Suffer The Little Children.....
Franz Kafka (1883–1924), Fourth Notebook, 1918
We once again have a person with more sympathy than sense suggesting a solution designed to promote irresponsibility in the young. Here is a letter from today’s Cape Cod Times in response to their story about the four young people who phoned in a bomb threat to the Hy-Line Ferry office, paralyzing traffic to and from Nantucket:
Involve teen culprits in restitution plan
Though it is disheartening that teen angst, lack of judgment and impulsivity caused so much trouble, inconvenience, fear and expense in Nantucket, I am glad the bomb threat that shut down the island was not from a terrorist nor even a real criminal enterprise (''Threat to ferry seen as prank,'' July 20). A real crime will be committed, however, if full-fledged felony prosecutions go forward for these children. Addressing the responsibility of these offenders for the costs (both financial and emotional) to the affected travelers and the community could be ideally handled in a Restorative Circle process. I propose a community forum at which law enforcement, ferry system officials, community leaders and affected travelers can tell the offenders how their stupid actions harmed these various components of the public.
The offenders would have the opportunity to explain themselves, offer apologies and accept responsibility and, with the help of facilitators, work out a plan for restitution. These children do not need criminal records. They need to face the people they have harmed and the community they disrupted and to figure out how to restore what they have broken. Michael L. Rich, Chairman
Restorative Justice Task Team
Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ, Arlington
We will set aside for the moment that these ‘children’ are of similar ages as the 'real' terrorist ones who carried out the bombing of the London subway system and hundreds of other terrorist bombings. Actually, I'm not certain that they are not real terrorists, in that the aim of the terrorist is to inspire terror, and they certainly suceeded in that - 'innocent' is not just failing to killing somebody. We will instead concentrate on the assertion that “These children do not need criminal record”, but instead should be allowed to sit at a community forum and be gently scolded by those they have inconvenienced in a “Restorative Circle”.
Does anyone need a criminal record? At what age should they be held responsible for their actions, then? After the drunk driving offense at age 20? After they default on student loans at age 28? After the divorce and lack of child support at age 32? Indeed, why should they ever have to shoulder any responsibility at all, when assuring people that they are really very, very sorry will suffice? They may not be very sorry for what they did, but they are certainly very sorry that they got caught.
Porcupine wonders – did they have dogs that they initially begged for brought to animal pounds to be ‘adopted’ (or more probably euthanized) when they stopped caring for them after they got their driver’s licenses, and it just got tooo boring to walk some smelly dog every day? Did their parents call their math teachers and insist that they be given a second chance to take the final exam, because they were really overtired from a recent vacation when they flunked the first one? Have they, in fact, been disciplined by ‘facilitators’ all of their coddled young lives?
They were craven and cunning enough to have the only legal minor in the group actually place the phone call, snickering at these arbitrary age standards as they looked up the phone number together. Of course, the motive for these pampered Connecticut teens was that they wanted to spend another night on the Island, and needed an excuse – inconvenience and danger to others be damned.
I’m sorry, Mr. Rich, but criminal records are exactly what these children need. The stranded New York traveler who missed being at his dying mother’s bedside because of this ‘prank’ will not be coming back for your ‘town meeting’ of reconciliation; in fact, he may never return to Massachusetts at all. Yes, this conviction will indeed prevent them from holding jobs they may want or becoming lawyers – and will set stern example to other wayward children that sometimes, the buck does stop here. They will face the community they harmed – in a courtroom, which is also capable of assessing them for the financial damages they have caused. A mechanism exists in the Trial Court to have a record expunged after ten years with no further arrests or offenses, and this may guarantee the good behavior of these four until they are 28.
Medicine may be harsh, but it cures in a way sugary placebo syrups never will.