Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hate Crime And Punishment

"Locking up Ravi ultimately won't do much to stop bullying or fight homophobia.  His  prosecution speaks volumes, however, about America's rush to use criminal justice to address problems that are better resolved by other means. Every bad act is not a crime. Every kid who does a stupid thing is not a criminal."
Professor Paul Butler

Dharun Ravi
Dharun Ravi was an immature college kid who secretly videotaped his roommate, Tyler Clementi, having sex with another man.  Clementi tragically killed himself shortly thereafter.  Ravi was convicted of hate crimes, invasion of privacy and other charges, after rejecting a plea bargain that would have resulted in no jail time.  He now faces up to ten years in prison and deportation to India where he hasn't lived since he was 2 years old.  As George Washington University law professor Paul Butler writes, "Ravi should be shamed by his fellow students and kicked out of his dorm, but he should not be sent to prison for years and then banished from the United States."

Ravi is being scapegoated, Professor Butler points out, for what is sadly embedded in our culture:  "Until last year people were being kicked out of the military because they were homosexuals. None of the four leading presidential candidates -- President Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich -- thinks that gay people should be allowed to get married."

Butler argues that "a better way to honor the life of Clementi would be for everyone to get off their high horse about a 20-year-old kid and instead think about how we can promote civil rights in our own lives."
Though a national conversation about civility and respect would have been better, as usual for social problems, we looked to the criminal justice system. The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any country in the world. We are an extraordinarily punitive people.


Post a Comment