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You’ve gotta fight for your rights…

After reading my catchy title, I’m sure you’ve got the tune to that Beastie Boys classic in your head.  Feel free to think of it as the soundtrack to this blog.  Although the song is an icon of 80s rebellion, the message (about fighting for your rights), still rings true, even in 2011.

We like to think that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave.  That statement is very true.  Many of our ancestors have fought long and hard to get us where we are today.  But the fight is not over.  It rages on.

Now, I would not consider myself a political person by any stretch of imagination.  But if you are a regular reader of my blog (Thanks Mom!), you know that I’ve written several pieces that were devoted to pending workers’ comp reform legislation.   You may have noted several comments that I have made regarding pending tort reform legislation.   I’m not not a political activist in the usual sense, I do try to educate or bring awareness to issues that affect the rights of the average person.  Today is not going to be any different.

As you know from my previous posts, our elected officials are hard at work.  Making, repealing, amending, and hopefully not breaking, the law.  They are also trying to create a budget for our state without based on the little money that the state receives from various source.  One of the issues that is currently being debated is the budget for IDS.  IDS stands for the Indigent Defense Services.  This agency basically provides court-appointed legal services for people who have been accused of crimes but that afford attorneys to represent them for those charges.

I know, I know.  There are those of you out there that believe that the state government should not be paying for criminals’ attorneys.  There may even be some of you out there who do not believe that criminals even deserve to have legal representation.  I mean, they may not have committed that crime, but they are surely guilty of something, right?  But would your views change if I told you that there are so many people out there who have been accused of crimes that the did not commit?  It reminds me of a story that I read in the News and Observer this past weekend.   The story was about a single mother who had been accused of killing her stepfather.  She spent 1 year in jail before the charges against her were dropped because there was not any evidence that she had committed the crime.  It reminded me of 17-year-old  James Johnson who spent 3 years in jail waiting for a trial on a case where the sole perpetrator of the crime admitted to committing the crime alone.  Who could forget Darryl Hunt or Alan Gell who each spent at least 10 years in prison, even death row, for crimes that they did not commit.  These people will never get their lives back.  Can you imagine what would be their outcomes if these people had not had attorneys diligently working to prove their innocence?  Alan Gell, for one, would have been dead.

A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  While IDS’s primary function is to provide legal services for those who cannot afford it, that goal is accomplished by protecting their rights to insure that they are receiving a fair trial, regardless of their guilt or innocence and despite their ability to pay.   Ironically, the state is pushing to cut IDS’s already meager budget which will effectively diminish IDS’s ability to further its goal.

The point of this an all other articles, blogs, etc that I’ve written is to show you that the fight still rages on.  You do not have to be a political activist to make a difference in politics.  The strongest political statement you can make is to vote.  And it’s not just about voting.  It’s about knowing where your candidates stand…on fiscal issues, social issues, and legal issues.  But the job doesn’t end after the circles have been drawn in and the ballot fed into the ballot machine.  You also have to hold those elected officials accountable and make sure that they are continuing to represent your interests and not just your own.

I know it’s not politics season and I’ve stood for far too long on my political soapbox.  But on the bright side,  it’s probably the last political article for a while…maybe.  Party on!

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