Friday wrote:We talked about it a bit in #ff, when someone mentioned it didn't seem like it's enough.
I personally have always held that anything past 25 years is wrong, unless you think they're a totally irredeemable threat to society, in which case you just give them Life so they can't hurt anyone else ever again.
It's a complicated question and involves a lot of implicit assumptions. Questions like what the point of prison and, indeed, criminal justice is, and whether we're evaluating guys like Chauvin in comparison to some idealized scenario, or in comparison to other criminals within the context of the system we've got.
So the question is, do you think Derek Chauvin is a totally irredeemable threat to society? All answers valid.
Everybody loves a good redemption story, and I'm no exception, but the older I get the more I see "redemption" as just that: a storytelling device. I'm not sure such a thing exists in real life.
There's no cosmic scale. Good deeds don't balance out the bad. If you murder somebody, but also save somebody from being murdered, those two things don't cancel each other out. You did both.
So is Chauvin irredeemable? Yeah. Yeah, I think he is. He kneeled on a man's neck until he died. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this li'l hand.
The best he can ever do is try to be better. I do
believe that even the worst criminals are capable of that (or at least that we should behave as if they are). But so far Chauvin hasn't shown any interest in it. He hasn't shown any remorse or contrition. Now he's talking about how he has secret evidence that will clear his name. I think that behavior is part of the story, part of what people think about when they ask whether or not a given sentence is just.
As for whether or not he'll always be a threat? We can't know that for sure, but there are a few factors we can consider. Not allowing him to carry a gun is a good start. And assuming he serves out his full sentence (so far -- keep in mind there are still federal charges to come), he'll be 67 when he gets out. Statistically, people that age don't commit murders. Is his sentence long enough that by the time he gets out, he won't be a threat anymore? Yeah, probably.
As for deterrence? Nah. It's important for Chauvin to face accountability for his crimes, but we're still a long
fucking way from police officers thinking twice before they murder Black men. If it's a question of whether this will be a lesson to other LEOs? If they take a lesson away from this, it's gonna be "make sure nobody's recording." And probably not even that.
If the question is how does his sentence stack up against other criminals'? He's not getting the max, he's not getting what the prosecutors asked for, but he's getting more than the recommended sentencing guideline, and the judge made it clear that the egregious nature of the crime played into that decision. Evaluated within the context of what other criminals get for the same offense, I think Chauvin's sentence is probably a reasonable one -- he got more than somebody else would have, and what he did and what his job description is both played into that decision.
If the question is what purpose do prisons even serve -- woof. Prisons are like the police; I'm convinced at this point that the only way they can be reformed effectively is to tear them down entirely and start over. Any questions about whether anybody
should be in prison carry a pretty heavy set of implications and caveats. I do
think we need a place we can put violent criminals that will prevent them from doing more harm, and prisons are what we've got. So yes, given that set of parameters, Chauvin belongs in prison. But the prison system we've got is not remotely the one we should
And, of course, on top of all that, we're domesticated plains apes and we've got a powerful instinct toward tit-for-tat. Derek Chauvin murdered a man. It's hard to see any
sentence as commensurate with that crime. But I think that, while that's a perfectly understandable way to think, it's a wrong one, and indeed its one whose logical conclusion empowers the very system of oppression that Chauvin represents. When people start pushing for harsher sentences, that usually doesn't end up hurting people like Derek Chauvin. It usually ends up hurting people like George Floyd.
So, all those things taken together? Looking at this particular crime, at this particular moment, in this particular system? I think that the sentence is reasonable. It's probably going to prevent Chauvin from hurting anybody else (in the sense of direct physical violence).
But that's also cold fucking comfort. George Floyd is still dead. And so are Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and so many others. And there are going to be more. The real question isn't whether Chauvin is an irredeemable threat to society. It's whether the police are. And the question is rhetorical.