Humanity Unrecycled

David - Riverton, New Jersey
Entered on February 6, 2009
Age Group: 65+
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Be afraid, America. Be very afraid. Some of your most terrifying nightmares will soon become reality.

Within the next ten years, over six million criminals will be invading your communities. Drug dealers, bank robbers, embezzlers, sex offenders, thugs, and fiends – the very scum of the earth. They have been gathering for many years, sharing experiences and techniques, learning from each other, each of them eagerly awaiting the day they will descend upon you. Their disdain for law and order festers within them like a cancer.

Be afraid, America. Be very afraid.

But understand.

These felons are not the ones planning this invasion. Sadly, it is those sworn to protect and defend us who, in their sincere but misguided dedication to duty, have actually created this ever-worsening situation. The criminals of whom I speak are only those who, within the next ten years, will complete their sentences and be released from their incarceration in thousands of state and Federal prisons throughout the country.

As a result of the zealous efforts of our courageous law enforcement officers, our judicial system continues to pack convicted offenders into those overcrowded prisons like sardines in a can with only a token concern for what will happen at the point in the future when they will be released. They are, we are led to believe, being punished for the crimes they have committed. But who is really being punished?

Society’s objective in punishing criminals has four components. It is designed to deter others from committing the same crime, to prevent the offender from repeating his activity (recidivism), to change the offender such that he will become a law-abiding and productive member of the community (rehabilitation), and finally to placate our indignation about the offence (vengeance). We have become very good at the last of these, but in the process, we have dangerously neglected the other three. As a direct result of this monolithic focus, those millions of criminals mentioned earlier will be returned to us no better prepared to function in society than they were when they originally chose to break the law. In fact, their chances of breaking free of the entrapment of a criminal life style are markedly reduced by the brand they must carry forever.

They, along with their families, friends and neighbors, become the real victims of their mistakes.

Certainly, some of these criminals are beyond redemption. For any of a wide variety of reasons, they lack the understanding, desire or ability to be a part of society. Others are merely good people who acted foolishly, will pay the price for their error, and will leave the system never to return. The vast majority, however, are at the mercy of our short-sightedness, able to be made into productive citizens, but unlikely to have that happen. They are like shipwrecked sailors, drowning just beyond the reach of would-be rescuers.

This situation cannot – must not be ignored. The risks of doing so are too great. We must require, we must demand of our criminal justice system that it take off its blinders, put an end to the unconscionable erosion of our constitutionally guaranteed rights, and return to the complete purpose for which we created and empowered it. Failure to do so can only leave us to drown ourselves in a sea of criminality, vice and degradation.

Be afraid, America. Be very afraid.

But don’t be complacent.