January 6, 2001
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Too ‘White’ For Jail?
Tampa Judge Says Prison ‘Cruel and Unusual’ for Thin, White Man
The Associated Press

T A M P A, Fla., Jan. 6 — A judge refused to send a drug offender to prison, saying that because he is thin and white he would be a target for sexual assault.

    Instead, Hillsborough County Judge Florence Foster sent Paul Hamill, 41, to a treatment center and put him on two years probation. He was being sentenced for violating probation on a previous cocaine conviction.
     “He’s a small, thin, white man with curly dark hair, and I suspect he would certainly become a sexual target in the Florida state prison system,” Foster said, according to a transcript of the November sentencing hearing.
     “I’ve been told they can’t protect people like that. I’m not going to send a man like this to Florida state prison. That is cruel and unusual punishment in my book,” she said.
     Prosecutors objected when Foster imposed the sentence, saying he deserved some prison time, but would not comment on Foster’s statement when reached by The Tampa Tribune. They have complained in the past about the light sentences they say Foster imposes.

‘A Fairly Racist Comment’
Susan Rush, a law professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, thinks Foster’s statement about Hamill was inappropriate.
     “That’s a fairly racist comment,” Rush said Friday evening. “I can see why the prosecutors are mad.”
     Foster declined to discuss Hamill’s case specifically, but said her general goal is to “help people with drug problems get rid of their drug problems.”
     Bruce Rogow, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, praised her decision in the Hamill case.
     “I think it’s a statement of great sensitivity; she is probably trying to save this man’s life,” Rogow said. “But I recognize there might be an issue.”

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 
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