BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
Please allow this writer to be one of the many voices in Oklahoma, and others across the nation, to declare imperatively: “FREE BOBBI PARKER! Stop the incessant, harsh, continuing persecution [prosecution]!”
For those to whom the name may not be familiar, Bobbi Parker is the wife of the assistant prison warden at Granite who allegedly helped Randolph Dial, a trustee prisoner, escape from custody. She allegedly drove the car out the gates with Dial hidden inside. Dial had been working in an art shop in the Parker garage in a residence on the prison grounds.
It was speculated and discussed widely at the time whether Mrs. Parker was a willing participant in Dial’s escape, or under threat and duress. Some thought there was an illicit love affair, and this made for juicy gossip. However, no charges were filed against Parker until long following the time when she and Dial were found 11 years later in Texas.
Insufficient evidence was present to file charges within the necessary legal time limits of the actual offense, if any. Prosecutors were pushing the statute of limitations again before filing charges after she was found. In the meantime, she has adjusted back into her family and holds a paying job.
The only other witness in the case [Dial] gave a dying deposition that she was an unwilling participant in his escape. He said that he had a hold on Mrs. Parker then and through the years by claiming the power to harm her husband and children. True or not, she and Dial are the only ones who know.
For all the rest of us, it is mere supposition based on the fact that she left with him and then stayed with him. We don’t really know.
This writer has numerous questions. Why are charges filed now? Who is Mrs. Parker harming or threatening now? What danger is she to the public? How do we know she was not forced to leave with Dial? Was her family threatened then and afterward by Dial, as he said? Was she a victim of Stockholm’s syndrome? Who is helped now by this prosecution? Who is being hurt by this prosecution?
There are some similarities between the Bobbi Parker case and the recent finding of the 11 year old kidnap victim after 18 years. Like Parker, that girl must have had opportunities to escape. Why did she not do so? Just as in Parker’s case, we do not really know why. Stockholm’s syndrome may be argued in both cases.
In Parker’s case, a remarkably understanding and forgiving man has taken her back unto his bosom and her two children have participated in reintegration physically and emotionally into a tight knit home. She has a job. Why do we want to disrupt all this for an expensive prosecution and possible incarceration at public expense?
Of course, one answer would be a prosecutor who is looking for his/her 15 minutes of fame on the state and national stage. But another could be the kind of prosecutorial mind-set which seems to permeate our justice system.
Too many prosecutors appear to think that their role is prosecution, regardless of guilt or innocence of the defendant, or the expense and human hurt it creates. Some have been heard saying, “I don’t determine guilt or innocence, I just prosecute to the best of my ability and let the jury decide who is innocent and who is guilty.”
Forgive us for saying so, but that is a simple minded attitude. The prosecutor is an officer of the court, and thus a part of the justice system. After all, the goal of the whole process is “justice.” If that can be decided at the prosecutorial level, with full consideration to all persons, to society, and to the issues involved, then that is the level at which justice should prevail.
Another simple minded view is that of “crime and punishment,” i.e. all that is of concern is that the guilty be punished. Too often the writers of our laws have been so concerned that they appear hard on crime that they have written in harsh punishments, three strikes laws, and mandatory sentencing, plus 85% rules on time served. For the same reasons, judges have sometimes been too concerned with public opinion in sentencing offenders to harsh penalties for minor crimes or those associated with alcohol and drugs.
In the final sense, it is we who are at fault. We voters have elected our prosecutors, our judges, and our lawmakers with a view that violators “be locked up and the key thrown away.” We have demanded punishment which may or may not fit either the crime or the circumstances. These people, along with our law enforcement personnel, are our “public servants.” They do what we say we want. Oklahoma is a “backwater” state.
One author, long ago and hardly remembered [although quoted in this writer’s master’s degree thesis in 1951], said: “Justice un-tempered by mercy is cold and harsh, and has no place in our human society.”
We have a Department of Corrections. Do we really mean “corrections,” or do we equate “punishment” with “corrections?” We used to talk a lot about “rehabilitation,” but now that term seems largely reserved for celebrities who get into trouble because of alcohol, drugs, or some similar cause. They go into “rehab,” and we think of that as a subterfuge. That’s too bad.
Rehabilitation is really quite a proper and appropriate concept. We used to have the idea that prisons [reformatories] did that. But our prisons have become little more than secure, but squalid and dangerous, warehousing services for a growing segment of our population. We pay county jails and private prisons fees just to warehouse prisoners that our state penal system is too overloaded to take. What kind of mess is this?
If “corrections” or “rehabilitation” are to occur, we need a different goal for our prisons. We need programs designed to do that, rather than just “incarcerate.” We send too many non-violent offenders to prisons, and we keep them there too long. While there, they receive little or no treatment.
Starting with those of us in society itself, we need to make different demands on our law makers, and different demands on those who serve in our system of justice. We must rid our Capitol of hypocritical demagogues. Those who have become calloused to human considerations should seek different careers. When constantly exposed to the dregs of our society, it is easy to form attitudes which are difficult to rise above in considering the possible changeability of human behavior.
But we must rise above our current practices! Setting Bobbi Parker free would be a start.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer