The following article, Punishments That Fit the Crime, was first published on .
By Jeff Davidson
Did you hear the one about a young man who smashed dozens of mail boxes with a baseball bat from the passenger seat, as one of his friends motored down Lake Forest Drive in Chapel Hill, NC? Why did they stop? They either ran out of road, got bored, or hit a stretch where the boxes were out of reach of his baseball bat.
Unquestionably, this was a troubled young man swinging the bat and a troubled young man driving the car. As it turned out, this heavy hitter lived nearby, so he was smashing the mailboxes of his own neighbors.
Psychosis Runs Deep
One can only imagine how deeply disturbed this person must be. Is he any less psychotic than high school snipers who have plagued our country in recent years? Employing a several-thousand-pound vehicle for the methodical destruction of property is more than reckless, it’s criminal.
If the victims of these smash boxes were, say, away for the weekend, and perhaps had not retrieved their mail, only to find themselves with damaged packages, then the young man’s actions represent multiple federal offenses.
Was the baseball batting fiend some kind of loser at school or an outcast? Maybe he was shunned by others? Actually, no. He was a star on the high school lacrosse team. In the most recent game, he scored the winning goal. Until he learns to become a decent citizen, however, should he be on any team? To what colleges was he thinking of applying? What coach, does he think, wants to have such an individual on the team?
It is rumored that both the driver and baseball batter were high on something. The situation is not clear. If it turns out that he was chemically influenced, what do Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have to say about motoring down a town road specifically to destroy property?
Address the Situation Quickly
May we assume that this future felon’s latest lacrosse goal will be his last in high school? That seems appropriate. He needs to be cut from the team, have his driver’s license revoked, and, as part of the sentencing, be assigned to extensive community service, perhaps, something on the order of repairing mailboxes.
When such wanton destruction goes unpunished for too long, or the punishment does not fit the crime, it is a clear signal to others. If those who might be borderline criminals, especially earlier in their youth, learn that the consequences are not sufficiently severe it encourages them to act out their sordid fantasies.
If I were a high school teammate of this individual, I would distance myself from him. Even if we had been good friends, I would reason that other people I now could make good friends.
Alas, smashing boxes might not be his sole transgression. Fewer than 40% of murders are ever caught. Individuals who are nabbed for lesser crimes, such as the destruction of property, often have perpetrated numerous other crimes that were undetected.
Parents of such youths need to cooperate fully with law enforcement and school officials. To do less is to send terrible signals to their son. It is increasingly difficult to correct the errant behavior of anyone, youth or adult, who perceive themselves to be entitled.
Suppose someone is making noise in a movie theater and you cannot hear what’s being said on the screen. You ask them to please keep quiet, but today, such offenders will take offense – much greater than your offense from them having made the noise to begin with. It’s a strange situation.
Are we each supposed to simply remain silent and bear it? The reliance on huge, wall-mounted flat screens has had a crippling effect on the movie industry. The popularity of such screens belies the fact that fewer and fewer people actually want to go to a movie theater because of the abominable behavior of other theatergoers. The studios know this; the theater owners know this. They are at their wits’ end to mitigate the situation.
Not on This or Any Other Street
In any event, the young man who has dozens of smashed mailboxes on his record, whether he is still a juvenile or not, must understand to the nth degree that his behavior cannot be tolerated in a civil, law-abiding, and just society.
Jeff Davidson is “The Work-Life Balance Expert®” and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management.
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