He Paid His Debt to Society
Of all the trite sayings we hear from time to time, this one is particularly offensive to me. It is particularly galling to witness someone defending a convicted child molester’s ‘right’ to live where he pleases because, “he has paid his debt to society”. Any one who has seen up close and personal the devastating effects of child molestation for the entire lifetime of the person molested - and on every member of that person’s family and children to come - know that this particularly heinous type of incurable criminal can never “pay his debt to society”. It is also ludicrous to use this phrase, “he paid his debt to society”, in connection with a convicted violent rapist or a murderer upon his parole. I’m not calling for cruel and unusual punishments, but prison time does not ever seem like adequate punishment for violent crimes against a person. It’s the only punishment we have, but such a person can never “pay his debt to society”.
Just as galling are the recent attempts on the part of some well-meaning or, possibly, devious people to try to reinstate an ex-felon’s “right” to vote in those states where that right is taken away. The following are excerpts from a particularly good article on this subject by Edward Feser in the City Journal:
“Forty-eight states currently restrict the right of felons to vote. Most states forbid current inmates to vote, others extend such bans to parolees, and still others disenfranchise felons for life. A movement to overturn these restrictions gained swift momentum during the 2004 presidential campaign, and pending legal and legislative measures promise to keep the issue in the headlines in the months to come. It hasn’t escaped notice that the felon vote would prove a windfall for the Democrats; when they do get to vote, convicts and ex-cons tend to pull the lever for the Left. Had ex-felons been able to vote in Florida in 2000—the state permanently strips all felons of voting rights—Al Gore almost certainly would have won the presidential election.
Murderers, rapists, and thieves might seem to be an odd constituency for a party that prides itself on its touchy-feely concern for women and victims. But desperate times call for desperate measures. After three national electoral defeats in a row, the Democrats need to enlarge their base. If that means reaching out to lock in the pedophile and home-invader vote, so be it. Even newly moderate Democrat Hillary Clinton has recently endorsed voting rights for ex-cons. This is inclusiveness with a vengeance.
The liberal advocates and Democratic politicians seeking the enfranchisement of felons deny any narrow political motivation, of course. Their interest is moral, they claim: it is just wrong to deny felons the vote. Their various arguments in support of this conclusion, though, fail to persuade.
The most frequently heard charge is that disenfranchising felons is racist because the felon population is disproportionately black. But the mere fact that blacks make up a lopsided percentage of the nation’s prison population doesn’t prove that racism is to blame. Is the mostly male population of the prisons evidence of reverse sexism? Of course not: men commit the vast majority of serious crimes—a fact no one would dispute—and that’s why there are lots more of them than women behind bars.
Regrettably, blacks also commit a disproportionate number of felonies, as victim surveys show. In any case, a felon either deserves his punishment or not, whatever his race. If he does, it may also be that he deserves disenfranchisement. His race, in both cases, is irrelevant…….
Someone who violates another’s rights to life, liberty, and property forfeits his own rights to these things; society can legitimately punish him by removing these rights. The criminal has broken the social compact and violated the trust of his fellow citizens. He cannot reasonably complain if they mete out to him a measure of the very harm that he has inflicted on them. Their doing so is a means of dissuading others from breaking the social contract.
Seen in this light, disenfranchisement seems a particularly appropriate punishment for felons. The murderer, rapist, or thief has expressed contempt for his fellow citizens and broken the rules of society in the most unmistakable way. It’s fitting that society should deprive him of his role in determining the content of those rules or electing the magistrate who enforces them…..”