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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Thursday, July 26, 2007

How offended is too offended?

Finally, here is definite evidence that jail is apparently meant to be one of the worst places on earth, behind Hell, a smoldering pile of tires at your local municipal dump, and possibly East St. Louis, on the top 10 list.

I'm kidding. I'm sure East St. Louis is a fine, fine representative of the Illinois experience.

Anyway, I will assume you visited the link above, at this point. If you didn't though, here's the rundown: An inmate in the Broward County (Florida) Jail was convicted yesterday of misdemeanor exposure of sexual organs and sentenced to 60 days in jail.

What does exposure of sexual organs mean? In this case, "handy" self love. If you need further explanation, you don't deserve to eat fresh food or look both ways before crossing the street.

Now, this guy was "no saint (ha ha, pun intended)." He is a violent weasel, who is already serving a 10-year sentence for an armed robbery conviction.

But a female deputy at the jail saw him on video surveillance loving himself in his cell, more than 100 feet away from where she sat in a control room.

She was offended by what she saw. She said other inmates are a little more private about their self love. So this inmate was charged. A jury convicted him on the premise that his jail cell is not a private enough place to make self love in the open an acceptable act. He now has two months more to serve, in addition to the 10-year robbery sentence.

I am all for punishment. I say they should have locked him up twice as long for the armed robbery. But prosecuting this sort of act almost seems mean. Or am I nuts for thinking so? I mean, better he loves himself than a cellmate, right?

Besides, jail cells are semi-public places, a standard the jury considered in convicting this guy. Having worked as a jail counselor in the past - in my pre-reporter days - I can assure you that what you see on TV of jail cell toilets is accurate. Any inmate who uses the can does so in a sort of public manner. It can't be helped. There are no doors. So their naughty bits are bound to show sometimes. If a deputy happens to look up at the security monitor and see an inmate taking it out to relieve himself, the deputy will still see it. So is seeing it worse when the inmate is enjoying it than when he's whipped it out to perform a chore? Inmates lose rights and privileges when they get locked up. They should. On the flip side of that, when you sign up for a job "watching" convicts behind bars, I'm thinking you might see a few things you wouldn't see while working in a cubicle in an office tower somewhere.

But seriously, at what level of offense do we draw the line? So a college kid gets arrested for disorderly conduct for picking a fight at a bar. He's in the drunk tank. He and another inmate start chatting. The kid swears like a sailor in his conversation. A religious deputy overhears him and is offended by the cursing. Will that deputy be able to issue additional charges for public profanity or even more disorderly conduct? You're sitting on the phone at a sidewalk cafe, describing to your best buddy your sexual prowess from an encounter the night before. It's certainly distasteful. But what if a passing police officer hears you and gets offended - can he arrest you and recommend you be charged for being disorderly?

I understand that jail is not supposed to be fun. But, funny and absurd as this incident might be, this conviction bothers me.

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  • How many different criminals really went bad because the punishment didn't fit the crime? Wasn't it Dillinger who got caught as a teenager and the Judge went overboard on a simple burglary. And Dillinger went nuts with a gun after that?

    I may have the wrong criminal, but fitting the punishment to the crime seems to be a responsibility that we demand of Judges.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 2:36 AM  

  • W S Gilbert wrote a song about fitting the punishment to the crime. Wonder what he'd have had to say about some of the judgements & sentences handed down/out these days?

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 6:50 AM  

  • Make the kid pay a fine for swearing if the swearing is out of context that is.

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 7:13 AM  

  • "So is seeing it worse when the inmate is enjoying it than when he's whipped it out to perform a chore?"

    I don't think 'seeing it' was the issue. That's just an occupational hazard. According to the article, "Alexander did not try to hide what he was doing as most prisoners do." Further, "Alexander was so blatant about it. Most inmates, she testified, do it in bed, under the blankets."

    It's the blatant, 'in your face' (sorry for the visual) nature of this incident that makes it a crime.

    Were your swearing college kid or prowess-boasting buddy to direct their offenses to others intentionally, then yes, that could be grounds for disciplinary measures.

    Charging inmates for 'enjoying themselves' is like charging theater-goers for yawning after a Harry Potter movie. Some things are just a given. But this was no accident.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 8:53 AM  

  • The law is supposed to be human. Sure, the deputy can have the prisoner charged but shouldn't the prosecutors have more sense?

    Maybe they took a look at the guy and made a decision we're just not privy to. I'd love to see them transfer that woman as a corrections officer at maxiumum-security prison.

    By Blogger M@, at 10:35 AM  

  • She should have just thrown feces at him. I believe that was the proper response.

    By Blogger M@, at 10:37 AM  

  • Ack - I actually feel a little sorry for the guy...BUT - the article does say: he "did not try to hide what he was doing as most prisoners do."

    So, perhaps there is more to this than what meets the eye? Lewd? Did he know She was watching? Maybe he put on a little show for her. We'd have to see the video surveillance to know for sure...and, I don't know if I would want to witness it.

    By Anonymous Karmyn R, at 10:39 AM  

  • I'm with Karmyn and the Sarcasticynic...

    By Blogger Claudia, at 12:01 PM  

  • This is quite the bullshit charge.

    The fact that the prisoners must expose themselves to go to the washroom negates any argument that the prosecution can put forward in this case.

    If he's not expected to cover up during the act of deification, a necessary bodily function, then masturbation, a necessary bodily function according to every psychologist I've ever talked to should be no different.

    You can't call the exposure a crime if he is forced to endure exposure when defecating.

    It's the equivalent of allowing pipe smoking but banning cigarette smoking because pipes are considered "distinguished"

    If the woman is offended she should not be working in that position.

    By Blogger Wavemancali, at 12:39 PM  

  • 'dissing Harry Potter. :-D

    Personally, I think this is as ridiculous as the military not allowing the troops access to porn. The woman works in a jail, for crying out loud. I'm sure she's seen - or will see - worse.

    This is a waste of taxpayer money.

    By Blogger SWF42, at 2:45 PM  

  • I think the proper response should have been to ignore the prisoner, especially if she suspected that he was doing it to um, make a point.

    Years ago, I worked in a respite care facility with intellectually shortchanged individuals. One young man was constantly bullied (and slapped!) by the other counselors for touching himself through his pants, not even brandishing anything, and I refused to do so because it was about the only part of that poor kid's body that worked right.

    I felt that slack should be cut there, and I think it also should in the case of prisoners who are already being punished for their more serious crimes.

    What's next, nose-picking?

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, at 3:34 PM  

  • I think that's kinda weird too. Where else is he supposed to love himself? Love and let love... you know - like live and let die?

    By Blogger Erica AP, at 4:00 PM  

  • "I'm kidding. I'm sure East St. Louis is a fine, fine representative of the Illinois experience."



    Good one.

    By Anonymous DJ Black Adam, at 4:21 PM  

  • What meets the eye is this deputy has filed charges against at least eight other inmates. What meets the eye is she clearly needs to be reassigned. What meets the eye is another black male got shafted. No pun know the rest.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:17 PM  

  • Oh and what meets the eye and pokes is this deputy filing charges like this costs taxpayers $21,000 a pop for this to go to trial. What meets the eye is this black guy just got a sexual charge on his record for masturbation...welcome to the world of black men gone wrong. Stay out of trouble and they won't hurt you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:19 PM  

  • Oh man, that's shocking. But looking at your fine country from the outside being ruined by fascists is a terrible thing to behold...

    By Blogger Danny Tagalog, at 9:11 PM  

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