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March 14, 2012

"What’s In a Name? A Lot, When the Name is 'Felon'"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new commentary by Margaret Colgate Love now up at The Crime Report.  Here are excerpts from a piece which merits a full read:

“Felon” is an ugly label that confirms the debased status that accompanies conviction.  It identifies a person as belonging to a class outside many protections of the law, someone who can be freely discriminated against, someone who exists at the margins of society.

In short, a “felon” is a legal outlaw and social outcast.  But the word “felon” does more work than that.  It arouses fear and loathing in most of us.  I confess that it arouses those visceral feelings in me.  I do not want to live or work around felons.  I do not want to socialize with them....

I make a living representing people who have been convicted of a crime.  They are, for the most part, very interesting and thoughtful people who have a great deal to offer society. In many cases, it is precisely their experience in the criminal justice system that has made them this way.

So it is hard for me to think of my clients as “felons.”  And yet that is the label they must bear, in the workplace, in their communities, and in society at large.  It is an unhelpful label and in many cases it is deeply unfair.  My clients come to me because they hate the label, because they want it removed, because they think they don’t deserve it.  And they are right.  They are all right.

In the Middle Ages, and even in the early days of our own Republic, felony convictions were hanging affairs, and civil death statutes simply anticipated the impending corporal end.  After the Civil War, felonies expanded to include many minor property crimes (Mississippi’s infamous “pig law” is illustrative), and prosecution became a convenient way of disenfranchising and re-enslaving the recently-freed black population.

In the late 20th century, the war on crime made conviction an industry, and reinforced status as punishment.  These days, you don’t have to do anything particularly evil to be condemned to what sentencing scholar Nora Demleitner has called “internal exile.”  The “felon” label now applies to more than 20 million Americans.

A journalist friend at the John Jay conference pointed out that “felon” is convenient shorthand, helpful for headlines, certainly evocative. How could I argue?  But labeling people as “felons” is also fundamentally at war with efforts to reduce the number of people in prison, to facilitate reentry, and to encourage those who have committed a crime, or even many crimes, to become law-abiding and productive citizens....

Skilled writers can find ways to avoid using words that are toxic.  Even headline writers can be weaned from them.  Journalists play a key role in advancing the cause of social justice, and they do it through the language they use.  It is time to junk the label “felon” and restock our language toolkit.

March 14, 2012 at 07:14 PM | Permalink


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OK, we can airbrush the word "felon." Fine with me.

What's going to replace it? "Mr. Nicey?"

If we are to have truthful replacements, here are a few: Bank robber, swindler, meth dealer, human trafficker, rapist, cheater, strongarm, thug.

Now is that better?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 14, 2012 8:17:58 PM

Given that I've read that even small thefts($10 or $20) could easily be hanging offenses during the colonial and early period after the Constitution was ratified I have a hard time seeing that there has been all that much expansion in the seriousness of the offense that carries the label felon, some perhaps but no massive shift. I would much rather return to to presumptive death sentences for most offenses than give most current felons a clean break with their past.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 14, 2012 8:31:27 PM

Bill, do I remember correctly that you live in North Carolina? In my opinion, the felony/misdemeanor distinction in North Carolina, following the enactment of Structured Sentencing in 1994, is outmoded and irrational. There are felonies for which a person cannot receive a single day in jail, like any class I offense with no prior record. There are misdemeanors for which a person can receive two years in prison, like level one DWI. There are felonies like "Littering in excess of Five Hundred Pounds" and misdemeanors like Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Going Armed to the Terror of the People.

When I started in the early seventies a felony was a crime for which the def could receive two or more years in the state penitentiary. Misdemeanors were defined as offenses which carried less than two years and were served in the county jail.

Like so much the legislature does, the politicians in Raleigh didn't have the gumption to eliminate the terms felony and misdemeanors when it enacted grid sentencing. My experience is that politicians never take something off the table when they add something new to the table.

So, my point is that the terms "felon" and "misdemeanant" are meaningless in North Carolina.


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Mar 14, 2012 10:12:53 PM

It was very interesting
I am Fatemeh Ghanbari
Attorney and university professor
Of Iran

Posted by: fatemeh ghanbari | Mar 14, 2012 10:41:38 PM

While Bill Otis and soronel have their valid points for career or violent felons, the plain fact is this country DID treat one-time ex-felons with respect if they toed the line and became law-abiding citizens for decades. The iconic scene from a James Cagney(?) movie, I forget which one, about the priest ("Father O'Leary?") telling the prisoner there are two roads he can take: the straight and narrow one which leads to the wife and the house with the picket fence, and the other straight back to the pen.

That situation is way gone. While it can be understood that relatively few jobs may be off limits that involve public trust and security, companies are refusing to hire ex-felons because of liability reasons, not because of actual danger posed by such individuals. Why should felons be turned down automatically for virtually any job with the public (such as retail or restaurant) or even manufacturing, if not the fear they may reoffend again and present an opportunity for a lawyer to come in to zap the business for all its worth?

The situation is compounded ten-fold for registered sex offenders, as well. Residency, travel, employment, and technology restrictions are part of their lot, most for the rest of their lives.

Now, Otis or soronel do have legitimate reasons for felons who are let out with no moral compass or "attitude adjustment." But for those who do follow the advice of Father O'Leary, when they find they can't work anywhere, live anywhere, or even travel anywhere, then society is more endangered. Locking them up and throwing away the key? Is it worth it? The GOP doesn't think so. The solutions had best be forthcoming, otherwise the court system will step in bigtime.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Mar 14, 2012 10:56:25 PM


What would your nom de jour be for me?


Posted by: Guy | Mar 14, 2012 11:09:46 PM

If the lawyer profession were not so incompetent, rent seeking, and ineffective, felon would be a meaningful term. Today it could mean a serial killer, or an innocent business man who did not fill out a bogus form properly, a victim of a lawyer gotcha. Let's get rid of this pestilence, the lawyer profession, and straighten it out by arresting, trying and executing its entire rent seeking hierarchy. If the public is oppressed by this rent seeking criminal cult enterprise, the lawyer is doubly so, and the ordinary street judge is triply so. The vast majority of the profession will be grateful once the cult criminals have been rounded up, tried, and summarily executed upon reading of their verdict, guilty of insurrection against the constitution. There is no way to make change save by waiting tens if not hundreds of years. Every 20 years, repeat.

Next, defund and close down the top third of the law schools which are treason indoctrination camps. Whether conservative or liberal, all their spawns are rent seekers. For example, conservative George Bush, Harvard indoctrination victim blew up the size of government more than any other President save Abraham Lincoln. He started the TSA a make work government welfare program for illiterate minorities, most fatherless. They just stare at monitors. When tested by people trying to sneak in weapons they invariably fail to see them and allow them to pass. Worthless waste of tax payer money. All the Harvard and Yale spawn controlling our government, especially its law students are rent seekers. They should be arrested because rent seeking is a synonym for armed robbery. As these slick operators show no mercy to our nation, so our nation should them none. Then by their political correctness, softness and forbearance on our enemies, they allow 9/11, a $7 trillion hit to our economy. These are disgusting internal traitors. Some Harvard grads may even be funded by Arabs, such as George Bush, walking holding hands with the King of Saudi Arabia on his private ranch. Bush grounded for days the airlines, save for one plane, that carrying the Bin Laden family to safety from the US. This is just blatant. Just close that school of treason down.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 14, 2012 11:22:02 PM

Not only does the lawyer arrest too many innocent people, he has immunized 90% of all crime. This idiot allows 20 million FBI index felonies, all real and serious felonies. He has 2 million prosecutions, some large fraction of which are false convictions. This incompetent dunce must be removed from all policy positions in the criminal law. High false negative. High false positive. Total self dealt immunity and no accountability for this careless dunce. Not legal recourse or compensation is possible for the victims of this incompetent. Intolerable. Mislabels millions as felons, fails to protect hundreds of millions from heartless, vicious violent repeat offenders.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 14, 2012 11:29:32 PM


"OK, we can airbrush the word "felon." Fine with me.

What's going to replace it? "Mr. Nicey?"

If we are to have truthful replacements, here are a few: Bank robber, swindler, meth dealer, human trafficker, rapist, cheater, strongarm, thug.

Now is that better?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 14, 2012 8:17:58 PM"

I got some words for you too bill!

how about JUDGE, LAWYER, POLITICIAN! a hell of a lot of the people who FOUNDED this country came here as FELONS from europe and ended up doing EVERY DAMN ONE OF THOSE JOBS! and in doing so made one of the greatest countries on earth till recently!

So wanna try again WITHOUT the santimonous attitude!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 14, 2012 11:35:21 PM

Eric Knight,

Given that there are usually more jobs than applicants (even setting aside the current lousy economic period) why should a company consider someone who carries any additional risk when there is another potential hire who is just as qualified who does not carry even that small actual risk? No one is owed a living, if people choose to turn to crime for whatever reason I see no justification that people shouldn't consider that later on.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 14, 2012 11:43:02 PM

The common definition of a felony is an offense for which the maximum punishment is more than one year in prison. So, if the maximum penalty is fixed at 1 year and 1 day, it's a felony, and someone convicted of that offense is a felon, even if the sentence imposed is only a few days in jail. If the maximum penalty is 1 year, then someone convicted of that offense is not a felon, even if the sentence imposed is the full year. Whether a crime is a felony does not necessarily have anything to do with how serious that crime is.

A person who possesses .01 grams of cocaine, for personal use, is a felon if convicted under Texas law--and one consequence is that federal law prohibits him from possessing firearms legally. The same person is not a felon if convicted under federal law, and federal law imposes no prohibition on possession of firearms, so long as he doesn't use drugs any more.

As pointed out above, North Carolina has a sentencing scheme (which I don't pretend to understand fully), where a crime can carry a presumptive sentence of less than 12 months, but if the court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that certain aggravating factors are present, the law imposes a sentence of greater than 12 months. So is the offense a felony or not? I've seen judges conclude that an offense is a felony even if no aggravating factors were found, because the defendant "could have" received more than a year in prison.

There is one state, I can't recall which, that has offenses labeled "misdemeanors", for which the punishment can be more than one year; these are treated as felonies under federal law. So what do we call someone convicted of that offense? Like Schroedinger's cat, he's both a felon and not one, I guess.

Immigration law defines certain offenses as "aggravated felonies" that are not even felonies to begin with. Thus, someone who is not a "felon" could still be an "aggravated felon".

All of this is to suggest that the label "felon" is fraught with significance, but ultimately devoid of useful meaning.

Posted by: C.E. | Mar 14, 2012 11:45:24 PM

I should have concluded my post, "All of this is to suggest that the label 'felon', _by itself_, is fraught with significance, but ultimately devoid of useful meaning."

Posted by: C.E. | Mar 14, 2012 11:47:00 PM


I wanted to add that I realize that my question may seem overly flip, and I wanted to add the following so it was not interpreted as such.

A couple of days ago, you wrote that individuals who are convicted of crimes have an understandably one-sided perspective. I would submit, and respectfully so, that none of us can escape our particular blindspots and that, further, this is one of yours (which is why it is my position that everyone has to be a part of the 'conversation' on criminal justice).

As I wrote before, I am a felon. I pled guilty to possessing child pornography. So you could call me a felon. A child pornographer. A sex offender. All of those labels were ascribed to be some years ago, and so I can't say that you would be innaccurate in calling me any of them.

But here's the problem, from my perspective: On your metric (and, indeed, it is not an unusual one), it is all that I will ever be. It is the end-all-be-all of my existence. It doesn't matter that I completed a treatment program, that I served the sentence given to me and did all that was asked, nor that I am compliant with the panoply of restrictions and regulations on my travel, residency, and speech. It doesn't matter that I went to law school after my conviction, or that I volunteer at a homeless shelter, or that I'm active with my church. It doesn't matter that I've remained offense free both as a matter of law and fact. I will forever be a felon, a sex offender, a child pornographer, et cetera.

It is not that I suggest that my sins should be forgiven and forgotten. I was punished, and rightly so. But to paint so contently with that brush as you (and, in all fairness, many many others) do is to seek to undo all of the work that I have set my hands to since they were placed into a pair of handcuffs.

It's a sort of learned helplessness when you come to understand that in the eyes of society, you will never be anything more and that the only incentive you have to not continue to be a criminal is the avoidance of punishment. But the avoidance of punishment only goes so far, because then I think a different mindset takes hold. It becomes something akin to Milton's Paradise Lost: better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven. If you cannot escape the labels etched onto your skin, you might as well embrace them.

If we are really serious about having a criminal justice system that works to reduce crime and to reduce victims, then I think you have to consider that question very carefully. If, at the end of the equation, I and others like me are still nothing more than felons, than icky pervs, than sex offenders, than criminals and will be in perpetuity no matter what we do...well then I guess we have the criminal justice system we deserve, don't we?

And who am I to argue?

And don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting you to wring your hands over the plight of us poor felons. Your position is different, and that's fine. My point, however, is that I think at a point the desire to exacerbate the chasm between "us" and "them" gets in the way of actually preventing and reducing crime.

Posted by: Guy | Mar 15, 2012 12:00:55 AM

"My point, however, is that I think at a point the desire to exacerbate the chasm between "us" and "them" gets in the way of actually preventing and reducing crime."

That's because crime prevention and reduction are not the goals. The Christian is all for the lion sleeping with the lamb in heaven. As for earth, we brand people with some label precisely to show our moral superiority to them. I'm sorry Guy but you've fallen and you can't get up. Not really, not truly, not back to even-Steven. You'll never be the equal of one who has never fallen. Not in this life. Soronel has got that part right.

Posted by: Daniel | Mar 15, 2012 1:51:31 AM


I appreciate your comments. I know that, in reality, life is (surprise!) unfair. There are many situations where people, even much more deserving and much less culpable than myself, are given short shrift by the justice system. They get chewed up, and spit out, without much chance or consideration.

And I'm sure that plays the other way, too -- where many times there are victims who are just re-victimized by the justice system, as well. I'm sure that, in all seriousness, someone like Bill Otis would probably be much more well equipped to address that aspect of it.

No one ever promised that life would be fair, but I still feel that it should, or that we should try to make it so. I know it's complicated, especially when it comes to ideals of justice, and even more so when it comes sex and politics.

I try not to hold myself under the delusion that society will ever be a place where you can be truly welcomed back after committing a crime, even if you do everything asked of you. Conviction entails a civil death, rightly or wrongly, and perhaps the most that I and others like me can hope for are pockets of people who are willing to bring us into the fold. Like the judge that probated me despite the prosecutor's recommendation that I be sent to prison, the admission committee that let me into law school despite my conviction, the priests who welcomed me into my church despite the registry, the lawyer that took a chance on me despite my many shortcomings.

And I can be, and certainly am, so thankful for all of those things.

Posted by: Guy | Mar 15, 2012 2:35:04 AM

guy: "What would your nom de jour be for me?"

me: I'd call you an icky perv :P

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 15, 2012 6:08:13 AM

C.E. in the old days, NC defined felonies and misdemeanors by the length of potential punishment. Now, a felony is whatever the legislature says a felony is. Makes no sense and was just gymnastics to avoid repealing the felon/misdemeanor distinction when we went to grid sentencing. So you have just silly scenarios like the one I had a couple years trying a cruelty to animal case. It is a class I felony to intentionally cause cruelty to animals. For someone with no prior record a class I felony carries no possibility of active time. However, the "lesser" included offense is maliciously causing cruelty to animals, which is a Class A1 misdemeanor, which can carry up to 150 days in jail.

So, I was confronted with the dilemma of whether to ask the judge to submit to the jury the Lesser offense, which carried More time. Crazy


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Mar 15, 2012 7:29:06 AM

Hi Guy,

First, as both a Christian and a former prison employee (teacher), You gained a great deal of my respect with your post. A couple of points.

I do not see it as unfair that you will be forever labeled a "felon." Some things can never be taken back and your crime is one of them.

However, I disagree with your comment that it is all that you "will ever be." As someone who has seen thousands of "felons" that do not take responsibility for their actions, it seems fairly obvious to me that you have. I suspect that your family, church, coworkers, and friends all see you as more than a "felon." Is it part of the equation? Of course. But it is not your entire identity.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 15, 2012 9:48:39 AM

Some 'felonies' are pretty petty crimes in the scheme of things while "felon" has a connotation of being rather nefarious. As noted, the term doesn't even arise based on the sentence you get. You can get a suspended sentence or a fine and still be a "felon" if the POTENTIAL is over a year. Some states apparently have even more complex equations there.

The term is just too harsh to apply to everyone who is technically a "felon." Do we call Laura Bush a "killer" even though she did kill someone accidentally as a teenager? As to Bill's replacements, not very helpful either. The result would be that distributing pot to fellow college classmates for parties will make you a "drug dealer" though the term connotes to most people something else.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 15, 2012 10:40:17 AM

As to TarlsQtr recent reply, there is truth there too. Whatever label used, and for certain crimes "felon" is fairly appropriate (if vague), it is important to note that it is not all the person is. Many know this from personal experience or because of family and friends who went thru the process. Even legitimate labels can be misused and misunderstood. The problem here is on various levels.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 15, 2012 10:43:25 AM

'Guy' / 'Joe'

both points well taken...


'icky perv' seriously now, some personal issues lurking there...

Posted by: lax | Mar 15, 2012 2:32:28 PM


Perhaps inadvertantly, you have made my point with your comment admitting that companies will not hire any ex-felons. I do not think anyone is owed anything with regard to employment, and that goes for felons, as well as other people.

I also don't make any excuses for recidivists (other than exceptions for certain sex offender registration-specific offenses). Any felon who uses a gun or knife in a manner that would be criminal to a non-felon should not even be part of this discussion; they should be in jail for a long time. That isn't the point I'm making though.

Recidivism declines considerably after a period of time out of lockup, and even more so once free of the corrective system. If someone is offense free (other than for technical or RSO-related registry violation) for over 3 years, for instance, that person is statistically (magnitude-wise) just as likely to commit another crime as a non-felon (for the most part). The "risk" at this point is now mandated not by actuary data, but through public perception and hysteria.

And make no mistake: an unemployed ex-criminal (since the status of "felon" can never be rescinded; hence "ex-felon" is an impossibility) is more likely to recidivate than an employed ex-criminal. Not LIKELY to recidivate, mind you, but that is a scenario that concerns me more than the normal public hysterical position.

I would be interested in hearing your constructive solutions. "Locking them up longer" only works at sentencing; once out, though, what solution would you employ to alleviate the situation brought out in the OP?

Posted by: Eric Knight | Mar 15, 2012 4:21:46 PM

Erika: You do not know me. You don't know the circumstances of my offense, how long ago my offense was, nor do you know the steps that I have taken to make amends and rehabilitate -- so thank you for helping me make the point that I am trying to express.

Tarls: I agree that it's something that I can never take back, and as I said I don't expect everyone to just forgive and forget. What I'm trying to say is that there lacks a certain balance between punishment and forgiveness in our society, such that punishment never really ends. I did all that was asked of me by the police and by the courts, and I did not go about doing it with a chip on my shoulder or by believing that someone was out to get me. It was myself, and myself alone, that was responsible for my situation, and I accepted that (and still accept it).

I do not genuinely believe the message that society (and Erika, for example) sends that I'll only ever be a felon (or an icky perv). Indeed, I think much of what I have done since my arrest would have been quite impossible if I did take such commentary to heart. If I truly believed that I could never be anything else, despite what others may think, then I would not even bother trying to be anything else. That is, however, not to say that the mindset and commentary of some does not bother or or that sometimes it gets hard to move past it, but I keep trying.

Except, as I've said, I'm really quite fortunate. I've had a great deal of support from many different people, all of them communicating an entirely different message to me. There are many, many, many, many more people (excuse me, I meant to say felons and icky pervs) who do not have that support, and for whom reintegration is sheer fantasy.

And it seems to me that the designation "felon" as others have pointed out is really quite meaningless. Had I been arrested just two weeks prior, I would not have been a felon at all but rather a misdemeanant. My conduct did not change over the course of those weeks, nor did my culpability. The only thing that changed was the judgment of legislators with political designs on higher offices.

And, I am curious: as a Christian, how do you reconcile the irreversible branding of people (again, apologies -- felons and icky pervs) when, as near as I can understand the teachings of Jesus, forgiveness and redemption were the watchwords?

Posted by: Guy | Mar 15, 2012 5:45:47 PM

I for one am not a Christian, so that basis doesn't pull weight with me (it is in fact somewhat of a negative in my mind, showing a willingness to believe in what I consider to be total fantasy). I don't particularly believe in redemption or forgiveness. I don't even particularly care about retribution. Instead I believe strongly in rejection; I would much rather simply execute most felons. They have rejected the rules of society and so society should reject them.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 15, 2012 9:39:14 PM

well soronel just better watch out. the why society is creating felons shortly they will outnumber those in society. At that point just what do you think will happen?

they will go sit in a corner and drop dead to make the twits in society feel better! Or going by history the more likely route! Take over! and start shoving the twits into prisons?

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 15, 2012 9:52:30 PM


I am glad that you are a legend in your own mind. With it you know everything, even if you are a technical twit (just show me how to turn it on). I don't really care about your thoughts either.

I never believed you seriously sought to determine who was classified as a sex-offender in Texas (Oh, it was just too hard and (get this) nobody in any area of Justice (LE, DAs or Politicians) even knew. Just a bandwagon to jump on.

If there is no God, then everything is lawful!

You find the source. I refuse to believe that 9 people in black pajamas can define the Constitution, when they don't know the laws of thermodynamics or basic laws of motion or electromagnetic fields.

Who cares what ignoramuses think!

Posted by: albeed | Mar 15, 2012 10:09:08 PM

Well, Soronel, I take it this means we'll never be drinking buddies?

Posted by: Guy | Mar 16, 2012 12:35:52 AM

I was once a felon until a particular attorney in NC took an interest in my case and had that felony vacated and turned into a misdemeanor. I lived with the ball and chain (felony)for many years and it wasn't easy. The felony tag crushes dreams and ambitions for one who has rehabilitated themselves.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 16, 2012 1:21:49 AM

Dear Guy,

Your points would make sense if you were caught with drugs or stealing - even if you murdered someone. Then I would agree with you that redemption was possible and that you can change. I am a Christian and I do believe in forgiveness. I even believe that an icky perv can be forgiven for raping children or possessing child pornography. However, being an icky perv is different from being a thief or other crimes.

Quite simply, there is simply no way to change a person's sexuality. A person who is sexually interested in children will always be interested in raping children and there will always be some risk there that they will act on the desire. That is why we have the sex offender registration and residency restrictions. Now, it may be possible to control the icky perv urges of the pedophile with treatment - but the only way I'd believe that an icky perv is really serious about wanting to change if he agrees to undergo surgery to remove his penis and testicles.

I sincerely hope that you are able to continue to control your icky perv nature and be a productive citizen - I don't even object to you becoming an attorney as long as you do not work on cases involving children.

Very truly yours,

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Mar 16, 2012 7:45:25 AM

Hello Guy,

In my view, you have an unrealistic view of forgiveness. I have an extended family member that hurt my immediate family emotionally and financially. I forgive her and pray for her well-being daily. However, forgiveness does NOT mean that I need to be willing to put her in a position where she can hurt my family again.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 16, 2012 9:00:34 AM


That would be tough as I don't consume alcohol and I dislike being around those who are doing so. And that despite the fact that my income comes from owning a liquor store. But I suppose it would also be tough at your end, knowing that I do believe you should most likely have been executed. I can see that situation would be somewhat difficult to handle.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 16, 2012 10:45:40 AM


You continue to demonstrate the Classical Ignorance of those publicly educated in the US, Sex Offender does not equal child molester or CP receiver, possessor or distributor. It means many things, including NON-CONTACT crimes.

Please educate yourself and stop using the Jim Crow "icky perv" classification. You sound more like that dimwit woman felon in Florida (gun crimes)who wants to kill all SOs, no matter how minor their crime.

By the way, do you know that all males who possess (or possessed) Playboy magazine are rapers. The politicians and DOJ use the same logic.

Posted by: albeed | Mar 16, 2012 12:50:38 PM


Again, you're assuming a great deal about me, the circumstances of my case, and the issues that I've dealt with. You assume that I am a diagnosed pedophile who has a sexual preference for children, that I have a sexual interest in children, and that I struggle to control those urges, etc. It may be that there are such individuals, but you (again, as is the point that I am trying to make) paint with that broad brush without pause to give consideration to the facts of individuals. Rather, you (and many others) are quite content to label broad groups of people as 'icky pervs' and make wildly general (and, fwiw, scientifically inaccurate) assumptions about who they might be and what they might do. I can say that I have never "struggled" to control urges to molest children, as I have never had those urges to begin with. I know you will probably find that hard to believe, to which I'd just say that, again, you have no idea who I am or what the facts of my case were.

Your views on treatment are medieval, and reflect what I sense to be a certain unwillingness to think rationally about the topic, which give me pause to consider that I do not know who you are, or what the facts of your life have been. Be that as it may, I would submit that you should familiarize yourself with the statistics of sex offender treatment programs and recidivism (especially as compared with recidivism of other types of crimes, generally) and see that, actually, as compared with someone who committed a drug offense or a violent offense, I am actually *less* likely to reoffend. Also note that castration does not purge sex hormones from the body, nor does it prevent someone who is determined to reoffend from doing so. Thankfully, however, you were not my therapist :)

And, it occurs to me that your understanding of the necessity of a registry is based on the same flawed assumptions that led you to make your previous points. I'm not going to take the time to explain to you why the registry is useless at best and positively harmful towards the goal of preventing sexual violence at worst, as I don't think you're actually going to consider those points, just as you have not given me individualized consideration, but rather have made blanket (and, again, fwiw, inaccurate) assumptions about who I am.


Posted by: Guy | Mar 16, 2012 3:33:49 PM


Doesn't it seem to you that, at a certain point, when so much of society is essentially walled off from felons, regardless of their circumstances or facts of their lives, that it would seek to *increase* the level of harm visited on society as opposed to reducing it?


It is definitely a difficult thing to do, to have a civil conversation with someone you know would put a bullet in your head were it not for laws telling him not to ;)

Posted by: Guy | Mar 16, 2012 3:37:46 PM

Guy --

I have been unable to post for a few days. To answer your question as to what I would call you, I would call you "Guy."

My views on this are similar to TarlsQtr's. One of the reasons I have always attempted here to speak to you respectfully is that you seem to me to be into honest, fair-minded argument and not into ad hominem.

I don't believe in airbrushing history. I also don't believe that having commited a felony permanently brands you as a bad or unworthy human being. Thus, if the question is whether you are a felon, the truthful answer is "yes." There is just no way around that.

But, as any reasonable person aware of the fallibilities of us all would know, that is not the only question. As I have noted before, I employ a convicred felon -- now a successful constructon contractor -- as the house manager for my house on the mainland. Human beings tend to be mixtures of bad and good things, and any sensible person knows this fact from sunup to sundown.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 17, 2012 6:12:32 PM

welcome back bill!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 17, 2012 8:10:17 PM

rodsmith --

Happy to be back!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 17, 2012 10:16:36 PM

Hi Bill:

I appreciate that you would call me by my name. And I can accept the proposition that there's no forgetting the past, and I don't want to suggest that it should be forgotten. I agree with you that there is no honest way around admitting the fact that I am a felon. There is a difference for me, though, between seeing it as just something true that can be said about me and a central characteristic. To put it differently, I don't mind to admit that the term "felon" is a true statement about WHAT I am, but that I object to it being used to describe WHO I am -- at least in present day.

And I agree that, to sensible people, it won't make much of a difference so long as I can show them the distance that I've traveled from where I've been to where I am now. Only that sensibility doesn't seem to be an overriding consideration these days when it comes to politics and criminal justice (and most *certainly* not when it comes to sex, but then when has America ever been sensible about sex?)

At any rate, I appreciate your perspective. As I said before I think everyone's got to be a part of this discussion, and I'm glad we can do it respectfully, despite our disparate circumstances.


Posted by: Guy | Mar 19, 2012 5:55:56 PM


I like your first suggestion best, "Mr. (Ms.) (Mrs.) Nicey".

It has a nice, wholesome ring to it.

Posted by: albeed | Mar 19, 2012 11:18:08 PM

see i think this is part of the problem!

"I don't mind to admit that the term "felon" is a true statement about WHAT I am,"

WRONG unless you have been arrested for a new charge at this time...you WERE a felon. You at this time are an EX FELON!

just like student and EX STUDENT!

"but that I object to it being used to describe WHO I am -- at least in present day."

BINGO it is what you were in the PAST unless someone can prove in a COURT that you are currently comiting a felony!

that is one of the major problems of this narrowmined country. In some of the most STUPID things possible they REFUSE to let go of the past! and continue to both BRING IT UP and SHOVE IT IN YOUR FACE!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 20, 2012 3:01:32 AM

Euphemisms are bad and part of the propaganda spat by the prison regime to conceal the true nature of the prison regime. Under the theory presented, a black man should paint himself white and proclaim to be a former black man to obtain the same benefits extended to white folks which should be extended to him anyway by virtue of the fact that he is a human being regardless of color. There is no "correctional officer"-only guards. There is no such thing as "rehabilitation" its known in prison as 'dehabilitation' and criminologist call it institutionalization. Prisons are usually located in rural areas because what is out of sight is often out of mind. Word play games have been going on for a great while-the cold war is but one example of the use of word play to gather some form of response to conceal or exploit what is being put forth. The use of 'formerly incarcerated person' tells me that someone is hiding something and going to great lengths to do so when a simple "felon" would suffice.
Civil death never went anywhere other than off the pages of various lawbooks; much like slavery. Denial is not a river in Egypt.

Posted by: ohioprisonproject | Apr 22, 2012 5:25:01 PM

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