President Obama praises Michael Vick

And I love it.

NBC’s Peter King reports that Barack Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie earlier this week to congratulate him for giving Vick a second chance after his release from prison. According to King, the president said that released prisoners rarely receive a level playing field and that Vick’s story could begin to change that.

The reason I like this so much isn’t that I’m a big fan of Michael Vick as a player – though I am – and it isn’t that I’m a big fan of the Eagles – I’m definitely not; every team that has ever been anywhere near Pennsylvania, and especially those in Philly, can go to hell. It’s that people are irrationally harsh towards released convicts. We have this whole system set up where we say, “Okay, you did these wrong things, so we need to fix the situation”, and the way we fix things is to come up with sentences of certain periods. If anyone thought for a damn minute about what we’re doing, they would realize that by agreeing to the very idea of releasing people after certain periods of time, we’re saying, “Okay, we can call the situation fixed after X days/weeks/months/years.” We may not considere it entirely fixed (hence probation), but we are, as an obvious matter of fact, considering the bulk of the situation resolved. But emotion gets in the way.

From sports shows to articles to conversations, I have heard people say again and again that Vick ought to be banned from ever playing in the NFL again. All that does is ignore everything we’re saying as a society about the very idea of prison sentences that result in release. He has served his time. Even though prison should not be about punishment (because that’s plainly petty), the pro-revenge/punishment crowd ought to be satisfied by the fact that Vick has completed his sentence. More so, for reasonable people (who aren’t usually American), the fact that Vick’s time in prison has made it virtually certain he will never again abuse animals ought to be satisfying. In this case, we can say he went to a correction facility – and we’ll be honest when we say it.

So I am very happy to read the President’s words on Vick. If we’re just out to make the lives of people terrible because they did a terrible thing, we’re just hypocrites. And more importantly, we aren’t improving anything. I would think with such a large Christian population that we might do a little more turning of the cheek. (Unless people are just picking and choosing their morality from their religion…) I cannot say I am overly hopeful that Obama’s praise of Vick is going to radically change things for the better, but it is a step in the right direction.

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13 Responses

  1. Punishment has to be a consideration. You can’t discount punishment and say that “rehabilitation” should be the only option. Its too nebulous a term.

    Certainly with some crimes rehabilitation needs to be a bigger part of the program, but there are many many things where punishment must be a part.

    Rehabilitation insinuates that there is something that can be corrected. Bernie Madoff doesn’t need ‘rehabilitation’ he needs punishing. A guy who shoots his wife after finding her with the ‘milkman’ doesn’t need rehabilitating, he, also, needs punishing. There is nothing to correct there.

    Likewise Vick didn’t require rehabilitation. He required punishing. You are right, he has been punished and now he should be good to go.

    Saying that rehabilitation can solve our problems better than punishment assumes that there wasn’t a cost benefit type of thought process going on before the commission of the crime.

    “is _____ worth the risk of getting 10 years in prison…. Yes”

    Most people that commit crimes knew they were doing wrong when they did it. If they didn’t they are not culpable and thus not guilty.

    I welcome a day when we have a steady supply of gravel made by prisoners making bigger rocks into smaller ones.

  2. It serves society no purpose to punish for the sake of punishing. Madoff needs to be in prison so that others will not try the same scam. An enraged husbands need time in prison because he is unstable and a threat to others. Neither one should be in prison because we want to get back at them.

    If punishment is what best results in rehabilitation – the state of being very unlikely to ever do the same crime again – then so be it. But that should not be the point.

  3. If others wouldn’t try it, which they will, than you would have him released?

    Enraged husbands that kill their wives after catching them with the milk man are not very likely to do it again.

    Punishment serves as a deterrent to some. To the ones for which it is not a deterrent, it serves as a further deterrent as it shows society will follow through.

    Punishment has to be there. So does rehabilitation, but concurrent and subsequent to paying the cost of breaking the law.

  4. Well in a sane society some rehabilitation would always be partial. For example, Michael Vick could work as a shoeshine man or at a carwash.

  5. Do they still have the people that do shoe shining?

  6. If others wouldn’t try it, which they will, than you would have him released?

    For Madoff? Of course. Assuming we could know he would never do an illegal thing again, and that no one else would bilk people out of billions like he did, then what purpose does it serve to keep him in prison?

    Enraged husbands that kill their wives after catching them with the milk man are not very likely to do it again.

    It shows a lack of stability. Let the guy know what prison is like and maybe he thinks twice before he lets his emotions fly.

    Punishment serves as a deterrent to some. To the ones for which it is not a deterrent, it serves as a further deterrent as it shows society will follow through.

    Using the milkman killer to deter others from killing the people with whom their spouses cheat is entirely valid, of course. Putting the killer in prison serves a purpose for that reason.

    Do they still have the people that do shoe shining?

    Do we still have milkmen?

  7. I’m not sure about the milkmen thing, but I think so. Now that I’ve been thinking about the shoeshine thing I think the last time I flew back from Fort Benning they had them in the airport.

    That said I was searching for the airport bar, so my attentions were focused elsewhere.

  8. Seriously, if he were a child molester or murdered his wife would you be talking about a second chance? No. Truth is you just think it really isn’t that bad. And what you don’t realize is that the rest of us can read between the lines, and every time an idiot like you defends him and his second chance we realize that you are just another sicko who understands souless assholes who would kill and toruture animals.

  9. Good analysis. I surely support animal abuse.

  10. I think that probably your misconception is the belief that “by agreeing to the very idea of releasing people after certain periods of time, we’re saying, “Okay, we can call the situation fixed after X days/weeks/months/years.”

    We’re not, as a society, saying anyting of the sort – at least no one I know is, and I don’t see any logical derivation in your post, or anywhere in law, that that is the case.

    We put people in jail for a number of reasons.

    1. To deter future like crimes (for both the person jailed and others who may consider those crimes)
    2. To keep people off the street from committing more crimes
    3. To rehabilitate

    People who support the use of jails (not used in most cultures throughout history) support their use for some or all of the above reasons. #3, rehabilitation, was fairly popular in the 60s and 70s, but has in fact now been largely debunked as effective.

    What is effective are deterrents (moderately) and keeping people off the street (much more so). It is especially effective when anti-social males in their teens and 20s are kept off the street, because by simple hormonal and social changes over those years, the risk of recidivism is likely to go down when they are released.

    In Vick’s case he had a low capacity for empathy, and that is very unlikely to change at his age, and certainly not likely to be rehabilitated in jail. If you think there are a substantial number of people out there who believe that he was rehabilitated, or that that was the goal, you have an even lower estimation of the public’s intelligence than I do – and believe me, my estimate is low. Nor does a person “do his time” in any way that provides compensation to society or to the wronged (in this case, dead animals).

    For most people, Vick was thrown in jail because you had to do something, and we weren’t allowed to do the kind of things to him that most of us would like. He was let out because a) many people don’t think what he did was that bad, and b) people aren’t willing to pay the taxes required to keep people in jail any longer than that.

    So from most of our perspectives, both those of us who think animal torture bad and those who don’t, Vick is not rehabilitated and didn’t “serve his due time” – he just got what we could give him in an imperfect world.

    I start with the assumption that well read people know rehabilitation in jail is unlikely (especially over short periods) and that capacity for empathy rarely changes. Based on that I generally assume anyone who supports Vick doesn’t have a strong objection to his actions. If you were unaware of the ineffectiveness and unlikeliness of rehabilitation in this case, and also unaware that that’s not the prime purpose of jails, then I may have misunderstood your feelings on animal torture.

  11. Most cultures would cut your hands off for stealing. Certainly effective, and it removes the need for jails.

    The way Michael would structure things seems to be no price except promising never ever to be bad again. :)

    My sister is on a ‘no punishment’ binge with her child, and let me tell you how well that works…. It doesn’t. She has learned to scream louder though.

  12. […] credit for inspiring this post goes to Michael Hawkins over at For the Sake of Science, a blog with much better writing than what I can muster. While we […]

  13. Turning the other cheek doesn’t mean one should ignore the pleas and suffering of others. Turning the other cheek should be applied only when the matter concerns yourself as the victim.

    Just like sacrifice. There is no sacrifice in the torture and mutilation of others (even animals – the most sacrifice). If anything, sacrifice comes from adjusting ones own life, not others.

    Really, be wise as a serpent, but harmless as a dove.

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