Changing is hard: A new diet, quitting smoking, or starting to working out all require a lot of effort and usually end in failure. Now imagine (or recall from your experience, if you’re one of the pitiable who’ve tried) how hard it is to change someone else. Often the person who so needs saving simply won’t allow it.
Contrary to this experience, the painfully naïve notion that we can predictably fix everyone (including the morally depraved) has corrupted much of our justice system in recent decades.
Of course, we’re perfectly rational to want to change bad people; I suspect that throughout all of human existence, good people have encouraged bad people to reform. The difference in modern times is that we expect change: A rapist or murderer goes into a large gray building for five or ten years, and many in our society (including parole boards) evidently expect he’s going to live in harmony with the broader society when he walks out. What irresponsible naiveté this is!
For evidence that our attitude toward human malleability is changing, consider the frequency of words used which indicate that people might, in fact, be hard to change.
For instance, look at the frequency of “inveterate” over the decades:
The words “incorrigible,” “wicked,” and “hardened” show downward trends, too. The way it’s going, by about 2060 the West will have completely erased the idea of villains (though obviously not villainy itself).
Another sign of changing attitudes was evident when the trade association the American Prison Association became the American Correctional Association in 1954. Or compare the Plymouth Colony, which considered rape a capital crime, to America in the late 1970’s, when capital punishment for rape was discovered to be unconstitutional (the eighth was found to be a living breathing amendment which meant whatever the left felt it ought to).
As our once-judgmental society has softened, throwing away the key to prison cells has seemed increasingly pointless or even cruel. By the 1990’s, according to a BJS study, only 2% of convicted rapists received a term of life imprisonment in America, a fact strangely ignored by Women’s Marchers.
Obviously, our modern catch and release – er, correct and rehabilitate — method is why so many convicted rapists are out there raping still.
For example, consider the recent sensational case of a woman held in a storage container and raped daily for months in South Carolina. The man who imprisoned this woman had kidnapped and raped a 14-year-old previously at gunpoint. He was then sent to prison, spent years in prison, then was then let out of prison. Police now tell us he went on to kill at least seven and rape at least one after being let out of prison.
Do I still have to call it a “correctional facility”? Based on rearrest rates of rapists of roughly 50%, can we start referring to prison as the “rape hopper” instead?
Now that we increasingly believe in our ability to cure human depravity on demand, we have all kinds of fixes: Why, with some handy meditation exercises and a pocketful of psych meds, who’s to say that even a man who beheads another on a bus oughtn’t be turned loose on unsuspecting Canadian citizens?
Or consider another widely-publicized and recent case of a rape and murder: That of 21-year-old The Ohio State student Reagan Tokes. She was raped and shot in the head after she left her job at a Columbus bar in February. Police say the perpetrator had previously pulled a knife on a woman and, as the local news put it at the time, “raped her in front of her 2-year-old son.” This man had been caught for the knifepoint-rape, sentenced, served six years, and was then turned loose on Reagan Tokes. To get an idea of how effective his stay at the “correctional” facility was, consider the snappiness of the timeline which followed: The authorities released him from his sentence for rape #1 last November, and now they say he managed rape #2 and murder #1 before Tokes’ once forthcoming graduation in the springtime.
No word yet from the Department of Corrections as to when the monster may be released for rape #3 and/or murder #2.
Everybody has their pet cause these days. For most that happen to get worked up about prisons, “mass incarceration” is the fashionable concern du jour. Don’t you know that the USA has more prisoners than any other country?
On the other hand, my concern is the rotten men who, catastrophically, aren’t prisoners for long enough.
Edmund Burke once said, “There is no safety for honest men, but by believing all possible evil of evil men…” As a start, it’s time for the West’s intelligentcia to rediscover that there are such things as evil men.
This column was originally posted on WND.com.