Sunday, October 26, 2014

why we shouldn't prosecute the football hazers

In a tweet, Lenore Skenazy calls Judith Levine's piece in CounterPunch the "bravest, best article on Sayresville, NJ football hazers." 

Levine begins:
If it’s true that all seven of the football players arrested for hazing in the Sayreville, New Jersey, War Memorial High School locker room are students of color, that is one more reason not to prosecute them as sexual felons. 
I don’t mean not to prosecute them in adult court. I mean not to prosecute them at all. 
If they’re guilty, they should be disciplined by the school, kicked off the Bombers team, and held accountable to their victims by making amends in words and deeds. 
But the punishment the state will mete out far outweighs the transgression. For kids who are 15 to 17 years old, it will be life crushing. 
Yes, more life-crushing even than being punched, kicked, groped, or subject to an unwanted finger inching into your anus.
Why not prosecute them? Levine says research shows that blacks are over-represented on public sex offender registries. Twenty-two percent of those registrants are black, while blacks make up only 13% of Americans. 
In other words, the corrections agency psychologists and police deciding who is so sexually dangerous that his presence must be announced to the whole neighborhood, tend to think of black men as more dangerous than white. 
The Sayreville high school administrators seem to think the same. The Bombers, who surely did not start hazing new players last month or even last year, are 70 to 80 percent white.
If their race figured into the decision to prosecute these seven for doing what has been done for ages by white football players, the decision must be questioned.

The fact that these seven young men, if convicted, will be listed on the sex offender registry is another reason not to prosecute them, Levine says. The punishment will surely be out of proportion to the offense.
Megan’s Laws were supposed to protect children. But two decades of research show they don’t improve anyone’s safety, least of all children’s. In fact, it may be minors themselves who are harmed most by the laws put in place to safeguard them. 
The age of the greatest number of people involved in the criminal justice system for sex offenses is 14. Thank age-of-consent laws for that. Because the laws deem minors categorically incapable of consenting to sex, any sexual contact with a minor is considered an assault. Indeed, if the victim is a minor, sexual assault becomes “aggravated” sexual assault. Aggravated does not mean more sadistic or lengthy. It can just mean the “victim” of a touch or chat room conversation was 13. [My emphasis.]
Fourteen is also the age at which the federal government requires committers of certain sex crimes to be listed on the Internet registries. 
Fourteen. The federal government requires...that there be no room to make judgments specific to circumstances or individuals.
And in a nation already overflowing with prisoners both juvenile and adult, the vast majority of them black and brown, do we need to lock up more black and brown kids? 
The United States would benefit greatly from putting far fewer people of any color in prison. 
In its 2011 report “Raised on the Registry,” Human Rights Watch detailed the severe and lifelong harms of putting youth on sex offender registries, from chronic unemployment and homelessness to depression and suicide. HRW and other human rights advocates have condemned the incarceration and registration of minors as violations of their human rights.
Judith Levine will come under fire for writing this piece. She is brave.


AMDG 1998 said...

I usually love these posts and in fact this is the first time I have disagreed with one.

A person's race should have absolutely NO bearing on whether one is prosecuted for a crime or not. Unless we don't believe the law should be blind and treat everone the same. It is offensive, in fact, to suggest that to brutalize one of their fellow students merits only a slap on the wrist because they are black. Wow.

I am not sure they should be charged with sex offenses but they restrained their fellow students, exposed private parts of their bodies and humiliated them. At the least they should be charged with battery. Sex offenders? Maybe not. And certainly not on any public registry.

We will never have racial equality in this country until we stop treating people differently because of their race.

Marie said...

AMDG, Levine agrees with you that race should have nothing to do with whether someone is prosecuted. Her point is that, with a disproportionate number of blacks on sex offender registries, it seems that color HAS been a deciding factor in who is prosecuted. She agrees that these young men should not have done what they did and that they should face consequences. She agrees with you that they should not face the registry. Saying that "they should be charged with battery" is wishful thinking. It would be lovely if they could be charged with something that would keep them off the registry. That's not what would happen, though.