Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vick indicative of bigger issues

I agree with Mark Bradley regarding Michael Vick's conditional reinstatement to the NFL:
But why have him on an NFL roster if you don’t want him playing — at least not yet — in NFL games? Either ban him or reinstate him fully. Why drag this into October? Why spend 2 1/2 more months reminding everyone of one of the sorriest chapters in league history? Why not just clear him and be done with it?
Now, Terminal Station isn't a sports blog, despite the occasional post about Michigan football in the fall. This post is less about Michael Vick, and more about how we treat ex-convicts in our society. Recidivism is a serious issue when it comes to dealing with crime:
Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).
It stands to reason that we should be paying attention to how we reintegrate ex-convicts into our society. The Vick case is a great example of how we largely seem to fail at this.

Like Mark Bradley, I don't get this 'conditional reinstatement' business. Michael Vick has spent 18 months in prison, and has been out of football for two years. What could possibly be the point of allowing him to be on a team, practicing, but not allowing him on the field for six games? The only reason I can think of is the same one Bradley came up with - the PR of not being "too nice" to an ex-convict.

The whole point of prison is to pay your debt to society, right? Well, that is part of the problem actually, because I don't think our society can decide if prison is to rehabilitate you, punish you, deter you, or what. Comedians joke about what happens to people in prison, but the reality is that our prisons are brutal places where the chances of actual rehabilitation seem pretty minimal to me.

Either way, we release people from prison and the general understanding is that they have paid their debt, either via punishment or rehabilitation, and that you are no longer a threat. I mean, why the hell would we be releasing people from prison who we think will just commit more crimes, right? Um, right? (Don't answer that.)

Our society then proceeds to make it as difficult as possible for these ex-convicts to reintegrate into our society. We pass laws making in practically impossible for sex offenders to live in the state. We make it difficult to impossible for ex-cons to get a job. When it comes to Mike Vick, we have to publicly parade him through the streets for a few more months before we let him play football again.

If we don't think these ex-convicts are capable reintegrating into society, why are we letting them out of jail?

If we do let them out, don't we have a responsibility to give them a fighting chance at living a normal life? Making it hard for ex-cons to get a job and a place to live only increases the likelihood that they'll turn to crime again, right?

Of course, without reforming our actual prison system, the reality is that many of the people we let out of jail have simply become tougher, more damaged versions of the same criminals we locked up. The way we treat ex-cons is understandable given how miserable our prison system is. But at the end of the day, the system clearly isn't working. Decades of enacting "tough on crime" legislation and ignoring the brutality and failure of prisons hasn't really worked.

I'm not trying to be some bleeding heart liberal who only cares about poor ex-cons and doesn't care about victims. I am ranting about this because at the end of the day, our system hurts us in the form of recidivism. We can't afford to not care about ex-convicts, because if we don't then they become convicts again.


  1. I, too, agreed with Mark Bradley when I read his column and I think you're onto something with this statement:

    "If we don't think these ex-convicts are capable reintegrating into society, why are we letting them out of jail?"

  2. "We can't afford to not care about ex-convicts, because if we don't then they become convicts again."

    That's the fix we're currently in. The tens of thousands of people who acted criminally (fraud) and wound of crashing the world economy, are still out here acting like criminals. They're not even "ex" cons.

    Our econonmy will continue to go down as long as these crooks are out here. Who are the crooks? Glad you asked:

    * real estate agents and brokers (please arrest some of them; I won't mention names). They colluded to increase the price of homes to get fatter commissions;
    * appraisers who said homes were worth more than they actually were;
    * city and county bureaucrats who knew property appraisals were coming in too high but loved the increasing property tax revenues;
    * mortgage brokers and companies who offered liar loans (no documentation) and changed loan conditions at closing;
    * regular banks who started doing what mortgage companies did when they saw all the money being made;
    * Fannie & Freddie officials who bought all of the phony and unsupportable mortgage paper, knowing most of it was toxic;
    * Ditto for Wall St. banks, who sliced it up (securitized) into little pieces and sold them off to investors here and around the world;
    * Ditto for the insurance companies (i.e. AIG) who rated these investments AAA!;
    * Federal government-idiots, bought and paid for-most of them need to go to jail.

    If Obama doesn't get a new tough Attorney General and give them the resources to go after these criminals, we're all toast.

  3. Awesome post -- I completely agree with this statement: "Making it hard for ex-cons to get a job and a place to live only increases the likelihood that they'll turn to crime again."

    I think it's completely illogical how we treat people with a criminal record in our society. As part of my job I run a Job Board and I always bristle when I see yet another job that requires a full background check. Far too many jobs require a clean criminal record.

    What do we think all of these people with criminal records are going to do with their time if they can't get jobs? We can't just 'wish them into the corn field'. They're going to find something to do to survive, and if it isn't a legitimate job it will have to be otherwise.


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