01 February 2013

No Probation for Me


Speaking to a client regarding disposition of his case, a client on probation but with new charges, the sentiment was expressed that he would rather do his time than have a probation officer up his ass. I found this expression of disdain refreshing in a criminal defendant. Most defendants beg for probation, some of whom have no hope of ever completing it successfully, to "get on track" or "to get my life back together". The fact of the matter is that if you are incapable of dealing with the world without being placed in jail, it is very unlikely that you will be able to cope with probation. Dealing with the world, i.e., functioning in a manner which allows them to live what we call a normal life is beyond the capability of these defendants. If the normal day-to-day activities are such that one has no job, no money, and friends just like them, probation will be merely a fanciful ideal of the judge who placed them on it. The goal, of course, is to make each individual a productive and responsible member of society. Just as some people are tall and some short, some people are lean and some fat, some people are functional and others are dysfunctional. No amount of counseling, therapy, classes, or supervision will change this fact. Now, granted, dysfunctional people can be annoying; they interfere with what little pleasure the rest of us can find in out daily activities. We, us normal people, have this unconscious attitude that others do not have the right to be annoying; it is not a constitutionally protected right. We have further unconsciously decided, meaning without thought, that something must be done to make annoying people unannoying. To this end, we have established a vast array of so-called services for the purpose of doing just this. To make these services serviceable we have put the power of the state behind them. The courts order dysfunctional people to become functionable through therapy. When this fails they go to prison. Prison or jail is where we put annoying people. Public intoxication, disturbance of the peace, trespass all are activities considered annoying. Those engaging in these activities must learn not to do them so that the general public will not be inconvenienced in any way. We did finally decide that vagrancy would not be a crime, but do not despair, vagrants can be charged with something. I think we should just be honest about what we are doing; let's call it what it is and not make up names for things. George Orwell, some years ago, pointed to the use of language as a method of control. He was correct of course. Most of us use language, not to communicate, but to dissimulate. Dissimulation is a form of control; in fact, one might say that it is the basis of control. Very few people communicate, think about what they say or hear, and those in charge understand this very well. If we, as the general public, actually gave thought to what people say, it would be a different world from what it has turned out to be.

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