Saturday, May 4, 2013

if you can't do the time

When families of sex offenders point out the harsh penalties for sex crimes, we usually hear some version of If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. This comment  is a good example:
Quick question, was your husband aware of the reprecautions for having child porn on his computer? I'm sure he knew it is illegal and what could happen if he got caught. He took the risk didn't he? You should be angry with him, not with the system.
If my husband didn't want to go to prison for four years, he should have simply not looked at child porn. That answer satisfies the self-righteous but The Most Boring Radical asks us to think about how that reasoning could be used to excuse all kinds of draconian punishments.
We could argue, I suppose, that a woman in Saudi Arabia who doesn’t want to get stoned to death just shouldn’t commit adultery. That a person in China who doesn’t want to get thrown in prison just shouldn’t own a Bible. That a young man in Somalia who doesn’t want his hand cut off just shouldn’t steal. That, in the 1950s in America, a gay man who didn’t want to be arrested just shouldn’t have engaged in sodomy.  
We could argue those things, but we’d be wrong. We’d be demonstrating a limited, immature form of ethical thinking. We’d be acquiescing our sense of right and wrong to the state.
Unless you have been exposed to the workings of the justice system, it is easy to assume criminals get what they deserve, that the laws properly identify what is a crime and what is not. It is easy to let the justice system hum along in the background of your life, without noticing how it works. However, you are responsible for thinking about whether justice is served. 
This should not be the way we understand justice. As long as we keep the mindset that there is no such thing as a too-severe consequence because the consequence can be avoided simply by obeying the law, we are handing our own powers of moral reasoning over to the government. We have succumbed to totalitarianism. And, as soon as we do that, we have set the stage for even greater injustices in the future.
Is it fair that streakers can end up on the sex offender registry? The sex offender registry did not begin with streaking listed among registrable crimes but the registry set the stage for even greater injustices in the future. Are we sure that streaking and public urination will be the end of those added injustices?

Back to the comment I quoted, No, my husband was not aware that he could spend years in prison for a first offense of looking at videos of teen-aged girls. Even his relatively short sentence is unthinkable. 

If Morton Berger knew he could be sentenced to 200 years for twenty child porn images, does that make his sentence just?


Anonymous said...

The kids in the child porn your husband downloaded -- the ones that were abused so he could download their pics -- will live with the impact of that abuse forever. Child porn is manufactured because there's demand for it. Demand!!

Your husband is the demand. Get rid of the demand and most of the supply will go away. (Banning the sale of ivory stopped a whole lot of elephant poaching; getting rid of demand for child porn will reduce crime accordingly.

Marie said...

Has it, KateK? Has incarcerating people in increasingly large numbers for child porn offenses...has it reduced crime accordingly? I understand that the supply-demand argument has a certain appeal. It just *sounds* right. But is it? I can't find anything that shows that the production of child porn has decreased.

oncefallendotcom said...

KateK's logic is typical of the tough-on-crime crowd.

"...will live with the impact of that abuse forever."

We justify limitless punishment by making this claim. I'm not trying to minimize abuse, but people live with lots of events that are equally as damaging. Is physical abuse, having neglectful parents, being bullied, being a foster kid, losing a loved one to a tragedy, being hit by a drunk driver, or being in a terrible accident somehow less damaging? Do people not "live with the impact... forever" when they suffer other life-changing events?

What makes sex abuse so different than any of these other crises that we feel the need to say people who endure it are "scarred" for life? You are already doing people an injustice at this point. You aren't teaching how to overcome but denying the opportunity for healing and recovery.

By the way, most "CP" out there is stuff the feds allow to float around the internet, to entrap people in internet stings.

Hanna said...

you're a moron "marie" (more like "mark"). none of those examples are comparable to viewing child porn. your argument basically says adultery isn't wrong, religious freedom isn't wrong, being gay isn't wrong and even though stealing might be wrong but obviously losing a hand is too steep a punishment THEREFORE viewing child porn isn't wrong. idiotic. you're a train wreck that i can't look away from.

Marie said...

Viewing child porn is wrong, Hanna. Reading comprehension not your strong suit?