Crime and Forgiveness

Charlotte Hays | Posted on 03/03/10

But with this case we see two important imperatives in conflict: the necessity to forgive, no matter the offense, and society's need to punish or quarantine.

There is a fascinating story in today's Telegraph (UK): It's about Jon Venables, a murderer, who is back in jail after being freed. Here is the essential paragraph:

The convicted murderer, who was controversially freed under a new identity in 2001, was just 10 when he and Robert Thompson abducted and battered the two-year-old to death in February 1993 in a crime that shocked the world.

The gist of the story is that the public is not being told why Venables is back behind bars. Might prejudice future action against him, officials say. But with this case we see two important imperatives in conflict: the necessity to forgive, no matter the offense, and society's interest in either punishment or quarantine of those endanger us. And, of course, Venables was only 10 when he committed his horrific crime.

I'd be interest in what others have to say about freeing Venables. For me, I am very against the idea that we keep folks in prison because, if let out, they might do something awful. You can't deny freedom because of something somebody might do. But I see no discrepancy between forgiving somebody, ever how difficult, and keeping them in prison for life for what they have done.

I would not have let Venables out. I'd like to hear from others on this question. I find it difficult to say this because of his age at the time of the crime. Perhaps you have to be pretty hard-nosed to think that a ten-year-old can knowingly do something this evil. The question is particularly relevant today because it appears that young Chelsea King, the seventeen-year-old California girl, who went missing and whose remains apparently have been found, may have been killed by somebody who was a registered sex offender. So here's my question: How do we reconcile the need to forgive with the need to protect society? Are we too hard? Too soft?

What should the life of somebody like Jon Venables, who has committed a horrific crime as a mere child, be like?    

 

 

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