“Fear mongering newspaper article may lead to social injustice.”

Now that is a headline worthy of a front page article. In contrast, your front page lead article about Tyler Miller (“Sex offender no longer under watch,” News-Times, Feb. 19 issue) was not. In fact, it can be viewed as social injustice.

Apparently, you feel our justice system is grossly inadequate in providing punitive justice against Mr. Miller. So much so that, even though he has already served his time (the time that a highly qualified, experienced judge believed was appropriate for him to serve in prison), you now feel it necessary after his release to extend his sentence further by posting an unflattering photo of him on the front page of your newspaper and stirring up fear in the community by bringing this matter up again.

This article does nothing more than stir up unwarranted fear. In doing so, it hinders the social justice responsibility our community has to restore this individual to an accepted and productive position among us.

It must be a heavy and lonely burden for you, the press, to have so much more insight than a judge about what an appropriate sentence is.

It may be far-fetched and somewhat naive for me to think that someday, in America, the press would be more outraged over abuses of power such as this article than it would be about one person’s unlikely threat of abusing again.

We have made sex offenders into modern-day lepers and outcasts. I mostly blame the press for this.

It is time we choose courage instead of fear and change our thinking. We fear sex offenders irrationally over other types of offenders for our own lack of understanding. They become hideous monsters who deserve the worst kind of existence rather than human beings who can be restored and become positive contributors to society. (We can be proud Oregon has one of the best track records for this.)

It is the self-righteous side of human nature that feels compelled to elevate ourselves above others, to put people down and sometimes pick up stones.

No matter how bad our own hearts become, there’s always the sex offender to point at to make us feel less guilty about our own inadequacies.

Even in a free society like ours, which claims “justice” to be a key value, we aren’t performing any better than societies 2,000 years ago. You can almost hear “Unclean! Unclean!” being yelled in the streets. In today’s language, it’s “Hide your wife! Hide your kids!” In God’s eyes, we are not any better than those we are throwing stones at.

Social justice doesn’t stop when prison doors open. It cannot.

In America, we outsource responsibility for the punitive aspect of justice to our government. It isn’t a perfect system, but it is better than local lynch mobs. Only “we the people” can provide the restorative aspect of justice.

Without both, punitive and restorative, justice is incomplete. It is our responsibility as a community to restore once the time is done. When those among us re-enter our communities after an offense, it is our civil and moral responsibility to restore them, aggressively.

Restoration means more than no further judgment. It means providing what is necessary for offenders to get to where they need to be. It means restoration of hope, trust and worth.

It does not mean to put a bottle in the hand of an alcoholic and put them behind the wheel of a car. It means loving offenders and victims back to health intelligently. Not throwing them away in fear.

Not only is it our moral responsibility to restore them, but it also makes sense economically. It makes no sense to let irrational fear, perpetuated by irresponsible journalism, add cost to the taxpayer when released convicts cannot find work, housing or supportive communities.

We work against the justice system at that point by increasing the likelihood of someone re-offending by making life on the outside too challenging.

It would be cool someday to see a front page article that read: “Convicted sex offender finds acceptance in community.” Or “Community rallies around sex offender in supportive partnership to make community a safer place.”

I think that would serve true justice, and would be worthy of a newspaper’s front page.

Phil Clark lives in Forest Grove.

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine