Crime and punishment and zombies

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Frozen yogurt does not result, contrary to logic, when one puts yogurt in the freezer. A solid chunk of white ice results. It bears no resemblance to the delicious taste sensation that resides next to the fudgecicles in the grocery aisle.

This discovery is exciting—disappointing, yes, but exciting, and valuable to people everywhere who have way too much fresh yogurt sitting in their refrigerators. (Helpful hint: it unfreezes just fine.) But this is not the most exciting thing to happen in the past week. The most exciting thing to happen in the past week was my brush with the law.

The law came knocking at my door. Upon opening the door, I was reminded anew that manky old t-shirts and fluffy pink pajama bottoms, though comfortable, are not necessarily suitable for all occasions, especially if there is an interview with an officer of the law involved, and most especially if that officer of the law is really hot. (By sheer luck I had vacuumed and straightened recently.) My interview with the fire marshal and the police investigator thus got off to a smashing good start, with me abandoning my guests while I retreated to the bedroom to find clothes.

Though I did most of the talking, I was nonetheless able to form an impression of the two visitors. It was a favorable impression, and here is why: though Bubby was already napping on the couch, they did not disturb him, but contrived to sit on either side of him. (For those concerned about the suitability of the couch after Bubby’s interior design attempts, I’d like to note that there’s a new protective layer of cloth over the affected area).

The interview was a relief for me. I’d been wanting to talk to somebody in authority, not because I had much in the way of useful evidence, but because I wanted to share my thoughts about Bobby. Though I am of no use at all in determining how he dunnit, I’ve got some darn good insights into why he dunnit. Besides, he’s the subject of a serious criminal investigation; the people investigating him need to understand the entire person, not just the crime he committed.

Allegedly committed, I mean. There’s been no trial yet. I am at a disadvantage because I do not watch crime shows, and it’s been fifteen years since high school civics, but I do read a fair number of police procedurals and murder mysteries, so I have a grasp of the fundamentals of criminal law, i.e., everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I also have a law school friend, Ianaly, who is keeping me informed about some of the less obvious aspects of the law, though I’m not sure whether I should be grateful or whether I should block his email address. (Just kidding, Ianaly.) What he is teaching me about the system is not very pretty. I could try to paraphrase, but instead I’ll quote him ver batim. Don’t worry, I got his permission first:

Law enforcement’s job (and outlook) is to arrest everybody – everyone is a perp. They have to think like that – if they don’t, they get killed. The courts are supposed to sort them all out. The Public Defenders are supposed to make sure that even if the guy did the crime, the punishment is fair – and reflect to some extent services the defendant needs to become a productive member of society. The truth of it is, the whole system is so overwhelmed (mostly by the race-based crack v/ powder cocaine sentencing controversy, and heavy prosecution for small drug quantities) that everyone involved is just trying to process all those arrested. The truth of it is, if you go to jail once for a felony then you’ll always be a second class citizen. Forget having a normal life, living in normal places, having a normal job (or anything much above menial labor). Your only choices, once part of the system, is to become part of the system – which is why inmates in jail basically spend their time making contacts to become better criminals once they get out – not the other way around. The parole system is a joke. Can’t find a job? Back to jail.

Depressing, isn’t it?

What’s really, really depressing is to realize that all these folks are people. Some of them are bad people, guilty as sin, utterly deserving of their punishments—but they are still people, individuals who made bad choices. I’ve made bad choices before, too. Haven’t you? Mine didn’t ruin my life—but maybe I was just lucky. I’m not in a position to judge whether the people behind bars truly deserve to be there, but I am in a position to feel for them, regardless of the reasons why.

It may be ambitious for me to aspire to singlehandedly rescue all these people from their wretched existences, but I am pleased to report that at least one of them is not an entirely lost cause. Last night I received a letter from Bobby, the first contact I’ve had with him since the explosion exactly one month ago. There was not a hell of a lot in the letter—communication was never his forte—but he seems to be doing as well as can be expected.

Whenever I get to thinking about crime and punishment and justice—which is fairly often these days, go figure—I start fantasizing about switching careers into law enforcement. Just being interviewed by the police made me feel like I was helping in some small way. (It was also thrilling. Quite serious, but thrilling. I felt like I was in a suspense novel.) In my fantasies I don’t really see myself as a cop—though really, how cool would that be?—but rather I envision myself working with convicts, laboring toward rehabilitation with the wretched of the earth, the despised and despicable. In these daydreams I am a counselor or a psychologist, or sometimes a nun. (I can do as I please in my fantasies, thank you very much.)

Or maybe I should just work in a prison library. Booktalks would be a guaranteed success. I’d have a captive audience.

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8 responses »

  1. From Matthew 25:Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for … I was in prison and you visited me."Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, … when was it that we saw you … in prison and visited you?" And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."

    Reply
  2. "Or maybe I should just work in a prison library." That’s what I was thinking as I read up to that point, haha!

    Reply
  3. the lesbrarian

    Brian,Hey, thanks. That makes me feel… well, "Christ-like" is too strong, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something that has the Jesus stamp of approval. It also gives me some courage: I’m planning to visit Bobby next week. I’ve never been to a prison before. I’m nervous.

    Reply
  4. You could be a parole officer. That’s pretty much what you are describing. I have a female friend that is one, if you’d like an intro.

    Reply
  5. the lesbrarian

    Ianaly: I went to bls.gov and discovered that I would need a bachelor’s degree is counseling, psychology, or some related field. That rules me out, unless I want to go and get another bachelor’s degree– and let me be honest here, I just do not want to take Bio 101 again.

    Reply
  6. Hi!!!Good luck on your visit to see him-lots of zen thoughts being sent your way; I am sure it will not be as scary as you are thinking. I just wanted to let you know I was reading, and thinking of you, even though I wasn’t sure of an eloquent way to put it. Take care and huge hugs to you.

    Reply
  7. Best frozen yogurt recipe ever:1 6oz carton of plain Greek yogurt1/2 c. sliced strawberries1-2 TBSP honey (to taste)Blend all ingredients. Freeze for about four hours. If overfrozen, you can microwave for 20 seconds or transfer to frig for a couple of hours.

    Reply
  8. the lesbrarian

    Hey Michelle, good to hear from you–and Kelly: it so happens that I have strawberries in the fridge. I also have non-Greek yogurt, and some sweeteners, though no honey, but I bet I could cobble something together. Hmm.

    Reply

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