The Death of Good Judgment

I’ve really been wanting to write something about this for some time, but I haven’t, and don’t, have time to do it justice. But I saw a couple of other posts that begin to address some of the issues.

My deep concern is with ideas such as zero tolerance polices, the great push to make the foibles of youth into major crimes, and finally the equivalent push to move more and more juvenile crimes to adult courts.

I think there are genuine reasons to be concerned about the juvenile justice system. There are good reasons to put certain young offenders into the adult system. The problem is that the public seems to be much more concerned about being hard on criminals than about solving problems of crime.

Making sex offenders out of teens involved in sexting is a good example of the legal system run amuck. This is much more properly a parental issue than one for the state. Only in extreme cases of parental neglect should the state get involved, and then I would suggest the involvement should be with parents. In no way do I want this to make things easier for purveyors of child porn–adult pornographers preying on children. They’re scum and we need to go after them. But using the same laws on teenagers playing around, even if one can stretch the letter of the statute to fit, is nothing other than malicious.

Having said all that, let me link to a couple of recent blog posts that called my attention back to this.

The first is a post on a new blog for me, AnotherThink, which I found via C.Orthodoxy. I find myself thoroughly in agreement with the sentiments expressed in that article, and have added the blog to my RSS reader.

The second comes from the blog Classically Liberal, and describes the case of a six year old cub scout who brings, you probably guessed it, a multifunction knife to school. But instead of sanity, the school has a zero tolerance policy. Now they want the child taken to juvenile court. Sounds like an excellent reason to homeschool.

Both of these cases illustrate a lack of willingness to permit and/or to exercise simple good judgment. One can determine not to tolerate a weapon at school without simultaneously overreacting to either mistakes or purely innocent actions. But we prefer to hide beyond a policy that requires merely the application of a detailed set of rules without any regard for how those rules work out in practice.

I said two things, but here’s another I remembered, Hoosier Grandmother Arrested for Purchasing Cold Medication. This was surely a case for the application of some good judgment, which was not forthcoming. Of course, I would blame the legislators who passed the law in that form in the first place.

I realize that criticism and court cases against people that exercise judgment make people afraid to do anything that’s not micromanaged by the book. I continue to believe that such an attitude will be ultimately very destructive.

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  1. Yeah. Seems that “zero tolerance” has become a synonym for “we’re about to act like complete gits”.

    It ties quite neatly in with your post about revenge.

    I know you read Dispatches but, in case you missed it, Ed had a good post on a similar subject.

  2. Thank you for the link, Henry. I agree that “simple, good judgment” is woefully lacking in our justice system, and increasingly in our schools. I’m glad more people are talking about it.

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