Tenn. Case Reveals ‘All That is Wrong’ with Justice System, Columnist Says

In his Sunday column, New York Times writer Nicholas D. Kristof writes that “if you want to understand all that is wrong with America’s criminal justice system, take a look at the nightmare experienced by Edward Young.” Young had been convicted of burglary, served his time, and after being released from prison in 1996, he married, worked hard and raised four kids in Hixson. When a neighbor died, Kristof writes, Young helped the widow sort and sell her husband’s belongings. During that process he found some shotgun shells and put them away so his children would not find them. When Young became a suspect in a new spate of burglaries, the police found the shells in his home. He was tried and convicted under a federal law that bars ex-felons from possessing guns or ammunition and carries a 15-year minimum sentence – even though police later dropped the burglary charges. Kristof uses the case to raise questions about the nation’s current sentencing policy and explore alternatives he says are more effective and less costly.