at a grocery store, and denies him his turn at “swift justice.”

Why does Maine feel that some citizens should be allowed their right to a speedy trial, while turning a blind eye to the men and women who wait for “swift justice” behind bars?  In our country one is supposed to be presumed innocent until found guilty, and yet we continue to punish those who may very well be innocent of the crimes that they are accused of by prolonging their stay in deplorable conditions at a great cost to the taxpayers of this state. Until we give the incarcerated awaiting trial the swiftest justice – as those who are innocent of their crimes should surely deserve to be free of the chains of incarceration as speedily as possible, - we are failing our own citizens. We, the undersigned, demand swift justice for our brothers and sisters who are forced to wait in conditions which put them at a great risk of COVID to have their chance at a fair trial. Self-flattery of “swift justice” should be muted until such a time as every citizen is given the same treatment, not just white collar criminals who are not stuck in jails under accusations which are dubious at best.  

 

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