I was going to write about this way back when in early September, but as you know, Katrina captured my attention for a while so this got put on the back burner. But I just saw something interesting posted that really bothered me and restarted my anger about this subject. So, now I’m trying again to write about this.
Ok, here goes. In this country we have a legal system, while some say it has its problems, that is pretty good. It is fair, it is just, it is very hard to game and cheat and in general, it’s better than most others. Whether it works perfectly is up for debate, but it is what we have and as Americans we are obligated to follow along with it until it changes in some ways.
One of the main concepts in our legal system is that once a person is found guilty and served his or her time in jail or provided restitution as required by the court, they get their civil rights back and are supposed to be treated as a regular citizen again. The thought being essentially that you commit a crime, you do the time and all debts to society have been paid off. This concept doesn’t work as well as it should. One sees all the time that ex-cons can’t find jobs because companies discriminate (you’ve all seen that question on your application about being convicted of a felony). I’m sure there are many other ways the system fails ex-convicts but not being one myself, nor not knowing any, I can’t outline many other examples to you.
I will speculate that the reason for this discrimination is that we as a society don’t believe that convicts are in fact rehabilitated after their prison term. I would tend to agree with this statement which to me points to the system being flawed in some way. This post isn’t about fixing the entire system, but I want to point out that I do feel the system isn’t perfect but it’s what we have so we should follow it until it is changed. So in my above example, there should be no “Have you been convicted of a felony?” questions. If you disagree with me, then maybe you should be lobbying to change the system instead of finding ways to subvert it by discrimination.
Ok, so my thought is that the more we subvert the system, the more the system becomes irrelevant so instead of the ultimate goal of having a good system, we have a bad system with a complex and cloudy layer of subversive activities and processes on top of it. Not an ideal situation in the abstract and a horrible situation in reality for any person caught up in it.
And it is with that thought that I introduce the type of ex-con I feel is being mistreated. I know this is going to possibly offend a bunch of people but if you try and understand my point, you will see that I’m not supporting their crimes only the way they are treated after they have been rehabilitated by the system. The ex-cons I’m talking about are convicted sex offenders.
Please read the following article from time magazine (Sept 5, 2005, p72-73 by Anita Hamilton. Can be found here online for $1.99). I’ve seen similar stuff in the news over the years and haven’t said anything but it’s time to now. Especially in light of local events like this one.
I completely think that rape and pedophilia are crimes and I think that people who have been convicted of these crimes should be punished. But I differ with people in that I think that these people have reasons why they committed their crimes that are far more complex than being simply born evil. I believe these people need therapy more than prison and I believe these people in most cases can be rehabilitated. The system isn’t perfect and it needs to be changed but that doesn’t mean that we should ostracize these people and not let them live anywhere. In most cases its been shown that repeat sex-offender rates are significantly lower than non sex-offenders so perhaps the system is actually working for them (I would imagine that is because they do, in most cases, receive some therapy). Also the definition of sex-offender is very vague in American society. Consensual statutory rape for example or public exposure like Pee Wee playing with himself in the X-Rated skin theatre.. Are these people to be put in cages and locked away for their entire lives? Do we really have much to fear from them?
I’ve also written in the past how I think it’s unfair to entrap people and ruin their lives over the internet for sex “crimes”. In most cases, these are people who have found safe ways to act out their fantasies and they are stalked and trapped by an overzealous police who can care less bout intent and would rather make headlines by taking down some upstanding citizen.
In either case, I don’t think it’s fair to treat people who In The Eyes of The Law have paid their price for their offenses. In my mind, the system says that they should be treated as regular citizens and not ostracized with Scarlett Letters across their chests. Read the Time magazine article and see if you really should be buying into the hype of the big bad sex-offender and we really should be treating these people as poorly as we do. Did you know that “80% of child-sex-abuse victims know their attackers”? That means only one thing “they’re usually relatives or friends, not schoolyard stalkers” Should we be treating these people like this?
Before you write me or comment on this, I totally agree that the system has to be changed. Not only for sex-offenders but for drug addicts as well. These are medical problems and should be handled in a different way. I totally agree that dropping a person into prison with medical problems is hardly a solution if you want to rehabilitate them. We need to make the system better, but we also can’t let the system get any worse. Please, you may not agree with me, but at least see that I’ve got an opinion on something and I’m actually thinking and I actually want to make the world better. That’s more than most people in this country.