Tuesday, September 14, 2021

#257 / The Weekly Dump

The picture at the top of this blog posting comes from the Santa Mierda website. Santa Mierda translates as "Holy Shit." The website claims to have been "Keeping Santa Cruz Vibrantly Honest Since 2016."
The owners and operators of the Santa Mierda website produce a periodic bulletin, "The Weekly Dump," which chronicles lots of the bad things that are happening in the local community, specifically including any outrages associated with homeless persons (see the picture above). "The Weekly Dump" also pays close attention to crimes of all varieties, from murder to petty theft. A short summary of the July 31, 2021, edition is as follows: 

Time for the latest, fashionably late, Weekly Dump! Lots of people dying under suspicious circumstances this week. Killing us softly with their song and dance. We’re also talking dire straits, lumberjacks, suspected rapists causing mayhem, falling into the Gap, local murder suspect arrested in Idaho, crash into me, ungrateful spread, Keith McKaren, ass dismissed, and the return of the Weekly Seen.
As I read through that particular bulletin, which appeared in my email inbox not fashionably late at all, but exactly on July 31st, I had a thought that I had not really had before - not, at least, in the form that this thought came to me on Saturday, July 31st. The thought had to do with how we think about persons who have ("allegedly") committed crimes, and who, in fact, probably did commit them.
The "Weekly Dump," as it reports on murders and other crimes, always focuses on what the murderer or other criminal did, and how outrageous that was. That is not, of course, unusual. The way ("alleged") criminal violations are usually covered focuses on what the "bad guy" did. "The Weekly Dump" may provide a more "colorful" description than the typical journalistic account - it's far more scornful and dismissive of alleged lawbreakers than other journalistic reports - but all reports about crimes tend to focus, generally, on what the alleged "bad guy" did.
Here's the "Lumberjack" item, from the July 31, 2021 edition of "The Weekly Dump," as an example of how "The Weekly Dump" generally informs its readers about the apprehension of (alleged - but probably guilty) lawbreakers: 

He’s a Lumberjack and He’s Not OK
Last Friday night around 10PM, Santa Cruz Sheriff’s deputies pulled over a vehicle on Felker Street. When they ran the driver’s name, it came back that he was wanted for a number of felony warrants out of Campbell. Deputies could visibly see a handgun from outside the car, and when the driver resisted arrest he was pulled out of the vehicle. They also found crystal meth in the car. The 26 year old male, who listed his occupation as “Lumberjack”, was arrested for a variety of charges, including being a felon in possession of a gun, resisting arrest, drug possession while armed, carrying a loaded gun in a public place, and possession of a stolen gun. Campbell Police actually were willing to pick this bum up, so he did get arrested and he’s currently sitting in county jail waiting for his ride back to Campbell.

What follows is the thought I had as I read this and other items in the July 31, 2021, edition of "The Weekly Dump." What if, when we think about the apprehension of an alleged criminal (who probably is guilty) we focused not on what that person did - what that person did to others, or to society - but thought, instead, about what had happened to that alleged lawbreaker (who is probably guilty, of course). 

Our entire criminal justice system is set up to punish people who have done something bad. We focus on what the "bad guy" did, and since what that person did was often quite bad, indeed, we instinctively then turn our attention to what we, society, should do to that person in return. Here's what that person did to us. So what are we going to do to them?
We could have a different point of view, and think, when we learn of a crime, what a horrible thing must have happened to the person who was involved in perpetrating that crime (and who was probably guilty of it, of course). We would then tend to think about what we could do to offset what had happened to the person who committed the crime, and that could restore him or her to what we might think of as "factory settings," defined as our basic humanity at the time of our birth. 

Some people, after they come into this world, are lucky enough to have experiences that mean that they end up as positive, contributing members of society. Surely, that's the way it is "supposed to be." Others, however, like that "Lumberjack" fellow, have experiences that end up turning that person into a criminal. That is horrible for society, of course - all those bad things that the Lumberjack did. But it's pretty horrible for the Lumberjack, too. What a sad thing. What if we saw it from that perspective, and thought about what we, society, could do to make that right for the (alleged, but probably guilty) lawbreaker? What could we do to make sure that the Lumberjack will never end up doing more really bad things?

That shift of perspective could lead us into a new idea of what a system of "restorative justice" ought to be all about. 
That's just the thought I had, as I was reading the July 31, 2021, edition of "The Weekly Dump." That is the day I first had that thought in exactly that way. 
The concept, though, is certainly not new - either to me, or I hope to you. Joan Baez, in fact, sings a pretty nice song about that way of looking at the world (and at alleged, and probably guilty) lawbreakers: 

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