A comment by reader Alan Yates to my post “The Gingerich Rule” has had me thinking for the last couple of days. He said “I don’t look at it as an issue of fairness…I believe one of the key issues with juvenile sentencing, is at what point does the imposed punishment become counterproductive?”

I agree that the issue of whether a punishment is counterproductive is important. How often have we heard that people come out of prison worse than they went in?

But so is also important the issue of fairness. Webster’s dictionary says that “fair” is “agreeing with what is thought to be right or acceptable,” “treating people in a way that does not favor some over others,” and “not too harsh or critical.”

The world, it is said, is not fair. It is, in fact, chaotic, random, arbitrary, helter-skelter. “Fair” is one of many templates which we lay on the world to create meaning and bend objective reality to our ideas of how the world should be. If we were to surrender to the way the world really is, we should be aimless and despairing.

I am not saying that in believing in ideals such as fairness, we are delusional. The fact is, the templates with which we try to bring order to chaos work remarkably well on a practical level. They are the source of genius which helps us to overcome impossible odds in our everyday lives. These templates are what make us human. But they are not consistent. The patterns they help us identify do not always line up.

wile-e-coyote2The economy is proof of that. Rational people and objective reality say the economy should have failed years ago, yet the common will of how the economy should be working keeps it going on, defying gravity like in the Wile-E-Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons.

I, for one, am not willing to give up the “delusion” of imposing templates on objective reality. The ideal of “youth justice” is one such template to which I am particularly dedicated.

fairnessBut I think we have allowed ourselves to become subject to some very fuzzy thinking. In adopting mandatory-minimum sentencing for the same crimes, legislators have conflated the concepts of equality and equity and thrown out consideration of the potential and needs of the individual “offender.”

This is unfair.

Are you, like me, unwilling to accept the random nature of juvenile justice in America? Are you committed to the concept of fairness?

I invite you to take advantage of these final days of the year and make a tax-deductible donation to the Redemption Project for 2014. Many readers have made year-end gifts and I am very thankful for their generosity. But more of you may wish to take advantage of the tax deduction.

If you’d like to make a year-end gift, I encourage you to do so now.

donate hands

To make a contribution to the Redemption Project, please use the link at the top of this page or click here. Thank you!


Groove of the Day

Listen to Sturgill Simpson performing “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean”


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