Should Richard Smile?

Should Richard Smile?

A friend comments that Richard isn’t a danger to anyone else, suggesting that–theoretically–he could be set free until the trial; but, of course, that would be wrong. VERY wrong. You can’t kill a man and rob a family of their loved one and keep going on with your life. You have to suffer as much as possible. It’s only fair.

Actually, it’s not even fair. There is no fairness in this situation. There never will be.

This makes me ponder the point of prison. It’s punishment right? No doubt Richard deserves punishment.

On the other hand, as a parent and lifelong educator, I know that punishment isn’t very effective in terms of changing behavior. It actually exacerbates it. Then again, the threat of punishment, can serve as a deterrent.

It’s too late for deterrents for Richard.

Do people, who feel murderous, really not kill someone because of the consequences?

What about the death penalty?

Have any lives been saved because someone thinks to herself, “Hey, I’m in Texas, and they have the death penalty, so I better drop this gun and walk away.”

What about Norway?

They don’t have the death penalty, and apparently killers there serve an average of 14 years jail time. Anders Behring Breivik, the good-looking man who massacred all those students in July, will serve the longest sentence available–21 years. Even so, those with the maximum sentence can be released after serving two-thirds, and many are given weekend parole after one third.

Despite being “soft on crime” however, Norway has a lower crime rate than us, and their incarceration rates are among the lowest in Europe.

I’m inspired by the thought that how we respond to criminals says much more about us than it does about the acts they commit.

Are we a murderous, vengeful, punishing people?

In the case of Richard, what do want?

Is death really fair?

Wouldn’t having to live a long life in the face of his horrid act be more in line with justice?

Given the irrevocable loss of Michael Martin, it’s hard to imagine Richard doing anything nice. Visiting with his wife. Reading. Meditating. Working out.

That’s when I have to turn my thoughts away from what he did to what I want or what I don’t want. I don’t want a world filled with any more murder, vengeance or hatred; and I don’t want to support the idea of “us” and “them” because within that separation is permission to do all manner of things which have terrorized humanity forever.

When I enlarge the context like this, I know that Richard’s “time” must be more than punishment; and I know that I must find my way to allowing him his smile.

Kelly Salasin, October 2011

For more posts on the BFC Tragedy, click here.

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JUSTICE

JUSTICE

After five days, I find myself hating Richard for what he has inflicted upon us. I can’t imagine what the family and friends of Michael Martin feel.

If justice was ours, how might we enact it? I scan my brain, seeking appropriate acts of restitution, but can find none for a life taken.

I think back to a lecture given in Marlboro by the author Kim John Payne. Though the focus was on education, Kim shared a story about the Maori tribe in his native New Zealand, telling us how they creatively responded to crime and punishment.

Rather than lock two young men behind bars for stealing a car, the men had to face the victim of their crime–a single mother, who was unable to get to work or attend school due to the loss. Alternately, the “court” of community members heard the stories of these two young men, how their lives led to the crime, and how it affected them.

Each party–the young men and the single mother–had someone from the community, beside them–not so much to speak, but to support. Others spoke too, on behalf of both, and the “trial” went on for hours as they did.

In the end, the local grocer stood up and offered these two men work so that they could afford to repay the woman for the hours she lost at work and to pay for her transportation to school while her car was being repaired.  Additionally, the local mechanic offered his services so that only the parts would be charged.

There were more voices in this story, and I may have mistaken some of the details, but what I remember most was what happened after the “trial.” The men were asked to stand on what might be a town green, and the community members each circled past them offering praise for their restitution. No one spat or cursed or otherwise separated these men from the community in which they belonged.

How would the Maori deal with murder, I wonder?  What acts of restitution would arise from the mouths of the community?  For surely Richard, despite his abhorrent act, still belongs.

Kelly Salasin, August 14, 2011

for more on the Brattleboro Co-op Tragedy, click here