Randy “Duke” Cunningham: Prison Reform Advocate
Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 3:23 pm
Much has been made of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s new job selling pizza at a kosher establishment in Baltimore. But what of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), still serving prison time for ethics breaches that included accepting over $2 million in bribes from defense contractors? Both men were convicted around the same time and helped convince voters that the then-present crop of Republican lawmakers was hopelessly corrupt and needed to be thrown out.
San Diego CityBeat wrote Cunningham a letter to see how he was holding up — and the paper was happy to receive a three page, hand-written missive in return. In the letter, Cunningham details how he’s returned to his original passion, education, and is helping fellow inmates earn their Graduate Equivalency Degree (GED). He’s also become something of a prison reform advocate:
Like many minimum-security camps, Cunningham’s facility is adjacent to a high-security facility, which has allowed him to witness firsthand what he describes as a flawed justice system.
“The USA has more prisoners than any other nation, including Russian & China,” he writes. “The US Attorneys win 98% of their cases and if you do not plead in which 80-90% is not true they threaten your wife children etc with prison time.”
Cunningham’s numbers are slightly off. The U.S. Department of Justice’s 2009 statistics show that federal prosecutors won 94.1 percent of cases. In 96 percent of those convictions, the defendant pleaded guilty before trial. The difference doesn’t affect Cunningham’s point.
“Maybe that’s why God put me here to bring about much needed prison reform,” he writes. “Millions of prisoners but 4x that in families are harmed.” [...]
Cunningham was also the Navy’s only flying ace of the Vietnam war, and he closes his letter with a line familiar to fighter pilots, a reminder to watch your butt.
“Check six & God bless, Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham.”
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