Two articles caught my eye this week. Both highlight what happens when political correctness overrides basic justice.
The first, in City Journal, is titled 'Violence in the Halls, Disorder in the Malls'.
The Obama Justice and Education Departments have strong-armed schools across the country to all but eliminate the suspension and expulsion of insubordinate students. The reason? Because black students are disciplined at higher rates than whites. According to Washington bureaucrats, such disproportionate suspensions can mean only one thing: teachers and administrators are racist. The Obama administration rejects the proposition that black students are more likely to assault teachers or fight with other students in class. The so-called “school to prison” pipeline is a function of bias, not of behavior, they say.
The idea that ... street behavior does not have a classroom counterpart is ludicrous. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic males of the same age. The lack of socialization that produces such a vast disparity in murder rates, as well as less lethal street violence, inevitably will show up in classroom behavior. Teens who react to a perceived insult on social media by trying to shoot the offender are not likely to restrain themselves in the classroom if they feel “disrespected” by a teacher or fellow students. Interviews with teachers confirm the proposition that children from communities with high rates of family breakdown bring vast amounts of disruptive anger to school, especially girls. It is no surprise that several of the Christmas riots began with fights between girls. School officials in urban areas across the country set up security corridors manned by police officers at school dismissal times to avoid gang shootings. And yet, the Obama administration would have us believe that in the classroom, black students are no more likely to disrupt order than white students. Equally preposterous is the claim that teachers and administrators are bigots. There is no more liberal a profession than teaching; education schools are one long indoctrination in white-privilege theory. And yet when these social-justice warriors get in the classroom, according to the Obama civil rights lawyers, they start wielding invidious double standards in discipline.
The best solution to such alleged teacher racism, according to the Obama Justice and Education Departments, is to pressure teachers to keep unruly students in the classroom rather than removing them. This movement goes by the name of “restorative justice;” its result has been anarchy, adding a school-to-hospital pipeline to the school-to-prison pipeline.
. . .
Over the last year, a Seattle school district in the throes of “restorative justice” experienced an alleged gang rape and several student deaths. Criminal charges, including murder, were filed against a group of students not yet out of middle school, reports the Seattle Times. Teachers’ unions in Fresno, Des Moines, New York City, and Indianapolis have all lodged complaints about the anti-discipline philosophy, according to Education Week. The Fresno teachers signed a petition pointing out that students are returned to class after cursing at teachers and physically assaulting them, without suffering any consequences. Fresno’s teachers have been injured trying to stop fights; some are retiring because teaching where severely disruptive students cannot be dislodged has become impossible. In Des Moines, students now hit and scream at each other and their teachers, reports the Des Moines Register.
There's more at the link.
The problem with 'restorative justice', of course, is the over-emphasis on 'restorative' and the almost complete lack of emphasis on 'justice'. If there is no justice, there can be no restoration. It's as simple as that.
The same attitudes are evident in the tale of a paroled criminal who was allowed to slide out of most of his parole conditions - leading to catastrophe for more victims.
Three suspected murders, four assaults.
And all those red flags.
Law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case told me that the parole officer assigned to Allen's case had expressed frustration that Allen was not taken off the street earlier - if just for inpatient drug treatment - but that the officer could not spur his supervisors to action. (The board ordered Allen arrested in October after police identified him as a suspect in the crimes.)
This fits with what parole agents have been telling me for a few years: In the state's effort to decrease swelled prison populations - and reduce recidivism rates - it's harder to lock up some people who really should be off the streets.
The pendulum has swung so far. The things that used to immediately land a parolee in handcuffs, like PCP, don't now.
. . .
Former Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner, who now serves as the city's deputy managing director for criminal justice, says that move toward treatment and rehab nationwide reflects recognition that for too long we have been locking up people for longer than necessary. Excessive incarceration is not only expensive, he notes. It destroys families and communities.
Though he hasn't reviewed Allen's case, he said the system shouldn't be judged by one person's experience. But every case, he said, must be handled with "careful individual evaluation of all the facts and circumstances that shed light on whether an individual is a danger to the community."
Again, more at the link.
What Mr. Lerner (apparently deliberately) ignores is that a sentence of incarceration is imposed to protect the community from the criminal. Of course it damages (and sometimes destroys) the criminal's family life, and communities where criminal conduct is rife; but that's an unavoidable side effect of protecting the broader community from those criminals. It goes with the territory. If there was a better system available, I'm sure we'd be using it: but through several millennia of civilization and living together, we haven't been able to find one (apart from execution, which protects the community even more thoroughly and destroys their families and communities even more permanently).
If the justice system ignores its primary responsibility (protecting the community) in favor of its secondary responsibilities (protecting the criminal's family and community life), then it's failing in that primary mission. There are no two ways about it. What's more, if it continues to fail in that primary mission, not only will it be discredited in the eyes of those who rely on it; those people will then begin to take the law into their own hands. Look at every nation where the people can no longer rely on the police, the courts and the prisons to protect them. They turn on suspected criminals and punish them themselves. We saw a particularly grisly example in Bolivia a few days ago. I've seen many more in Africa - and in inner-city America as well, as a pastor and chaplain. It's called 'street justice', but it's seldom just.
The mindset displayed by Mr. Lerner can be directly equated to that of those people who refuse to impose order and discipline in our school system. They ignore or downplay the safety of the community in favor of the rights and freedoms and perceived needs of the individual(s) concerned. Unfortunately, that has the inevitable consequence of making the entire community less safe for those who live in it, and leads to the inevitable result that the system of law and order itself becomes distrusted. Sooner or later, that will lead to consequences that no-one in their right mind wants. Do we really want to see that on the streets of America?