© Waldo Tomosky 8/22/19
Thank God; my title for this essay has caught your attention.
I am not sure where we will end up on these subjects – but – it is another journey that begins with the first step. I say — here – that many journeys never occur due to that mentally painful first step. I also say – here – that this particular first step may also offend close friends.
That is a risk that I am willing to take in order to get this necessary dialogue in motion.
Because I think the subject is overdue. Let us take the first and last items of the title into consideration; Recidivism and Compound Interest. Individually they do not appear to excite the imagination, and, they surely are not controversial. Yet together, their contexts appear to collide with each other.
Compound interest has a positive meaning; however, recidivism has a negative connotation. Therefore, it is difficult to think of both contexts simultaneously without becoming a bit conflicted. To eliminate this conflict let us look at examples individually.
Compound interest is the building of capital, or in some cases debt, that takes into its calculations the amount of interest previously earned on the initial investment. For example, Joe invested $1,000 knowing that he would earn 6% on this investment. At the end of the first year Joe had his initial investment of $1,000 plus the $60 he had earned as interest. Joe decided to leave both the initial investment and the interest in the same account earning the usual 6% interest. At the end of year two Joe had the $1,060 plus $63.60 interest earned on that amount;$1,123,60. Following the same pattern for year three Joe had $1,191.01, year four $1,26247, year five $1,338.22, etc. until year ten where he had $1,790. That is the concept; Joe’s earned interest has earned even more interest; therefore the term ‘compound interest’
How does that compare to recidivism? Let us first look at the official definition of recidivism.
It considers a person’s relapse into criminal behavior; like rate of monetary return, there is the concept of rate of return to criminal behavior. Recidivism, by definition, can only occur after a person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime. Recidivism is measured by criminal acts that resulted in re-arrest, reconviction or return to prison during a specified period following the prisoner’s release. The recidivism typically compounds the amount of time a person spends in prison; on each consecutive re-arrest.
However, criminal behavior is not the only characteristic considered as recidivism. Other types of behavior are also measured in terms of recidivism. Some example behaviors are returning to smoking, alcohol, drugs, obesity and family abuse. Why do I say “returning?” Like criminal recidivism, these negative social/cultural behaviors require that the person exhibiting such behavior must have been in some type of program that offered education on the damage they had done to themselves or others. Therefore, to be considered a recidivist the individual has been given the tools to understand why his behavior has a negative social/cultural impact on others.
When considering ‘social justice’ as opposed to ‘criminal justice’ there are minimal facts or figures except for those common negative behaviors which can be measured by science. Tobacco recidivism and alcohol recidivism are two examples where recidivism has clearly been measured by the health sciences.
On the other hand, I have not observed any data where those — who have received ‘social justice’ — have been measured for rates of recidivism. In fact, ‘social justice’ has a positive connotation so the concept of ‘social justice’ – like monetary interest — once again clashes with the concept of recidivism.
Therefore, I ask; “Should we consider a concept of recidivism for those who we help through ‘social justice?’”.
This is not a difficult question to ask. It is only a difficult question to answer.
Should a church, synagogue or mosque help those who do not help themselves? Of course, the answer is “YES.” Especially for those who suddenly find themselves in dire straits; whether their own fault or not. But the next step is more difficult to address. How do we contemplate the person who has asked his religious organization for financial help and then squandered the opportunity by once again finding himself in dire financial straits? Of course, there may be mitigating factors such as a sick child, widowhood, sudden family break-up/divorce or a psychological problem. These factors will help us reach the correct answer of “is this person a recidivist or not?”.
Do we consider our child a recidivist when we tell him not to stick his hand in the cookie jar? Of course not. We consider him incapable of understanding the message. Therefor the infirm or incapable are not considered as recidivists and multiple opportunities should be conceded. In fact, the thought of considering recidivism as a clinical term when viewing our own child’s actions is repulsive. The thought of considering the acts of a criminal is hardly so.
Once again, I clarify; the individual must have accepted some act of ‘social justice’ to assist him in pursuing a new path in order to live a normal, productive life; otherwise he is not a recidivist.
This brings us to the crux of the problem.
How should we consider those who have been given some sort of ‘social justice’ – as opposed to ‘criminal justice’ – and yet continue to repeat the same actions? More difficult yet; “How do we – or should we – measure rates of recidivism in those cases where we have given the ‘actor’ an opportunity to correct his behavior?
I must agree, my concept of ‘measurement’ may be too strong. Should we measure petty faults if the offender has been counseled by his priest, rabbi or imam? NO! I think not. However, if I had said “Should we judge him?”, then a chorus would have said something like “Judge not, lest you be judged.” On the other hand, how does one consider the path to take if he is faced with a deceitful car dealer, lawyer, real-estate agent or parishioner? We use past experiences; which is why the deity has given us a memory. We have been given the opportunity to spot future trends/traps based on past experiences.
Disregarding the possibility of the reader thinking that I am ‘whipping a dead horse’ – I continue.
Our current culture appears to look the other way when we know someone is lying, cheating or otherwise offending moral norms. Some of the philosophers in our universities tell us that there are no such things as ‘norms’ when it comes to personal choice. They tell us there is no such thing as ‘free will’; “You have all been programmed by — your parents – your church – your schools – your employers.” If that is really the case, then there are no such things as our ‘own acts’ for which we are responsible. Therefore, there can be no concept as recidivism; criminal or moral.
If that is true, then this entire effort of mine is a waste of time. Likewise, if that is true, there is no sense in considering my life; alive, dead, criminality or morality.
So, should I stick my head in the oven and turn on the gas?
Likewise, should we stick our collective head in the sand and not consider recidivism when handing out social justice?
I say “No.”
However, in the current politically charged atmosphere where free speech is being trampled on by political correctness – or its opposite – rampant nationalism – I opine that we are not free to consider – or measure – recidivism when it comes to those who have squandered social justice.
Allow me to be quick to add – for those who wish to label me as a racist, xenophile, homophobe, or one who has no use for the downtrodden — I strongly object.
This essay is the result of a good and special friend who explained to me what ‘social justice’ means – and – how important it is to put great and endless effort into continuing the fight for social justice. I deeply appreciate that friend’s insight and consider myself the recipient of a lesson on the subject – and will not be a recidivist that scoffs at ‘social justice.’
On the other hand, we cannot continue blindly applying social justice when we may be squandering resources that are best used elsewhere for other social efforts. Should we, for example, continue giving financial aid to the person who squanders it when we could be using it to support the family of a sick child?
I believe that we should consider the ‘social justice recidivist’ with our eyes wide open.