People choose right, or wrong

This is a discussion on People choose right, or wrong within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; As this commentary/newspaper column is not on target as RKBA, DC etc, I posted it here "Off Topic." However, as it is in the news, ...

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    Post People choose right, or wrong

    As this commentary/newspaper column is not on target as RKBA, DC etc, I posted it here "Off Topic." However, as it is in the news, I might have it wrong. If in the wrong place -- sorry, please move.

    WWIIW -- Didn't expect this from John Long.

    People choose right, or wrong - Roanoke.com

    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    People choose right, or wrong
    By John Long

    Not long ago, my teenage daughter sat through a criminal court session as part of a class she's taking on Virginia government. At the end of it, the class got to meet the bailiff for a few minutes, who gave them, in my opinion, some worthwhile advice. I wasn't there, so I'll have to paraphrase:

    "Did you notice the prosecuting attorney we had today? He's pretty young, not many years older than you. And did you notice the defendants who were on trial? They were about the same age as the prosecutor, again not much older than you are.

    "Now think about it. Why are they on opposite sides of the law? What accounts for the difference? I'll tell you: It's the choices they've made."

    My daughter has heard that sort of pep talk from us often enough to know the consequences of good or bad choices, but I'm glad she heard it again from an authoritative source.

    I started thinking about the bailiff's advice again last Sunday when I read the article in Parade magazine by Jim Webb, Virginia's senior senator. Webb has taken on prison reform as a legislative priority, and his article detailed what he thought was wrong with America's penal system. In short, he asserts, too many people in America are in prison or under some sort of post-prison supervision -- some one in every 31 adult Americans.

    I'm certainly no expert on penology, but I understand Webb's concerns. I commend him for taking on an issue about which he obviously cares, but which is not likely to win him many votes. Yet something about his observations and statistical analysis troubled me. It finally hit me: Of the 2.3 million people in America's prisons, most are there not because of a systemic problem, but because of individual choices they alone made.

    Sometimes it's a split-second decision; sometimes it's a lifetime of bad choices. But Webb's article seemed to skirt that reality: Most inmates are inmates because they made decisions that led them down that path. Think of this: Why are 30 out of 31 Americans not in prison? Only because we haven't been caught yet?

    Hold the angry e-mails: I'll readily concede that in America's prisons are a few who through bad evidence, unreliable witnesses, racial profiling, etc. were wrongly prosecuted. (That number is inevitably much lower than those who claim to be in it.) A few others were convicted of crimes of ignorance or unawareness, not knowing they were breaking a law. Some others have mental deficiencies that make it difficult to make proper choices. Fatherlessness is a major factor, and of course no one chooses that path for themselves -- though how one responds to it is another matter.

    Ultimately, it seems to me that the majority of convicts are imprisoned precisely because they deserve to be. Protecting the public and simple justice require them to pay their debt to society. Of course, Webb doesn't disagree with that premise (though he didn't mention protecting the public until the last paragraph of his article).

    Webb opines, "With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on Earth or we are doing something different -- and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter."

    I would not be so quick to dismiss the first choice. "Most evil" may be extreme, but what if the fault indeed lies within us? What if the very fabric of our public soul has become corrupted?

    Which gets me back to the advice the bailiff gave my daughter's class. What will Webb's proposed prison reform do to empower the next generation to choose lifestyles that obey and respect the law? Every day, each of us has a choice: to do right or do wrong, to live this day on one side of the law or the other. Most of us -- yet not nearly enough of us -- make the better choice.

    An overcrowded prison system is in a sense like a bucket under a leaky roof -- designed to mitigate the damage, but clear evidence that something is wrong. We can buy a bigger bucket. We can design a better bucket. We can purify and recycle the water we catch. We can argue about the definition of rain.

    But eventually, instead of blaming the bucket, we'd better figure out why the roof is leaking in the first place.

    Long, director of the Salem Museum and a history teacher at Roanoke College, is a Roanoke Times columnist.
    As the devil is in the details, I reserve the option to differ with him when it gets to figuring out why the roof is leaking in the first place and what to do about it.
    Last edited by DaveH; April 3rd, 2009 at 08:13 AM. Reason: Missed a word in the copy & paste. Add my observation.
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    Senior Member Array Jmac00's Avatar
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    basically your getting into an area of Psychology that very few of us on this forum would be able to address with any authority.

    Choices are indeed the difference? But what causes an individual to make a certain choice?

    Education?, Economic circumstance? Opportunity?

    Some people are just evil, others are forced into a situation they have no control over or simply don't understand whats happening to them.

    Drugs are a whole other problem. How many people are in jail because of drug charges? Either selling, buying/using or distributing?

    How do we as a society correct this behavior?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jmac00 View Post
    basically your getting into an area of Psychology that very few of us on this forum would be able to address with any authority.

    Choices are indeed the difference? But what causes an individual to make a certain choice?

    Education?, Economic circumstance? Opportunity?

    Some people are just evil, others are forced into a situation they have no control over or simply don't understand whats happening to them.

    Drugs are a whole other problem. How many people are in jail because of drug charges? Either selling, buying/using or distributing?

    How do we as a society correct this behavior?

    Good questions and analysis Jmac.

    Choices are one thing but other things come into the equation too.
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    I think one of the biggest societal problems we have now is that people refuse to take any accountability for their actions. It's all very selfish, very hedonistic, for the most part, and then no one wants to pay the price. I think the majority of people KNOW the difference between right and wrong, I just think they don't care. I blame parents for not teaching their children proper values and placing little emphasis on morality and responsibility. Not only that, I believe that a big part of that has to do with kids left alone most hours of the day, or without both parents taking an active role in their kids' lives.

    Of course, I'm a straight, right-wing, conservative, southern, Christian female, so most people (outside these categories) tend to dismiss me. Oh well. I'll just continue listening to Rush, Dr. Laura, and Ann Coulter and be my ignorant little self. lol!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunny View Post

    Of course, I'm a straight, right-wing, conservative, southern, Christian female, so most people (outside these categories) tend to dismiss me.
    Huh?

    My mother, and both grandmothers were straight, somewhat right-wing, conservative, southern, Christian female and I know a lot of folk that didn't dare dismiss them.

    "Think global act local" isn't only good for the side that often quotes the slogan.
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    I'm just one root in a grassroots organization. No one should assume that I speak for the VCDL.

    I am neither an attorney-at-law nor I do play one on television or on the internet. No one should assumes my opinion is legal advice.

    Veni, Vidi, Velcro

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    Leaky roof? It ain't the bucket.

    Fat? It ain't the spoon.

    In and out of prison for a lifetime? It ain't the water.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunny View Post
    I think one of the biggest societal problems we have now is that people refuse to take any accountability for their actions. It's all very selfish, very hedonistic, for the most part, and then no one wants to pay the price. I think the majority of people KNOW the difference between right and wrong, I just think they don't care. I blame parents for not teaching their children proper values and placing little emphasis on morality and responsibility. Not only that, I believe that a big part of that has to do with kids left alone most hours of the day, or without both parents taking an active role in their kids' lives.

    Of course, I'm a straight, right-wing, conservative, southern, Christian female, so most people (outside these categories) tend to dismiss me. Oh well. I'll just continue listening to Rush, Dr. Laura, and Ann Coulter and be my ignorant little self. lol!

    The text in bold sums up 90% of our countries problems IMO.
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    Distinguished Member Array Bunny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveH View Post
    Huh?

    My mother, and both grandmothers were straight, somewhat right-wing, conservative, southern, Christian female and I know a lot of folk that didn't dare dismiss them.

    "Think global act local" isn't only good for the side that often quotes the slogan.
    I was being snarky, sorry. When I'm not usually around other people who I know have the same frame of mind/values that I have, I get told nasty things from "How's that June Cleaver lifestyle working out for you? It's not reality!" to being called a Nazi, a fascist, etc. (Most of that's just from family!)

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    I attribute it to pure selfishness and disregard for others. Most people have wanted something bad enough that they have (however briefly) considored possibly breaking the law to have it. The difference between THEM and US folks is that we have self control and are accountable for ourselves and the welfare of our families.

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    Too many people not taking accountability, and too much entitlement.
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    The latest estimates are that 20% of the people in prison, are innocent. Based upon my experience in the system only, I would guess that's about right. So, adjust for that factor too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunny View Post
    I think one of the biggest societal problems we have now is that people refuse to take any accountability for their actions. It's all very selfish, very hedonistic, for the most part, and then no one wants to pay the price. I think the majority of people KNOW the difference between right and wrong, I just think they don't care. I blame parents for not teaching their children proper values and placing little emphasis on morality and responsibility. Not only that, I believe that a big part of that has to do with kids left alone most hours of the day, or without both parents taking an active role in their kids' lives.

    Of course, I'm a straight, right-wing, conservative, southern, Christian female, so most people (outside these categories) tend to dismiss me. Oh well. I'll just continue listening to Rush, Dr. Laura, and Ann Coulter and be my ignorant little self. lol!

    Well said, Sister.
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    Why not boil the bucket instead of getting a bigger bucket? Then the leaking roof can keep dripping but the bucket will never get full. We could use the steam to generate electricity.....

    Austin

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    Quote Originally Posted by ErnieNWillis View Post
    I attribute it to pure selfishness and disregard for others. Most people have wanted something bad enough that they have (however briefly) considored possibly breaking the law to have it. The difference between THEM and US folks is that we have self control and are accountable for ourselves and the welfare of our families.
    It has nothing to do with selfishness...well maybe on a very selected micro level, but none the less... Selfishness is not necessarily bad. If you weren't selfish...you wouldn't want to protect yourself.

    The issue really comes down to choice and responsibility. Folks can argue "economic hardships" and "family hardships" and "harder childhoods" until they're blue in the face. The fact remains that some CHOOSE to do the wrong thing, yet when at the same time, others that are IN THE SAME SHOES, do exactly the opposite and make the RIGHT choice. Anytime someone uses that kind of argument (like the rough childhood) I tend to get rather irritated.

    I take issue with the entire prison system concept. I don't care about someone "paying their debt to society". If they've been accused and convicted of say...theft without any violence... they should effectively be made slave of whomever they stole from until the debt is repaid. If that isn't an option then fine, jail it is. Murder, attempted murder etc... Shouldn't be in jail. If they're so dangerous that they can't be trusted to be released back onto the street, then they belong one place and one place only: Six feet under!
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    Senior Member Array Jmac00's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by packinnova View Post

    I take issue with the entire prison system concept. I don't care about someone "paying their debt to society". If they've been accused and convicted of say...theft without any violence... they should effectively be made slave of whomever they stole from until the debt is repaid. If that isn't an option then fine, jail it is. Murder, attempted murder etc... Shouldn't be in jail. If they're so dangerous that they can't be trusted to be released back onto the street, then they belong one place and one place only: Six feet under!
    I would tend to agree with you when there is absolutely no doubt who the perpetrators are, except there is a problem with your theory.

    What happens when the perpetrators have left the scene and the victims are found hours or days later? Now we are getting into circumstantial evidence and many times (not to often) the wrong people are convicted. I am all for capital punishment when there is NO DOUBT who the perpetrator is. But if there is some doubt, we as a society need to step back and ask, "is this the person"???

    But I'm getting a little off topic. Many of us were brought up to decide right from wrong. All of us have made mistakes, whether it was cheating on a test, or stealing candy from the local 5 & dime. We KNEW at the time it was wrong, whether we got caught or not, we KNEW!. EVERYONE that drives, DECIDES to do the wrong thing and speed (don't try yo deny it, we all speed)

    The difference is we learned from our mistakes. Whether we got caught or not, we made CHOICES/DECISIONS to do the right thing . Some people make a different choice even though they KNOW it's the wrong choice.


    Again I would suggest we are not qualified to debate the Psychology involved with the topic. Unless you have a Doctorate in Psychology?
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