I’ve written several times about the concept of prison and rehabilitation. I wrote about it in the context of Michael Vick, John Hinckley and others. I am a believe in the idea that we have to believe in rehabilitation. We have to be able to forgive people and give them as second chance in life. There are very few crimes I would consider unforgivable. The justice system is flawed and sometimes corrupt as is any system that is run by humans(so, all of them). The number of people who have been wrongly convicted is way too high for me to ever support the death penalty again. Many people disagree with me.
Every time there is a news article about someone being released from prison there is an outcry from the public. How could we possibly let this person out of prison? They can’t possibly be rehabilitated! They should rot in prison! They should have been executed! Now, if this is the victim or the victim’s family, I completely understand this attitude. What I don’t understand is this attitude from people who know nothing about the case except what they read in the paper. They hear someone will be released from prison and, knowing nothing about the case, yell and scream and post comments about how terrible it is. It doesn’t matter how long they have been in prison. Many people believe that prison means you are locked away forever. That you have no hope of rehabilitation and will commit another crime the minute you are released. If you happen to have been wrongly accused? Well, bad luck for you, but you likely became dangerous by living with all of the other criminals so you should stay behind bars as well.
Some people are happy if someone never sees prison. Someone is shot by the police during an arrest and people applaud it. We don’t need a trial. If someone is being arrested they are obviously a bad person and don’t deserve to live. Why not do away with the justice system and just execute all law breakers on the spot? If we don’t care about the wrongly accused and don’t believe in rehabilitation why bother with trials and prison? Just give all the “good” people a gun and go back to the wild west. Just shoot those people walking down the street, knocking on doors because they look different than you and are likely casing the neighborhood for future crimes. Shoot the guy who talked to your kid so is obviously a predator. We don’t need a justice system if no one will ever change. Prison is more expensive than bullets, right?
Occasionally, when there is nothing fun to write about in current times, I try to think back to any interesting stories from my life. I generally never find one because I’ve been generally boring my entire life. This morning I did remember a scary day from my college years.
My junior year in college I was a resident janitor at the Baptist Student Union. I traded mediocre to bad janitorial skills for free rent in the basement apartment in the building. My memory of what happened before that day is fuzzy because that day takes over my entire memory of the events, but I’m pretty sure earlier in the week a car had been stolen from our parking lot during our weekly service. I know we were doing penny wars during that time and the jars of money were sitting out that night. It’s possible the people involved in the stolen car saw the money and decided to come back another time. Now, we move to the other time, the event I remember vividly.
My roommate had gone home for the weekend. I was alone in the building and in my apartment in the basement. I heard what sounded like glass breaking and went out in the hall to investigate. I saw a brick in the floor in the classroom across the hall and multiple shadows outside the window and one shadow coming through the shades. I got back to my apartment as fast as I could without alerting them to my presence, called the police and sat by my door with a baseball bat. I’m not sure how long all of this took place. It seemed like it was hours, it was probably less than one hour. I sat by the door and listened to footsteps outside my door and above me on the main floor. I was sure at any minute someone was going to bust through my door. There was no sign of a police response.
I finally went back to the phone and decided to try to remember the number of the people I knew across the street. I’m not sure if I ever remembered their number. I was scared and it was hard to think straight. For some reason, I did remember the number for the fraternity next door I had been to some parties there my first two years in school and knew some people who lived there. I called over, told them what was happening and asked if they could see if the police were around anywhere. They did more than that. When they heard what was happening, they grabbed things that could be used as weapons and headed over to help. The people in the building fled at that point. Eventually, there was a knock at my door. I didn’t answer until the person identified themselves as my friend from across the street. I left the building to find the police were finally there as were my friends and several frat guys from next door. The police had apparently driven through the parking lot, thought things looked OK and left. Who knows what might have happened had I not known the number of the frat house next door. I do know that I don’t recall being that scared again.
If I remember correctly, the people involved were arrested after they crashed the car and fled while leaving papers(report card, maybe?) with their name on it in the car.
Some of the stories from before and after the event might be wrong. I’m old and forgetful.
I was out early on my Friday off to run some errands and to take my phone in to the Apple store because it was having issues charging. All of my other errands went smoothly, but the Apple store did not. I got there a little before 10 and they had someone outside the store checking people in. I was one of the first to be checked in, but no one called my name while others from the line received help. When I went up to inquire about my spot in line they tried the whole “all those people had appointments” line but stopped when I told them I knew that was not true. They finally admitted that they screwed up and didn’t have me in the queue at all. Even with that, they still didn’t put me at the top of the list when they added me back in. I lost almost an hour at the store for a 10 minute fix and the worst part was I didn’t have a book. That was a rookie mistake.
Crime and Punishment: I saw a post on Facebook recently about the fact that Tex Watson has a parole hearing coming soon. In case you don’t know, Watson was a member of the Manson family and has been in prison for over 40 years. There were comments from people who just couldn’t believe that he would possibly get parole and mention of the fact that Leslie Van Houten was granted parole, but “thankfully” the governor reversed the decision. This follows all of the recent had wringing over John Hinckley being released from the hospital 35 years after shooting Ronald Reagan. Now. I don’t know any of these people personally so I can’t say for sure that they would not be a danger to society. I do know that any inmate with Van Houten’s crime and record after incarceration, but without Manson’s name attached, would be out of prison already. The same might be true for Tex Watson. Van Houten was 19 when she committed the crime and under the influence of Manson. Since she was incarcerated she has received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Tex Watson has been ordained as a minister. I’ve written hereabout redemption for Michael Vick and here https://theycallmetater.com/2015/04/23/redemption-isnt-just-for-coupons/ and now we can add the Manson people to the list. Is it fair to deny them parole just because their cases are famous? Is it fair to decide that prison is not for rehabilitation, but just a place to lock bad people away and never let them out? I don’t think so.
Crime and Punishment, School Edition: There were several fights at a local high school this week. When reported, people were in the comments(I know I should never read the comments) saying they hoped the people involved were arrested and charged with assault. I’m amazed at this attitude. How many of you who are my age remember the fights at school that didn’t result in arrest and criminal charges? How many people out there were involved in a fight at OCHS and are glad they didn’t result in a criminal record? There does need to be punishment, but why the rush to add criminal charges to a kid for getting in to a fight? Why can’t we just do suspension, detention, Saturday school, etc and hope to help them mature and reform instead of just branding them as criminals and giving up?
Randomness: The Orioles lost the wild card game because their manager was too stupid to use their best relief pitcher. I am now moving on to cheering for the Cubs and for the Nationals to be humiliated. Hopefully, we can make it through the rest of the playoffs without a moron throwing a beer can at a player. Watched another new show last night. Timeless was an interesting take on time travel and how changing events can have unintended consequences.
That’s all folks.
One of the big news stories these days is that doctors are saying John Hinckley’s mental illness is in remission and that he should be released. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity after attempting to assassinate President Reagan in 1981. The government opposes this, and from posts I’ve seen online, apparently a good portion of America feels the same. Now, I’m not Hinckley’s doctor (or anyone’s doctor for that matter) so I can’t say for sure he is no longer exhibiting symptoms of mental illness, but I do have a problem with the idea that he should never be released. There are likely numerous people who were convicted of murder since 1981, were not mentally ill and have since been released. Why is Hinckley different? Is it because he shot famous people? Is it because we don’t believe the mentally ill can be helped? Or is it that we overwhelmingly believe that no one should be released after these crimes and we speak up on this one because it is in the news? I think it is the latter. We don’t believe in rehabilitation and redemption(except in the case of coupons)
Some recent cases:
Large numbers of people believe Michael Vick should never be allowed to play football again because he was arrested on animal cruelty charges. They don’t care if he has changed, knows what he did was wrong and never plans to do it again. He should be punished forever!
Large numbers of people think Ray Lewis should never have been allowed to play football because he was involved in an altercation which resulted in someone being killed(not by him) and he was stupid and ran and tried to protect his friends. It doesn’t matter that everything about his life after that indicated a complete change in the way he lived. He should be punished forever!
I also see some of this in responses to the numerous news reports about people being shot by the police. There are a large number of people who imply that the people shot deserved it for breaking the law. I blogged about that here last year in reference to a police chase gone bad. The feeling is that they broke the law so they no longer deserve to live.
Of course, this all changes the minute you have a loved one who gets in trouble. Or if you do something wrong. Then we are all about forgiveness and redemption.
I’m not saying Hinckley is cured. I don’t know that. I’m not a doctor, but neither are you. But it’s not really about that. It’s about people not wanting to see Hinckley given a chance at life because he shot a famous person over 30 years ago.
Last night there were helicopters flying over my house again after someone fired a weapon at a house in a nearby neighborhood. As always, when this was reported people jumped on the community association email list to talk about not being safe, the increase in crime and how the police need to do more to protect them.
There are a few problems with this. One being that the community association actually pays for extra patrols and the county police are always out and about on regular patrols. I’m not sure what else they expect them to short of paying to put a police officer or private security on every corner. If we did that, they would feel safe, but would be complaining about the increase in taxes. The police and community association are doing their jobs. If you need more start a neighborhood watch.
The other problem with this is that their insistence that crime rates are going up. This is not true. I don’t have 2013 numbers because I’m not getting paid to call who I need to call to get the updated numbers, but according to the numbers from the last few years, crime is down significantly(http://www.goccp.maryland.gov/msac/crime-statistics-county.php?id=18 ) So, why do people think crime is up?
The perception comes from the east access to crime reporting theses days. It used to be that you got whatever news the paper or local tv felt was relevant. Most of the smaller crimes were never in the news. Now with all of the Patch online news sites, Facebook pages like Anne Arundel Breaking News and Events and emails for the police you can know everything thing that comes across the police scanner. All of this “reporting” gives the illusion that crime is up. All that is up is your awareness of the crime. No neighborhood will feel safe if you are aware of every report that comes over the scanner. You don’t need more police, you need less information.
Last night is was reported that a 14 year old boy was robbed outside of a local mall at 2am. Immediately, people rushed to the local Patch to not decry the constant crime at the mall, but to blame the victim’s parents for letting him shop on Black Friday. The article does not say who the kid was with. It just says the parents were contacted. Is it possible he was alone? Yes, but it is also possible he was at the mall with other adult relatives or the parents of a friend. No one but those involved know, but people still want to jump in and blame his parents because they weren’t there. This is not a one time thing. Every time a kid reports a crime and it is after dark(even when after dark is 7pm) people jump on to insist that it is the parent and the victim’s fault because they were lit after dark. Why do we not blame who is really at fault? Why do we give the actual criminals a free pass and always blame the victim? Are we supposed to hide in our houses after dark? Lock out kids away so we won’t be blamed when the real bad guys rob them?
I am watching the news and once again they were discussing this story http://www.wbaltv.com/news/20124542/detail.html about three kids who were arrested for stealing. The kids were stealing several items from a neighbor’s garage and were handcuffed and taken to juvenile detention when caught. The parents are outraged that their kids were treated this way. I don’t understand this outrage. The kids committed a crime. When you commit a crime, you go to jail. That’s the way life works. It’s better the kids learn this now and maybe get scared away from doing it again rather than getting away with it and deciding to do it again. If these were my kids I would want them to be handcuffed and taken to jail. I want them to see what happens when you break the law. It’s better to try to scare this behavior out of them early rather than wait until later when the crimes have escalated into something more serious. These parents need to wake up and see this was a good thing instead of sending their kids the message that the police are in the wrong here instead of them.