RE: LEGAL: Alternatives to imprisonment

Billy Brown (
Tue, 9 Mar 1999 09:15:21 -0600 wrote:
> Should the guiding principle for sentencing be limited to punishment and
> protection of society, or should it be the redemption and reclaimation of
> those who our society have lost.

Do we believe in personal responsibility or not? If we hope to create a society in which people are free to direct their own lives, we must recognize those people as independent actors. By reducing criminals to the role of passive victims of their experiences we dehumanize both them and ourselves.

A society that sees its criminals as mere victims of social influence will soon see its law-abiding citizens in the same light. If a murderer is not responsible for his actions, then neither is a drunkard, or a philanderer, or a luddite. If we can not condemn our vandals, thieves and murderers, how then can we praise our artists, philanthropists and statesmen?

This is a road we should not take. It leads inexorably to a political philosophy in which freedom is mere illusory nonsense, and the wise servants of the State have free reign to ply their healing arts on anyone who deviates from their vision of the ideal citizen. The end of that road is at best a sterile, universal conformity, and at worst a complete end to personal identity.

I say, let us live as free individuals, and expect others to do likewise. Let us praise the men who risked their lives to smuggle Jews out of Nazi Germany, and let us condemn the man who murders his neighbor for pocket change. Above all, let us build a legal system that acknowledges an individual's right to make his own choices, for good or ill.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I