Friday, November 5, 2010

Collective Punishment: Should one man suffer for the sins of another?

Collective punishment is the punishment of a group of people as a result of the behavior of one or more other individuals or groups. The punished group may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups, or direct control over their actions. In times of war and armed conflict, collective punishment has resulted in atrocities, and is a violation of the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions. Historically, occupying powers have used collective punishment to retaliate against and deter attacks on their forces by resistance movements (e.g. destroying whole towns and villages where such attacks have occurred).

This is the Wikipedia definition of "collective punishment."Collective punishment, simply put, is the concept of punishing a group of individuals for the sins of one person. Sex offender laws are a prime example of collective punishment.

You need to look no further than the Adam Walsh Act to understand this concept. The law was named after a child who was killed in 1981, before my fifth birthday. I was still living in Baltimore, MD in 1981, so there is a pretty good chance I had nothing to do with young Adam Walsh's disappearance and death. Yet, nearly 30 years later, I am punished for his death by a law passed in his memory. In fact, there are 715,000+ (and growing) individuals who had nothing to do with Adam Walsh's tragic death, but are punished in his name.

What happened to Adam Walsh was tragic indeed and no one deserves that kind of fate. However, should I be held accountable for a tragic murder that had occurred when I was in Kindergarten? Should I apologize over and over again for something I did not do? Society seems to think so. I don't. Somehow not claiming responsibility for a crime I didn't do somehow makes me "unrepentant?" I don't think so.

Sex offender laws should be based on reason rather than revenge. Revenge motivated laws have tarnished the memories of those children we have named laws after. Why is it we can name a law after Adam Walsh to satisfy our bloodlust but we won't throw our support to a grieving family who believes in rehabilitation of former offenders, as in the case of Esme Kenney? Where is an Esme's law that supports the things that the Kenney family believes in, such as a common sense approach to the issues?

The answer is simple. America supports revenge, not rehabilitation. That is why we have the highest incarceration rates in the world, beating out Russia and China. Ironically, as a former offender, I'm supposed to apologize for every tragedy that happens, accept whatever punishment they arbitrarily throw my way, and if I complain, I'm "unrepentant." To that I say, is Esme Kenney's family as deserving of a voice as Adam Walsh's family? Think about it.

1 comment:

  1. "America supports revenge, not rehabilitation." You've said it ALL right there.