Down here in Houston, the case of former TSU President Priscilla Slade is in the news. The news has all but called for tar and feathering, and I admit that for just a moment I actually bought into it. After all, the woman had a high-paying and prestigious job as President of university, she lived in a fine mansion and is accused of violating the public trust and almost bankrupting the university. I should mention here that TSU – Texas Southern University – is a mostly-black university which serves comparatively low-income students for the most part, and so financial irregularities at TSU would impact the school more severely than most other universities. In plain words, the woman is accused not only of taking university money and property for her own benefit and enjoyment, but in doing so jeopardized the education and futures of thousands of students who can ill afford such abuse.
But here in Houston, Councilman and would-be Congressman Michael Berry is questioning the possible sentence Slade might receive if found guilty. I do not totally agree with Berry’s argument – after all, just because other people have received too light a sentence, does not mean everyone should also get off. I also think that the context of an offence should be considered; far too many white-collar criminals get off easily, and yes, sometimes that means the county or the state should make an example of someone who violates a position of trust like this. Bear in mind, of course, that at this point Slade has only been indicted, not even tried, so there’s not a lot of evidence which is known, just a lot of talk.
But Berry raises a good question, and one which should make everyone cringe a bit. Whether Old-School or New Age, Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, we should all be able to recognize that the system does not always work, and even when it does it is far from perfect. Anything designed by humans will have errors, and Berry raises the key question about our Criminal Justice system – what do we want it to do, and why? I had to think again about that question, and I commend such contemplation to everyone.