Theodore Dalrymple, generally excellent, has a logical takedown of the judge’s reasoning in the sentencing of Lavinia Woodward. I assume most readers here have some knowledge of him, but will note in passing that he is a retired British psychiatrist who comments astutely on modern culture. As his practice was in prisons and a Birmingham city hospital, he is familiar with the dark underside of life. As illustration, one of his books is Life at the Bottom (recommended).
I think I can offer some insight into a possible motive behind the judge’s seemingly backward reasoning. But by way of introduction, it is related to an idea of Tom Wolfe’s, expressed in The Bonfire of the Vanities, and discussed by Steve Sailer a few years ago. All set with that? There is a dull sameness about the criminal justice system year upon year, and those stuck working in it try to find exceptions.
Judges fall prey to the same temptations. They spend their days sending poor and stupid people, sometimes of color, to prison. The judge wants someone to be merciful to, the DA wants someone to nail to the wall, but these opposite desires spring from the same soil.
The soul wants to rescue someone, the heart rebels against this being one’s life work. Years ago, I worked with sex offenders as sort of a sub-specialty and read widely on the subject. I don’t know how much of my information from twenty years ago is still valid. I did witness a change in how treatment and evaluation was organized, as the field went from people working individually with offenders to working as teams. It seemed natural for previous generations to do individual work with offenders, because the information was embarrassing and potentially damaging, so it took a long time for an offender to trust a therapist and speak honestly. If he (nearly always he, female offenders being treated differently) knew his information was being routinely shared with a half-dozen others he would clam up. But treating professionals observed an odd, yet in retrospect obvious thing. Everyone found someone to root for, to be fooled by, someone who they felt sure was an exception and would be fully rehabilitated. Only working as a team seemed to fix this, as there would be cautioning voices at the table who were not as convinced.
In such situations we desire greatly to find the one we can believe in, the one we can save. It seems part of our nature, and likely a good thing.
Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot.