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« Gaffney on Globotaxes | Main | Why We Protect the Weak »

September 27, 2006


Andrew Fastow, the former Chief Financial Officer of Enron, was sentenced to six years in prison by a federal judge yesterday. I have nothing to say about the Enron fiasco other than, if you want to really understand how and why it happened, rent the Oscar-nominated documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

The reaction to Fastow's sentence took a sadly predictable turn: one commenter, quoted by Jane Galt, spoke for many when he wrote, "I want Andrew Fastow to serve a decade or two in some place where his new name is Audrey and he's somebody's girlfriend."

This prompted Galt to ask "why didn't we just sentence Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling to be tied down and raped by a couple of strapping bailiffs?" She continued

I think that prison rape is one of the most appalling moral failings of our society, and I've said so before. Not that it happens at all . . . there is a real problem with prison design, which is that if you let the prisoners socialise, they will terrorise each other, and if you don't, they go crazy. But that we basically don't bother trying to stop it, and worse, that it is in fact the most prominently deterrant feature of our prison terms.

I know I'm harping here. But I feel this very deeply. I do not believe the state is morally allowed to do that which individuals are not morally allowed to do; I do not believe that prison sentences should have "off label" uses; and I think that if you are willing for the state to impose a sentence in your name, you should be willing to carry it out. I am not willing to execute a prisoner, or to rape one. Therefore, I don't authorise the state to do things for me. Nor do I want those tasks delegated to some fiendish thug in order to give myself plausible moral deniability.

If you do think that rape is an appropriate punishment for securities law violations, then you should say so. You should pressure your representatives to write these penalties into law. And when volunteers are needed to carry out the sentence, you should be willing to put your name in the hat.

While I don't agree that personal unwillingness to carry out a particular punishment renders that punishment per se unjust, any more than not having served in the military invalidates your opinions on whether or not to go to war, I completely agree with Galt's larger point: our indifference and/or acquiescence to conditions within our prisons is a national disgrace that should give us pause whenever we're tempted to prattle on about the "goodness of America."

This indifference/acquiescence to what's going on inside the walls amounts to extrajudicial punishment, which is antithetical to a free society and the rule of law. If you think that rape or other violations of human dignity and bodily integrity (yes, I am referring to section 2297) is fitting punishment, please do so explicitly.

As Fyodor Dostoevsky put it, "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." Pointing this out isn't harping; it's simple decency.

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Cyndi Mulligan

This isn't a topic I've ever heard addressed at any length by any Christian organization. I believe most Americans would applaud this "extra sentence" because of the tragic crime rate in our nation. That feeling of victimization creates a desire for vengeance, and if it can't be imposed on the offender by the victim himself, then any agency of the government willing to impose or allow it is viewed as justified. That's just not representative of God's character and the manner in which He treats us. That's why I'm so grateful for Prison Fellowship and the Breakpoint broadcast. You bring up topics that cause me to stop and pay attention and think. Thank you.


I read with interest the post entitled Extrajudicial. I have worked in the corrections field for the past 15 years both behind the walls and in the community. For the past five years I have supervised a caseload of sex offenders in the community. In speaking with people about my job, I frequently hear comments about how these offenders should be dealt with. Even some of the most respected Christians in the community have verbalized how they would like to see anyone convicted of a sexual offense either have body parts removed or be placed in a room with Bubba so they can suffer as they made their victims suffer.

I’ve been guilty of the same type of thinking. If I am completely honest with myself, I have to admit there are times that I get caught in this type of thinking. Early in my career while working on a juvenile detention unit I was the primary counselor for a boy who was locked up for an assortment of crimes. The boy was released and, several months later, returned on a probation violation. Seeing that he was booked in on a probation violation, I did not bother to read the file and find out what he did to violate his probation. I resumed my role as his primary counselor and began working on life’s issues.

Another staff member took the boy to court and returned to the unit and told me the gruesome details of what the young boy had done to some children he was baby sitting. The boy had been left to watch some children that belonged to a friend of his mother and he sexually molested them. At the time, my own kids were the same age as the victims of this boy, toddlers and infants. I remember the thoughts hitting me: cut it off and hang it from the wall; put Bubba in there with him, etc. I found myself unable to speak to this kid. I was his primary counselor and was supposed to be helping him reenter the community and remain law abiding. I let my emotions get in the way of my job. After a couple of weeks of avoiding the boy, I had one of those moments where I heard God speak to me. He told me that not only did I have a professional obligation to interact with this young man; I had an obligation as a Christian to disciple this kid. He had placed me and this young man on the same path in life and my job was to help this kid understand right from wrong and develop life skills to prevent him from harming others.

I don’t know what the young man is up to now. I will never know what type of influence I ever had on him, if any. But, God used him to teach me that He is using me as an instrument to reach others that are deemed unwanted as a result of their label. A label that is assigned only as a result of a criminal conviction. Sadly, our culture is immersed in sexuality that glorifies many of the activities that many sex offenders have been convicted of. What sex offender treatment teaches the offenders is healthy relationships and lifestyle choices that are based on scriptural teachings. Sex offender treatment is counter cultural.

I have used conversations about my job as a means of challenging others to think about the comments they flippantly make. When talking with Christians who let cultural verbiage fly off the tongue, some thought provoking discussions have followed. If we, as Christians, don’t challenge each others thinking, we lose our saltiness and fail to be a light for the world. It seems we allow the language of our culture to slip off our tongues without giving a second thought to the content of our mind. I’m thankful to see this new site and pray that many will use this platform to engage in critical thinking and spur others to think critically as well.

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