Rant of the Week



How much is plenty? If someone walked up to you and slapped you in the face, and you called the police, and they arrested him, and you went to court, and the judge asked you: how long would you like this person to spend in jail for what he did to you? What is the answer?

How do you measure?

We don't, in fact, let the families of victims determine the punishment for crimes because... well, we do sort of now. We shouldn't because -- once upon a time-- we thought that it would be better to use reason and good judgement to make those decisions.  Now, we go by how the victims or the victims' families feel. 

The families of the victims of 9/11 have become such a powerful political force that you just know that anything short of a death sentence will generate screeching and hysterical shrieking like you have never seen before and politicians and judges will never win re-election. So, in effect, the families of the victims determine the punishment. The same goes for many other crimes, including drunk driving resulting in death: the families want and demand that these individuals be charged with manslaughter. And they should be destroyed, locked up for life.  And they do not care about the suffering of the family of the criminal.  They appear to believe that no amount of suffering would be enough to satisfy their lust for ... for what?  Revenge, really, of course.  Don't insult the term "justice" by trying to apply to what they want.

How much is plenty? Is it whatever you feel is the right amount? Or is there room in our system of justice for reason and logic?

I think many people would agree that sentences need to have some rationality: a person convicted of possession of cannabis probably should not get as tough a sentence as, say, a marine who urinates on a corpse, or an investment broker who loses $30 billion through massively stupid purchases of bad stocks, while cutting himself a fee in the hundreds of millions, which he keeps after he loses his investors' money.

The truth is-- and I think any person looking thoughtfully at that list knows it-- the truth is that our justice system has become twisted and perverted and squeezed and distorted beyond all recognition of anything that is "just" or "fair", let alone compassionate.

"Restorative justice?" Are you mad? The sad truth is that our society is in love -- positively, passionate in love -- with punishment, with inflicting pain on people who ... who what? Who do us wrong? No, I don't think it's really that. I think we're more in love with the image of ourselves as righteous judges who have somehow attained the elevated status from which a person may be pleasurably disposed of and medals and parades given all around.

All Contents Copyright Bill Van Dyk  2012 All Rights Reserved