Equal Justice for All

Many moons ago, I had the good misfortune of obtaining good tickets to a court appearance. Not my own. The main protagonist involved an adolescent who participated in a house break-in with a couple of accomplices, making off with goods amounting to no greater than $500. Unfortunately, the nature of the plunder selected for nicking would have not  likely have commanded a quarter of the list price on the black market. A quick calculation would determine that suffering through a mere shift in Tim Horton’s would yield a far better take.

But rumor has it that most criminals are stupid. I am more prone to believe that those who get caught are merely insufficiently practiced in the art. The intellectual capacities and credentials of the average felon are likely to be merely representative of the general populace. It is just that the more gifted are shrewder or have accountants and lawyers on their payroll who are; staying within the letter of the law while finding all manner of loopholes to circumvent the spirit of it.

The fascinating anomaly, in the rather tedious proceeding of the turnstiles of justice, was the earnest insistence by the lawyer representing the youth that the parents be in full attendance. Apparently, this custom has great bearing on a youth’s probabilities of conviction and nature of sentence. Intuition and sociological studies probably confirm that the presence of sufficiently involved parents influences recidivist rates.

But, pity the poor sod without interested parents. Be it true that many a child becomes too unruly for parents to contain and maintain social order within the household. However, I have encountered without trying, a bevy of youths, rejected by their self-indulgent parents; some kicked out and disassociated by their single mothers because the new boyfriend doesn’t wish to contend with a in-house rival who yet retains some loyalties for his father. I have heard baptismal testimony of a (prior) homeless youth in which the ratio of common sense between child and parent was similar to that parodied on Absolutely Fabulous.

This rumination set off the entrepreneurial spirit alight in me, as I considered the business opportunities to be had in establishing a rent-a-parents service. However, in that youths without family support will not likely afford such a service; as judges would soon cop onto the scheme and we would have to forge identity documents; as I am not even certain that the presence of parents bears much influence on jurist deliberations; the business idea was soon shelved.

As valuable as the expedient of calculating recidivist outcomes in the administration of justice appears, the principle of impartiality is lost. And I cannot help but believe that a greater, though amorphous and indeterminable, harm to public safety results if the disadvantaged, as symbolized in this minor practice, perceive law and justice stacked against them. Although no lawyer, I have read sufficient court cases to notice that an inordinate number of foolish and incompetent court decisions catch the ragged people and social undesirables in their headlights. This must inseminate cynicism about the moral authority of the State and its organs. And will not that cynicism beget greater contempt for the laws and a greater incidence of crime?

Compliance, which cannot be obtained by consent and belief, requires significantly more resources to secure by coercion.

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