The Criminal Revolving Door

I’m going to post a video blog tomorrow in relation to the 9/11 anniversary…for now, I have something else to gripe about. Yesterday, a couple robbed a Glendale car wash at around 0100. At that ungodly hour, nobody is driving; pretty well everyone but the weird ones are at home, maintaining their circadian rhythms. This couple was caught, but they fled, driving at speeds of 70 mph on surface streets. Police decided for some reason that it was too dangerous and didn’t pursue the vehicle. Shortly after that decision was made, the couple fled on foot and entered the home of a married couple in their mid-50’s.

They shot both, killing the husband and critically wounding the wife.

First, meet Rene Durgin. He’s better known as Arizona inmate #178146. In 2002, he racked up his first major offense as an adult (he was just barely 18 and had been in and out of the juvenile justice system): dangerous drug use and possession of paraphernalia. He was sentenced to three years of probation. Less than one year later, in early 2003, he was caught violating probation when he was caught yet again with the same dangerous drug and associated paraphernalia (for the unbaptized, that means the tools with which to cut and use the drug, whether by injecting, smoking or snorting). His probation was revoked and then reinstated after a couple of hearings and a promise that “I’ll do better this time, I swear!” Later that very same year, Durgin was arrested for felony theft and his probation was revoked; he was first sentenced to a stint in the MCSO jail, then when the judge realized that he was on probation for two other drug cases, combined the three and he was sentenced to three years in prison.

He was released in 2005 – early enough to be on parole when he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. Despite his record and the path they knew he was headed down, they let him plead guilty to nothing more than misconduct involving weapons and listed his crime as non-dangerous and non-repetitive. He was released in March of this year, a full seven months early. He was on parole yesterday when he robbed the car wash and committed murder.

Next meet his girlie-friend, Patricia Mayhorn – Arizona inmate #222166.

...and NOW!
Then...
In 2003, Mayhorn was given probation for grand theft auto (the only mention I can find in the legal record is in this court minute entry; I can only guess the felony conviction was in another state). In 2007, she was also arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and after repeated setbacks because she kept absconding and not showing up for trial, she finally plead guilty to misconduct involving weapons. Again they gave her a non-dangerous label, but did call her a repetitive offender. She was also released early, but had at least been out of prison for two years when she helped her mijo commit robbery and murder. What I don’t get is why her sentence was changed; she was first sentenced to four years, six months. Remember how I said that she was given repeat offender status? That, too, was changed.

Now, one person is dead and his wife is critically wounded. Her life will never be even remotely normal again. How did we come to a place in our society where it is acceptable to make deals with criminals just to shove them through a revolving door and end up seeing them again, often in worse condition than they were in before, with new crimes and new victims to take care of? How did we get here?

How did we come to a place in our society where crime is regarded as commonplace, something we wave off as little more than an annoyance? How did we arrive here, where police officers don’t have time to investigate car thefts or home break-ins? To whom do we owe pittance for providing criminals with every loophole they could dream of in order to avoid taking responsibility and actually being punished? When did it become a running cultural joke that prison inmates get free room & board, a free education, free legal representation for any lawsuit they wish to file, and it’s all perfectly normal?!?

Rene Durgin and Patricia Mayhorn never should have been given any deal. There was a time when getting caught with dangerous narcotics would have immediately landed you in prison. Now you get a few years’ probation. I once watched a judge here in Phoenix listen to the long rap sheet of a repeat offender caught breaking into cars and homes to get money for dope do the unthinkable – he asked the offender why he should be given a THIRD opportunity to get clean when, in the past, he’d made the same promises and always broken them, then turned around and said, “okay, you have one chance left…”

Unbelievable. When “this is your last warning” is dismissed offhand by offenders because the next judge will go easy on them, the law holds no weight. When the death penalty is decried as barbaric in any circumstance, criminals don’t mind spending the rest of their lives behind bars. Why should it bother them? They’re taken care of. They don’t have to work. They don’t have to do much of anything, really. I’ve worked in prisons and I can tell you that regardless of what an inmate says, being behind bars doesn’t really bother them – especially not when MTV and VH1 put on reality shows about artists in prison and the music they write.

If we do not shut the criminal revolving door, it will only be downhill from here.