14 December 2006

Thought Crimes

Last weekend, I caught an MSNBC Dateline rerun featuring host Chris Hansen and Perverted-Justice's quest to crack down on internet sex predators. A decoy pretends to be underage prey, using internet chat applications to lure suitors with suggestive nicknames and provocative baiting like text messages. A rendezvous is established, and when the unsuspecting "target" arrives at the meeting spot, he's treated to a smorgasbord of hidden cameras shooting, after the decoy slinks away and excuses herself (or himself). Then, the smug network host pops out and flaunting his moral superiority, drills into the "perp" verbally, slinging rhetorical bullets that stymies the shocked visitor into stammer-land. The would be predator, once excused, quickly makes for an exit. However, waiting outside is a team of armed law enforcement that quickly seizes the distraught and humiliated wannabe lawbreaker. Finally, a liberal sprinkling of wrap up commentary heaps more indignation on the unsavory sort who now has been netted and seemingly headed to a destination where said transgressor can do harm more.

Wait a second, there is no victim here. This is probably going to go down as a controversial assertion, and far be it for me to defend outright sin from unsavory individuals, but again, there is no victim here. I understand that legislation is crafted to term these acts of nefarious intent as "crimes", no matter if the victim is imaginary or real. I also recognize that for a sizable segment of these offenders, this may not be the first time they've set out to arrange such illegal sexual encounters. And I applaud the proactive tract to nab these guys before they do damage. However, with no real victim and for those who've only just begun to act out in these pursuits, harsh punitive measures may be overkill. Especially, when the same behavior in other cultures and countries is fair and legit (age of consent), and even in our country, going back a hundred years or so. Essentially, the arrested individual is stamped out of society, disproportionately punished, and tagged forever as a sex offender. A tad bit harsh for what truly is a crime of intent only. For many, that is an apt societal response — lock 'em up and throw away the key!

More importantly, though, we're on that slippery slope of adjudicating thought crimes. What's next? Somebody who creates art or images that are construed as child pornography? Or novels with passages of text describing adolescent sexual trysts? What about somebody expressing a desire to blow up a building belonging to a major newspaper? Yes, I'm stretching here, but where exactly is the line drawn? Or am I making much ado over nothing?

While on the topic of prisons, a note on our prison population that is exploding beyond comprehension — One out of every 32 adults in the U.S. now is behind bars, on probation, or paroled — a rate that far exceeds the totalitarian nation of China. And prisons, despite the advance of civilization, are far from centers of restoration and rehabilitation for the criminally minded. And as a Christian, I see nothing biblical about the role of prisons, other than vengeance to settle the score for wrongdoing. Like this guy, I think prison is a terrible idea:

In the Bible, the only prisons are in the empires: Joseph in an Egyptian prison, John the Baptist in a Roman prison, Peter and Paul in Roman prisons.

There was no prison system in Mosaic Israel. This was no accident. There were punishments in Mosaic Israel: restitution to the victim, whipping, and execution for certain crimes. But there were no prisons. Why not? Because there was no need. The criminal owed no debt to society.

If a person stole and then got caught, he paid double restitution to his victims (Exodus 22:4). He did not owe anything to society. He had not committed a crime against society. He owed money to his victims.

…dealing with men who may have committed theft. …able to offer them the following option, do you think they would take it?

First, you can serve your time here. Second, you will be released tomorrow, on this basis: you will pay your victims 25% of everything you earn until you have paid twice the value of what you stole from them, plus interest. If you fail to pay or attempt to flee, you will be put back in here for twice your original term.

I don't have to guess. I know what 99% of them would choose: option #1.

Now think of the arrangement from the victim's point of view. He has two choices:

(1) Pay his share of the $50,000 a year it takes to house the thief, or (2) get double his money back plus a tax refund for his share of the saved housing money for the remainder of the man's term.

This decision is called a no-brainer.

But today’s criminal justice system is results orientated, not justice orientated.


Just a couple quick comments, as this post would require hours to address. Very interesting by the way, but crimes of intent are basically equal to action. Drug dealing/buying, hiring assassins, illegal sex acts (prostitution, pedophiles, etc.), actively plotting heinous acts. And of course, if you threaten the President (any President) verbally, the FBI may visit you.
I've no problem baiting molesters and predators, but I agree that allowiing this seedy host to confront him/her first for ratings is stupid. Even worse are people watching this shit. Reality TV is bad enough; COPS is bad enough (the dimwits give permission I guess to paste their ugliness on the show-perhaps the predators must do the same for the Perverted Justice Show).

As for prisons and justice, I think you're looking in the wrong place for comparison-while our culture is Judeo-Christian oriented as far as morality and ethics, its justice system more closely resembles that of Athens, Rome and the various "barbarian" cultures that combined the former with their traditions to form European Culture (especially Normans, Saxons, Danes and Franks). William I and Henry II are two Norman Kings who invested heavily in restructuring the justice system in England.

But comparing to China? In China, criminals fear the government. Why not? There are no rights for anyone; which adds up to DEEPSHIT for the criminals. Steal anything and you're put away for life, or strung up by the balls (well, you know what I mean).

Here in America, where our Bill of Rights serve to protect the innocent, average Joe American from Government persecution, criminals have no fear-hell, they have lawyers. Just ask OJ and Kramer (before Kramer was a raving racist lune).