Followup on Muscatine driver’s sentencing

Maybe it only seems like your life isn’t valued very highly if you’re killed while bicycling, homeless or otherwise.

As reported a few days ago in Muscatine, Clark Anderson was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to charges related to the hit-and-run incident that killed Jerry Person in 2007. The prosecutor said he doesn’t think Person’s homelessness made a difference in the sentence.

Maybe he’s right. And so far, I haven’t found anyone who has studied comparative sentencing results based on whether or not the crime victims are homeless.

Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said, “I would hope that there would be no distinction on whether the perpetrator or victim was housed or homeless.

“On the hate crimes/violence issue (primarily teens attacking the homeless) – the police and prosecutors are very professional and do not discriminate. They investigate attacks on the homeless with the same fervor as attacks on a rich person.”

He added: “Homeless people have families and friends, but oftentimes they are not in close contact with their loved ones. And therefore, there is no one to stand up for the victim, hold a news conference, etc. We have found cases where sentences were light. We have protested and got a tougher one.”

That seems to leave some room to think there may be a difference in treatment.

Tulin Ozdeger, civil rights director for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, also responded to an email inquiry:

“I am not aware of any studies that track the sentencing in cases where a homeless versus non-homeless victim is involved. Though, I think you raise a good point that is probably accurate.”

She noted that Maine and Alaska, in fact, have laws that can provide for enhanced penalties if a victim of crime is homeless.

I wouldn’t suggest that penalties be enhanced when cyclists are victims of criminal motorists. It would just be good to see the criminal not getting out within a year.

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