Justice as Naturalization

17 Aug 2012

Mike Danton for Gong Show Gear:

Burning wood flaking apart and turning into hot, scolding coals. I find myself adding wood every thirty minutes or so to feed my addiction for smores. I have less than four weeks before I head to the UK for my second professional season since being released from prison. I have not been this excited for a hockey season since my year in St. Louis.

Mike’s history as a professional hockey player is complicated and involves an estranged and abusive father, an agent accused of child molestation, and a drug-inspired attempt kill one of them with a hitman met through a friend of a friend. He pleaded guilty to the crime, spent time in prison for it, and was paroled due to his complete rehabilitation — which involved taking correspondence university courses towards a degree, getting his first aid certification, and a considerable amount of therapy. He went to prison as an incredibly sick young man that was desperately in need of help, but had neither the family nor the friends to see his pain; with his jail time he made use of the opportunity to get a formal education, to develop into an adult, and to better himself as both a citizen and a human bring.

This is the ideal form of justice. The purpose should not be to prevent criminals from reoffending, instead it should be a process by which they are transformed into people who would not want to break the law, into people that would view themselves as incapable of breaking the law. It should be designed to build character, to establish maturity, and to naturalize those who fallen out of society.1 I grant that prison as punishment serves as somewhat of a deterrence, but such a system does not acknowledge the unique position of incarceration to influence some of the most in need members of our society.

I do not know whether Mike has the skills required to be an NHL-caliber player in the current league, but I think that his barrier to entry should be based on that question alone and not a criminal action that was committed by an incredibly different individual. The justice system has already worked and it is harmful to continue punishing him despite his ability to change — harmful to him, harmful to us, and harmful to the fabric of our civilized society. He has proved himself worthy enough to return to our community, now we should see if he can prove himself worthy to return to hockey. He should have the opportunity and it should be possible and we, as a society, should not stand in the way.

(Via Puck Daddy)

  1. While naturalization is generally thought of as the admittance of foreigners into citizenship, I tend to think of it as the transformation of foreigners into citizens. In this sense, it seems fitting to use immigration terminology when speaking of the justice system — as long as one views criminals as individuals who have broken themselves against the law, as opposed to individuals who have broken a law. In this way, criminals have stopped being citizens, have broken the social contract when they are found guilty. This imagining has difficulties of its own particularly when it comes to the rights and freedoms, so it needs to be further thought through. Consider: arguments such as this have been used heavily in recent years to detain suspected terrorists, commit warrantless surveillance, and kill enemy combatants.