“We don’t want our pain to be used to punish anyone else,” say Polly Klaas’ sisters

By Sam Levin . . . Annie Nichol was seven years old on 19 March 1994 when she was brought to the White House to talk to Bill Clinton.

With a stuffed dolphin by her side, the girl spoke to the president about her 12-year-old sister, Polly Klaas, who had been abducted five months earlier from the family’s home in Petaluma, California, while Annie was sleeping nearby. . . .

Today, Annie is tormented by the memory. Polly’s kidnapping and subsequent murder fueled a host of “tough on crime” laws and a powerful victims’ rights movement, which pushed America to have the highest reported incarceration rate in the world.

The meeting at the White House, Annie said, was a reminder of how her family’s story was exploited to expand mass incarceration and racial inequality in America. . . .

Polly’s story led to panic. American media covered every twist in the investigation of the “slumber party that became a nightmare.” Commentators argued the “age of innocence had been lost” and that “the 12-year-old’s awful fate drove home the disturbing message that youngsters are not safe even in their own bedrooms.”

By 1994, voters in California had approved the Three Strikes and You’re Out law, which, inspired by the extensive criminal record of Polly’s killer, established life sentences for all felonies if the defendant had two prior convictions for serious or violent offenses. . . .

Annie and her older sister Jess are now on a mission to reclaim their family’s legacy and undo the harsh legislation the tragedy that befell them sparked. They say they want a different criminal justice system, one that focuses on preventing violence; accountability, treatment and rehabilitation for people who cause harm; and care and services for survivors.

Their message is urgent, the sisters say, as growing concerns over crime in cities across the US since the pandemic have led to familiar calls for more punitive responses from pundits and some politicians facing midterm elections.

“There’s the trauma of losing Polly and then there’s the trauma of how her death was used to punish other people,” Jess said. “We don’t want our pain to be used to punish anyone else … We’re on the precipice of repeating a really terrible history. And we don’t want people to make the same mistake.”

Read the full piece here at the Guardian.

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  1. H n H

    Good luck with that. The ball has started rolling and is beyond control. Like a nasty chain reaction, it’s morphed into political votes and a prison system that will distort anything for just one more prisoner all at the gloating pride of a noble district attorney somewhere looking for more convictions to secure his political future. It’s all sick and disgusting, but one this girl wanted. Trying to stop it all is as big a challenge as Greta Thunberg is facing. How does anyone propose this family do anything to undo the damage they wanted done with all these laws?

  2. Tim in WI

    Boy their position says something important about the realization that the registry database regime isn’t what it was sold as. They’re realizing that they have been used to promote an agenda other than public safety. They understand now what many of us have understood for a long time. The database driven infrastructure is causing more problems it solves. Personally I’ve understood the registry database doesn’t have the technical assets necessary to perform the regulatory function claimed by it’s purveyors. Databases can indeed perform regulatory functions well, however sex offender databases aren’t actually designed to function with regulatory intent. They couldn’t have been, else the parts necessary to perform regulatory function would already be there from the onset. An example I can describe easily to the laymen is the chip used in an automobile to regulate air: fuel mixture. Those kind new of databases have particular assets to perform the function, namely value tables & sensors, none of which exist in sex offender registry databases. I suspect most judges are clueless about that kind of technical necessity. Instead they simply bought what they were being told by the purveyors that it would work. Really no different from the firms that sold ineffective ears plugs to the people at DOD. So the folks here are coming around to certain facts. The largest being it wasn’t about interdiction of the violent man. Second it wasn’t about doing the right thing for victims. It was about the government uses of the database.to improperly lend the appearance of efficacy to two worthless parties. The perveyors utilized the child sex offender simply because they, as a whole, presented the path of least resistance for the larger electonic agenda.

  3. w

    It’s not their fault, it’s the politicians, the police, and the people that benefited from such a sweeping movement that enabled the “knee-capping” of our justice system.

    The constitution put limits on government for a reason. Progressive politicians kept changing the rules. Now an accuser is armed with an entire system that the accused can’t hope to defend themselves against. It’s no longer about “crime” or “victims” it’s about case numbers and names.

    Digital IDs. Deepfakes. Surveillance state. Add it all up. You can’t leave the house for fear of being falsely accused.