Archive for the ‘Criminal justice’ Category

Ethics, Religion, and Father Greg Boyle, SJ

April 15, 2013

SolidarityBusiness ethics students often ask me what’s the connection between ethics and religion, and I stumble to answer, something like all religions share the Golden Rule, which is the heart of ethics. As Hillel said in the 1st century, “All else is commentary.”

And at the heart of the Golden Rule is the ability to see others as like you, not as “other.” Father Greg Boyle, SJ, must be the world champion at seeing others this way. And he does this in the unlikeliest of environments: the Latino gangland of South Los Angeles, where he ministers to/saves/employs/buries—and most of all, loves—gang members and ex-gang members, most of them covered in tattoos and recently released from incarceration. He created Homeboy Industries, which has given thousands on gang members a path to employment and responsibility.

I first heard Greg Boyle (“G-dog” to his “homies”) being interviewed by Krista Tippett on her “On Being” radio show. He’s such a compelling person that I immediately ordered and read his memoir, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. He’s (obviously) religious and I am not, but his steadfast belief that we are all the same before God is an attitude all of us, believers and not, could strive for. He calls his God “not the ‘one false move’ God but the ‘no matter what’ God.”

The book is heartwarming, funny, heartbreaking, and page-turning. Father Boyle is a man of unbelievable courage, love, compassion, and faith. And a heckuva storyteller.


Police: Zimmerman says Trayvon decked him with one blow then began hammering his head

March 26, 2012

This article from the Orlando Sentinel website appears to explain why the Sanford, FL, police haven’t arrested George Zimmerman, the shooter of Trayvon Martin. The article says Zimmerman claimed he was attacked by Martin, knocked down, had his beaten against the ground, and cried for help, before shooting the 17-year old. His story apparently has been corroborated by a witness.

“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” President Obama’s leadership in the face of tragedy

March 23, 2012

When tragedy strikes Americans turn for solace and wisdom to their President. When Challenger blew up Ronald Reagan comforted and inspired us. When the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed Bill Clinton grieved with us. When Congresswoman Gabby Gifford was gunned down along with nine others President Obama helped the whole nation understand.

Now America is riveted on the killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch person. The killer has not been arrested a month after the shooting, and the media are in World War III mode. Protests spread, and a million people have signed a partition calling for the shooter’s arrest.

President Obama addressed the nation today. He first explained that, as head of the Executive Branch he has to take care not to prejudice any investigation. He can’t call it the murder it appears to be. Instead he calls it a tragedy, and says how it relates to him:

“But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”

America’s shame: our treatment of sex offenders who have served their sentences

September 16, 2011

America’s criminal justice system consists of arrest, indictment, trial, and sentence. After serving out the sentence, the offender goes back to society with another chance. Unless that is, he was convicted of a sex offense, anything from violent rape to “sexting” a nude photo.

Sex offenders can never finish paying their debt to society, in spite of the fact that recidivism rates for sex offenders, especially for child molesters, are far lower than for other convicted felons. After serving their sentence they face crushing restrictions on where they may live–as of 2007, some 27 states and hundreds of municipalities had enacted laws that bar sex offenders from residing within up to a half mile of schools, parks, playgrounds and day care centers. Their homes are listed on the internet, and some even are subjected to humiliating signs like the one shown here. This even though the vast majority of sex offences are against relatives or friends, not strangers.

Besides the residency restrictions, sex offenders find it all but impossible to ever find gainful employment. It’s impossible to get a job with any employer that’s  big enough to have a human relations department, because once they have—easily—checked the national registry of sex offenders the answer is no.

Jack Marshall’s EthicsAlarms.com treats this issue, along with the larger issue of treatment of prisoners in general, in his blog entitled America’s Untouchables. I recommend it.


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