Punative Action

Several years ago the governor of Illnios would not enforce the death penalty laws then on the state books. He stated that he did not want to be responsible for the death of “an innocent man”. Previously, many states had taken the death penalty off the law books. Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York, felt that the death penalty did not deter murder. Two men with active consciences did not want to practice “an eye for an eye”, believing that that kind of actions would not make them better men, nor the world a better place.

Recently, a school district in Florida decided not to suspend students for minor infractions. The decision was a collaborative one by school officials, police and the community at large. It seems that suspention, rather than giving the student time to reflect on his/her disruptive behavior at home, took away a place to go where the student might be productive, and put the student on the street where, more than likly, he/she would find a place to be distructive. That behavior would lead to arrests which would later deprive the student of college entrance or job placement. Here is a case of punishment not preventing nor diminishing the cause nor the effect of offensive behavior.

The other day, the New York Times reported that the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands has started a program designed to empty their parks of undesireables sleeping on park benches or performing other unpleasant behaviors. The city hires those former “bench sleepers” to clean public areas, paying them in BEER! Yes, beer. The workers are given beer before they go to work, at lunch and after work. The beer is not paid for by tax payers, but by a Rainbow Group. So far, the program it seems to be working.

All of the above examples of diminishing punative action can be confusing. What happened to, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”? It is alive and well in certain mind sets, certainly in those of Tea Party activists. Are the above meerly examples of a liberalized western society? The impact on society in general and in specific on the murders, students, drunks involved is to be determined. Certainly it provides food for reflection. How much better the individual and the world would be if we gave each other an opportunity to reach up to “one’s better angel” rather than sink to one’s lowest ebb?

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