Monday, February 11, 2013

What if our justice system raised our children?

Our values and morals come from common law and religious moral teachings. The most basic of morals is to treat others as you would treat yourself. But imagine if the values built in to our legal system and conveyed through the judicial system and our penal codes were the values taught to our children as moral priorities.

When I was young, I was taught that murder was the worst crime, cruelty, stealing, lying and adultery followed that up. The world is not black and white, there are levels of severity. In simple examples, given a choice between having to lie about something or steal, I would prefer to lie. Having to steal something versus torture or cruelty (sometimes stealing can be such), I'd rather steal. And having to choose between cruelty and murder, I'd rather be cruel (let's not get into euthanasia here). There was a moral priority established for me and it started with the degree of punishments I received from my parents.

If the severity of the crime was taught to children based on the severity of the punishment as is defined in our laws and practiced in courts, people would be quite different. Downright scary in my view. In America today, the penalties for murder are far less than many other crimes - some of which arguably have no victims! And Hollywood assists in the perversion of moral priorities as well by condoning murders as a means to end (Dexter, CSI, etc).

We categorize people as "good" and "bad" as well by their virtues or lack of, which we compare to our own values. But in our society today, a very good person by moral character and deeds can be found to be a very dangerous criminal by our system of laws. I remember just a few weeks ago hearing on the local news, back to back local stories that went something like this, a man convicted of committing acts of lewdness with a 9 year old girl was sentenced to 70 years without parole. Immediately following that story in almost the same breath was 3 men convicted of beating another man to death who were sentenced to 25 years with possibility of parole.

A 17th century French philosopher, Montesquieu once said "every punishment which does not arise from absolute necessity is tyrannical." If our justice system is now inter-woven with so much tyranny, what sort of sensibility would it make as a map of moral values?

With government getting involved more and more with raising our children, this should be of major concern. Former LAPD officer Chris Dorner, turned murderer, may very well be an example of misplaced moral priorities heavily influenced by our justice system. In his manifesto,  he states his observations of crimes committed by fellow officers and department personnel. Many of these crimes, should they be real, deserve a serious course of action and justice. But do those actions deserve the death sentence of potentially innocent and guilty individuals as he planned to carry out? If murder is a lesser crime than others, then it might be justified in his view.

Attorney Paul Malikowski states that there are nuances in prosecution, "a 'weak' case, despite its heinous nature, often results in a negotiated plea and less punishment than a "strong" case involving less serious behavior."  This further perverts moral priorities by introducing both real and perceived  inconsistencies in sentencing.  This is partly because there are at least two courtrooms for every case, the justice court, and the media court. 

And what of the extreme trend toward incarceration which this country is headlong into? When your dad, mother, brother or people you knew and respected are suddenly locked up, do you question the attributes you respected in those people and reconsider your basic values?

Today in America, everyone is a criminal, the only difference is between those who have been caught and those who haven't. A look at many of our top governmental officials provides no clarity here either. For example, Secretary of Treasury, Timothy Gietner, was convicted of income tax crimes. The list of heroes to help mold our children is a messy one. Thus the only solution I can offer which is practical is, keep home schooling alive!  If the government raises our children as it's doing more and more, expect more and more crime, conflicts and insanity, because populations with different fundamental value systems are incompatible with each other.

I generally try to supply much more supportive evidence of my positions. And, try as I may have, I was going to assemble a list of worst crimes based on their typical punishments. However, this turned out to be a daunting task. For example, this document, tells of typical sentencing, but what's missing in most of these tables is the add-on punishments which typically accompany the situation or crime which can make a 5 year sentence turn into 50. Also, the prosecutorial trends which compound the complexities of sentencing. Some related research I did in an earlier rant   on  child sex hysteria details some perversion of punishment but not to the quantity which needs to be displayed here. Consider this piece, although published, a work-in-process.