Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Living with perpetual punishment

I had an interesting conversation with a neighbor yesterday.

The day started off with my wife taking the keys to both cars with her to work this morning. No problem, I thought at first. Then I realized I had court with one of my truck driver clients this morning. Luckily I was able to get my brother to give me a lift to the courthouse where we knocked out the case pretty quickly (why they couldn't just dismiss it after I told them I was having transportation issues I will never know - but that's another story for another day).

After I got back to the house I started planting seeds for the garden in my starter "greenhouse." Then someone knocked at the front door. I heard my mother-in-law tell the girls not to open the door unless they knew who it was.

My little one recognized the man as someone she had sold Girl Scout cookies to so she opened the door. Now I try never to answer the door unless it's a friend or the little old lady around the corner who sells homemade tamales but now I was stuck.

He wanted to talk to me (actually he saw the car and thought my wife was home) about something that he didn't want to say in front of the kids.Oh, this should be good, I thought.

It turns out he's new to the neighborhood. He just moved in to a huge McMansion up the street that takes up just about the entire lot and was complaining to my wife about the amount of money he'd have to spend to make the place more to his liking. I already didn't like him. You see, for the most part, there's nothing too fancy about our neighborhood. The houses are quite affordable and what I would call fairly "normal" sized.

There's also quite the controversy stirring over a huge plot of land at a major intersection just down the street from our house. A developer bought the land years ago with the plan to build a bunch of patio-style homes or town homes or whatever the hell you call them these days. But he ran into problems with drainage issues and with the deed restrictions that spelled out just how small a lot could be. He's pushing folks to change the by-laws so he can build more of these houses with a wall around them (since we have open ditches I don't think there's a need to build a moat as well).

As far as I'm concerned, he bought the land knowing what the minimum lot size was so he just needs to live with his decision. Besides, he's a developer (and from out-of-state at that) who has acted like a jerk and has no concern about anybody's welfare but his own.

My neighbor with the McMansion and fancy SUV that's never been off a paved road in its existence, of course, had nothing but sympathy for the poor man and the profits he was losing by not being able to do whatever the hell he wanted to do with the land without concern for anyone around him. But he was more upset at the board because, while doing research on the developer issue (and anyone who spends 10 hours on a beautiful day like we had on Sunday sitting behind a computer and looking at appraisal district records is seriously disturbed), he discovered that someone was using part of the four-plex next to his house as a sort-of halfway house (more like a way station) for sex offenders who had been released from prison.

Oh, now we hit the intersection of being a parent and being a criminal defense lawyer. On the one hand I sympathize with his plight and his desperation. On the other hand, maybe he should have done some research into the area he was buying into before he wrote the check. I can guarantee y'all that he chose to buy the McMansion out her as opposed to the one in Spring Valley or Memorial because the prices are a whole lot cheaper out here where it's not all white.

But the larger issue has to do with when has one paid his debt to society. The people of whom he spoke were convicted of sexual offenses (I don't know their names and I haven't the slightest clue as to what they were convicted of and, yes, I know I can look that up and find out if I wanted to). Since they are staying at this "facility" they served time in prison for their crimes. I am assuming that they were paroled out of prison with a condition that they spend time in a halfway-type house before going back to live on their own. I also know that they are required to register as sex offenders for at least ten years after their release from prison.

They have done their time. They served enough time behind bars and they demonstrated enough "rehabilitation" that the folks on the board of pardons and parole saw fit to let them walk out of prison. They obviously still have some time to serve that they will do as members of society.

At what point do we say enough is enough? How many pounds of flesh will we insist on seizing before we concede that they have a right to return to their lives? Sex crimes are nasty, I know. But if we, as a society, are so scared of those who commit them, then sentence them to longer terms. At some point we have got to stop punishing folks for what they've done.

If the person has not shown evidence of rehabilitation don't release them on parole. If the person is still regarded as a threat, don't release them on parole. But once that sentence has been served, then let him go in peace to pick up the pieces that remain of his life.

1 comment:

Lee said...

I have heard that civil commitment is a prosecutors way around that. Reprosecute them for crimes already convicted at an easier standard of proof by trading liberty for security.