Christopher Hubbart

I woke up to some disturbing news this morning. This story: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-27553652 is a report about a Californian man found guilty of raping at least 40 women (and suspected of many more) between 1971 and 1982. He is soon to be released from prison to live in a remote area in California, and as is to be expected, people in this community and the wider area are extremely angry about it. This happens every time a notorious or well-known criminal is released from prison. No-one wants an ex-con living in their community. As much as this attitude is troubling, it’s an absolute inevitability; people don’t want people who have committed awful crimes to be living near people they care about. But when senior political figures like Los Angeles County District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, are allowed to make comments like this in response to the case, without any kind of critical dialogue (because no-one wants to be seen saying something that could be interpreted as defending a rapist), the ramifications are massive and extremely troubling. Here is an excerpt from the BBC article:

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey spent months fighting the decision to release him to live in her county.

“I am extremely disappointed with the court’s decision,” she said. “Now we are preparing for his arrival.

“We will do everything within our authority to protect the residents of Los Angeles County from this dangerous predator.”

 

Now when normal, everyday people are angry about an ex-rapist moving into their community, it is understandable because they are reacting with their hearts, from places of fear and doubt. But when you have influential and powerful people making statements like the ones here, people you expect to be able to think rationally, with their heads, and produce a reaction that is not guided solely by emotion, they should be met with some kind of criticism. Because what are the logical conclusions of what this district attorney is saying? 

1. That some criminals (or perhaps the majority of criminals, or perhaps even all criminals, or perhaps criminals guilty of certain crimes) are incapable of rehabilitation. 

2. That the district attorney is fundamentally distrustful or downright disbelieving of the judge and the parole board’s abilities to decide who and when it is warranted, justified, and safe to release people from prison.

3. That the justice system is fundamentally broken, as a result of the first two conclusions. 

4. That some criminals should be destined to live out the rest of their lives in jail (or indeed, as the death penalty is still legal in America, that they should be put to death). 

There is another possible conclusion to what Jackie Lacey is saying: 

– That rehabilitation of criminals is possible, she just doesn’t want ex-cons living in this area.

In which case, where should they live? Let’s not forget that the availability of places to re-situate this man is already fairly limited, as the conditions of his release dictates:

Christopher Evans Hubbart, who police believe may have had as many as 100 victims, will rent a small house in a rural area near the city of Palmdale… Doctors there recently concluded he was fit for release, but few options were available – in California, sex offenders must not live within 2,000 feet (600 metres) of schools and other places where children congregate.

 

If this is the case, then it would seem Jackie Lacey agrees that criminals can be rehabilitated and released back into society, she is just not willing to take any part in it. I mean let’s be honest here, what is more likely to make someone’s mental state unstable and thus possibly recidivate? Active ostracisation of him in the community and great efforts to let him know he’s unwelcome? Or an approach which acknowledges the inevitably (and necessary) thorough conditions and restrictions of his parole, and allows him to readjust to normal life? 

This is an incredibly emotive and troubling issue. The nimbyism is hard to avoid for anyone, even for me, whilst I am seeking to defend his release (or at the very least, the idea that serious criminals can be rehabilitated and released back into the wider community, which is what Jackie Lacey and the residents of this Los Angeles community seem to be arguing with). But there comes a point where you have to say, if it’s ok for something to be reintroduced to another area, it should be ok for it to be reintroduced into my area.

 

 

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