Vengeance is mine, sayeth John Kerry. He spoke to the Boston Herald on a singularly odious child molester.
His throw-away-the-key attitude is understandable in this case, but wrong and a path to all manner of arch-conservative self-righteous abuse of convicted criminals. You can almost hear Kerry's grandparents speaking, or George Bush's.
In the case of Matthew Mancuso, Kerry wants any counseling and rehabilitation to stop immediately. It is almost certain that this monster will spend the rest of his life in prison -- he has a 35 to 70-year child-rape sentence waiting after his federal child-pornography one ends in 2017.
Kerry does not think it enough that "he should never see the light of day." He has demanded in a series of letters to the Federal Bureau of Prisons that he be removed from an inmate sex-offender program.
That is the image from Dante's inferno or an evangelical Christian's hell. There is eternal torture, replete with demons piling it on the suffering.
I doubt that anyone short of a NAMBLA member could find anything nice to say about a man who basically bought a five-year-old girl from a Russian orphanage to groom her as his child bride. Yet, Kerry's petulant fit publicizes a right-wing emotional spasm unbefitting a U.S. senator, particularly one who pretends to represent progressive goals.
A lot of years ago when South Carolina brought in William D. Leeke to reform its penal system, he set me straight on the attitude to the convicted. "People are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment."
Kerry is not alone among nominal liberals who don't get that. They would pile it on perverts, pimps and perpetrators of all sorts. It is neither a deterrent nor does it spit out productive members of society on the other end. It only makes the self-righteous feel more so.
More prisons, more prisoners, longer sentences, mandatory minimum jail time...none of it works alone or together. As our crime rates remain high, as of 2002, we stand with the worst despotic regimes and third-world nations in prisoners, with over 2 million Americans in jail.
Our judicial and penal systems are not doing the job. Locking away the asocial and antisocial to fraternize is inefficient, counterproductive, and illogical to the point of stupidity.
Prisons are very expensive, at the level of the priciest universities in the nation. The reform we need on the inside is vast and complex. Real rehabilitation with extensive counseling and modeling works where Kerry's vengeance does not. It would also require an extra-prison economy that provides jobs for those who have been punished already. More important, it would mean that the public needs to stop the crap about demons stabbing the incarcerated, as though they deserve perpetual anguish.
Mancuso is a lost cause in many ways. However, Kerry's fixation on his case is one indication of how deeply so many of us feel the need to keep finding new ways to punish those already caught, convicted, sentenced and serving time.
Kerry and many of us need to transcend this understandable but base and wrongheaded emotion. What do we treasure more, vengeance or a safe society?
Tags: massmarrier, Massachusetts, John Kerry, prison reform