I was sitting in my favorite chair; beat from another hard day in the life of a cook working in a town kept alive by a wealthy, tourist-driven economy (and nothing else) when a post from a local CBS affiliate caught my eye.
The headline “High Risk Sex Offender” (with more relating to his release and where he would be settling following in the rest of the title of the story) came across my Facebook news feed.
He had maxed out his sentence after choosing not to seek treatment for his compulsions, and people were pissed! They wanted justice, at any cost and on an empathetic level I can understand why.
This alone would not have inspired me to write an article.
Snappers (slang in my region for sex offenders, though usually reserved specifically for child molesters) are in the news all the time (one of many sad facts about the great State of Vermont).
I stay aware, but being child-free limits how aware I have to be on this topic.
In this case however, the offense of the man in question wasn’t what caught my eye, it was the comments.
To say the comments in this press release were “enraged” would be an understatement. These people weren’t just angry, they were passionately angry!
I know of this passion well. I am even sympathetic towards it. Despite not having children, I can understand the rush to emotion of those tasked with protecting the most innocent among us.
When I wrote the “Harambe” article I saw parents come unglued at the implication that this passion led to the entitled feeling I was speaking against.
Yet, as I read through the comments on this news article, it was clear that the entitled breeder mentality was stronger than ever.
Not only that, this particular version of the entitled breeder made no attempt at trying to convince you that they are above using the state to make them feel safe in regards to their child.
“Just shoot him!”
“Rope is cheaper.”
I expected these comments – passion! In this case, found in the anger of blue-collar men and women, hands shaking with white-hot fury at the very thought of robbing a child of their innocence; certainly something even a child-free man such as myself can empathize with.
The problem here is that this is what I call “vegan passion”.
It’s understandable why they are mad, like a vegan being mad at animal cruelty; but it’s not justifiable in fast-tracking our judicial system for the sake of making one feel better (same as a vegan wanting the government to turn everyone into a carrot eating pussy).
I kept reading. There were more of the same calls for vigilante justice, and then it got… well… worse!
“I’m sorry, but we have got to change the laws, these people should never be allowed to re-enter society.”
“Someone who does something (like this) shouldn’t be allowed to max out their sentence and just be a free man again.”
There were many, many more after that. But the two I mentioned shared what appeared to be a growing sentiment that some people should never be able to obtain their freedom again.
As a wrongly arrested man who faced 15 years for a crime he did not commit, this kind of judicial absolutism is the type of “big government” that scares me the worst.
Besides the fact that sex offenders are complete pieces of shit (let’s just say it!), the justice system – both here and abroad – sucks!
It is in need of a massive overhaul; I agree with many that it is still the best system out there but that (to me) is like saying gonorrhea is better than herpes.
In short, we convict innocent people. Regardless of how little or how often it happens, it happens!
No reasonable person wants a child to be harmed, but no student of history should want to block members of our citizenry from being able to defend themselves against possibly wrongful charges.
Another idea I saw floated on this thread (and others, was that we needed to drop our, often lengthy, appeals system. This could have tragically bad consequences.
Appeals are how verdicts stand the test of time.
If they don’t, then it is because there was something wrong in the original case or with the evidence (among other factors). Appeals show the best verdicts for being truly good decisions based on the best of our police officers and our officers of the court of law.
On the flip side: they can point out a crucial error in the handling of evidence or a piece of evidence that was overlooked.
Either way, I like knowing that Charles Manson is 100% guilty because his verdict survives the appeal every damn time!
I also like knowing that a few innocent men and women may have been saved by it.
It is so easy to give in to fear or hate, to tremble at the thought of an invisible boogeyman and think that if we just streamline this one law and the penalties for breaking it, then we will all be safe.
But we won’t be safe. Because history has shown us that once we set a precedent for government intervention, for growing the government too much, we seldom get to reset it.
It will start with sex offenders, because that is an easy sell, then it will be drug offenses, and before you know it everyone that has ever peed on a sidewalk or got drunk and flipped off a cop will be looked at through a microscope.
As I type this, I know the man from the original article is free right now. I know he is a high risk offender. I know that he maxed out his sentence instead of taking the treatment course for early release. I don’t like this. No one does.
But I also know where he lives (or at least the town) because we let the public know that kind of thing. I am protected as much as I can be. I know where the threat is and what it looks like. After that, all I can do is make sure my god-children stay away from people like this.
And that is because of one thing I have been saying for a couple years now. “Freedom doesn’t make you safe, it makes you free. Only you can make you safe.”
It’s a dangerous world, so apply what I just said to your children as well folks. If this angers you, then maybe you should ask yourself something: “How safe am I making my child?”
(Author’s note: the offender in question was arrested again within 24 hours of his release. Records indicate that in 2015 (two years before his release) he compelled his girlfriend to perform a sex act on two under-aged females. Questions have been raised as to why it took the State of Vermont two years to bring charges in relation to this crime. At the time of writing this article, I have yet to obtain more information.)\
* Bryce Jackson is a cook and writer from Chelsea, Vermont, who lives in Woodstock where he takes care of his two rescue dogs and his 71-year-old Vietnam veteran father.