Sunday, September 30, 2007

Personal Responsibility

"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie." ~ William Shakespeare

I snagged this story off ER's blog, and as usual, ER and I have opposite perspectives. That's a good thing, I think. It opens up dialogue and stimulates discussion.

However preposterous I often believe ER's opinions to be, he is not a phony. His opinions are real and so is he. I suppose that's why I like him personally.

In a nutshell, ER says, "Robert Behlen robbed a drug store in my own town, at gunpoint, to get oxycodone -- and he gulped a handful of them down ON THE SPOT! Then he ran off with $7,000 worth of the stuff, which probably isn't that much."

ER also says, "This is the kind of thing that raises my liberal, Jesusy hackles. The poor son of a buck obviously needs help, not put in fricking jail!"

I say, really. Why? Why should this man not be sent to jail? Yes, he needs help. I don't deny that. But does that excuse him for his actions? If you commit a crime, can you get out of paying for your crimes as long as you have a valid excuse? If so, where do you draw the line? When does a crime become a crime rather than a cry for help? When people's lives are threatened? When people are killed? How about when you commit the crime?

If we help drug addicts rather than punish them for their crime, what message does that send to other drug addicts who are considering breaking the law to feed their habits? Isn't rehabilitation one of the reasons we sentence criminals to jail in the first place? The potential for incarceration can be a pretty effective deterrent. The fact that we punish people who commit crimes no doubt causes potential criminals to think twice before committing them.

Most of the time drug addicts don't seek out help until they have hit rock bottom. Sometimes it takes a stretch behind bars to clarify for themselves the reality of their situation. Sometimes the punishment brings them the help they need. If they are strong and determined enough. If they really want help.

What sets this man apart from all the other drug addicts who commit crimes to get their next fix? The fact that he is a lawyer? Or is ER saying all drug addicts should be helped instead of sentenced to jail?

Did this man have other options or was robbery the only solution to his problem? Could he have maybe reached out for help from a myriad of professional people and organizations who are experts in helping drug addicts overcome their addictions? Did he ask for help and get turned down? Was robbery the last resort available to him? What do you think?

What about the man's victims? Do they not deserve some consideration? Who is going to help them? Or do we simply leave them to deal with their trauma the best way they know how? Maybe we just wait until their trauma moves them to commit a similar crime and then help them?

I seem to remember another wealthy man who slipped and allowed himself to become addicted to drugs similar to the ones in this story.

Did Rush Limbaugh resort to robbery or did he admit he had a problem and seek help? Did he face up to his own responsibility or did he complain that he was a victim and blame it all on others? If I remember correctly, all the bleeding heart Liberal sob sisters wanted Rush to fry for becoming addicted. What did ER have to say about that? I honestly don't remember.

Again I say, where do we draw the line? Should sex addicts get help rather than be punished for sex crimes? How about sadists who get off on murdering people? Surely they are disturbed and need help. What about child molesters? They're sick, too, aren't they? Maybe we should just put them into counseling and allow them to roam our neighborhoods between sessions. Television evangelists only preach to bilk people out of their hard earned money? Surely they are sick and need guidance.

It's called "personal responsibility".

How does he get help if he refuses to accept his own personal responsibility for his actions? Isn't the first step in any recovery program admitting that you have a problem? How does that square with a man who chooses to escape his problems by attempting suicide rather than face up to his own responsibility, take his life back into his own hands, and seek out help? How is that conducive to a workable solution?

Sometimes the punishment is in itself the pathway to recovery. Sometimes not. What makes the difference in whether punishment makes a man weaker or stronger?

Personal responsibility.

The decision to pull himself up by his own bootstraps and take control of his life rather than wallow in self pity. In the final analysis, he makes his own decision, regardless. Jail could be the catalyst he needs to create a sense of personal responsibility in himself.

Punish him first. Then get him help.

Personal Responsibility.


Mark said...


I wrote this entire piece before i read the comments on ER's piece. Apparently, there is some additional information about this case. I wrote what I wrote solely on the story posted.

There may indeed be some extenuating circumstances but it doesn't change the fact that this man is personally responsible for his own bad choices. We all are.

Liam said...

Well, addictive behaviour isn’t rational behaviour so the threat of punishment per se is no deterrent to addicts. If the jail term includes a decent rehab programme - and the necessary follow-up and support when the guy is later released from jail, then I agree with you Mark. If the jail term is just ‘x’ years living in a prison doing menial labour then I agree with ER. At the end of the day society benefits more by preventing the behaviour than by punishing it.

Having read the comments on ER’s post I agree that there seems to be more to this story than just a drug-motivated robbery. We are responsible for our own choices, true, but not always responsible for the situations with which we are forced to deal. Unless we know in detail what Mr Behlen was dealing with it would be foolish to preach further on the basis of his case.

Lone Ranger said...

That's one of the primary differences between a liberal and a conservative. When you ask a liberal whether it's OK to steal food if you're hungry, he'll say yes. A conservative will say that it is ALWAYS wrong to steal, even if it is "necessary." Someone who steals should feel contrite, should seek help and should repay the people he has harmed.

Liberalism is all about bad behavior without consequences. People getting hooked on drugs? Legalize drugs. Women getting pregnant out of wedlock? Kill the unborn baby. Pornography and profanity coarsening the culture? Scream free speech. It just never ends.

Mark said...

You got that right, LR. Right now over at ER's place, commenters are calling for the legalization of drugs and blaming society. I don't get it. I must be missing something. How can all these intelligent people not see what seems to me to be obvious?

Marshall Art said...


I think incarceration as penalty for a crime does not concern itself with either punishment (or it's threat) or reahbilitation.

We decide subjectively what length of time will be fair compensation for the crime committed. Mitigating circumstances may provide for lesser punishments and in that sense, the laws, society's official opinion on such things, has considered when, if and for how long one is incarcerated. How much suffering the convicted experiences is beside the point. The offender loses his liberty for a pre-determined length of time, and society is blessed by his absence and lives in relative peace accordingly.

Whether rehab is offered or not makes no difference to either the one determined to change, nor to the one unwilling. I'd split the difference, however, and offer info toward self-help in the prison library and help paid for by those who know and care about the prisoner that the prison would arrange for it's own convenience.

That's the best way as written by the numbers. Tweaking is optional, but the starting point and underlying meaning of the practice.

We are always responsible for our choices no matter what hand we are dealt. We must always stay within the law or be prepared to answer for acting against the law. Everyone gets to tell his story, and others judge as to whether or not it's worthy of consideration and can it in any way justify breaking the law. Those empowered with the task of enforcing the law, the police, are required to cite or arrest those who break the law. Others do the judging. It is there that any decisions regarding the "lawbreaker" is made. The judge can have the guy evaluated, but then he can only consider what was prevented by the evaluators.

So far, everything is working the way it's supposed to. To get to this point, everybody who had the best chance to really help the guy, his family, friends and relatives, anyone who knew the guy and had regular contact, has already dropped the ball. Now he's really gone around the bend, and NOW we're supposed to help the guy? It's a little late for that, since he already committed a crime. For that he needs to be punished according to the law and suffer the sentencing given by the one who's job it is to judge such things. But even then, HE can request help. If HE doesn't, and he has shown himself to be a threat, which he has, then arrest is all that's left. If HE doesn't, he can be incarcerated in an institution other than penal, or have a blend of the two, but either way he's lost his liberty and that is how we punish the unlawful. Psychiatric help must be wanted by the accused in order for it to help society. It would help society if the accused and/or his friends and family were paying for it, also.

Lone Ranger said...

Intelligent people do stupid things all the time. Have you ever seen a car with a MENSA bumper sticker right next to a KERRY-EDWARDS sticker?

Al-Ozarka said...

Well...we all know pretty well what to expect when clicking over to the Reverend Redneck's place.

Self admiration and a mad dash away from reason.

Mark said...

Dad, It is not unreasonable to say this man needs to be helped, particuarly if he refuses to help himself. It is unreasonable to suggest he get help INSTEAD of jail time.

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Personal responsibility is not in the liberal vocabulary.

It is their philosophy tha society is that reason for trouble and that government is the solution.

They are nothing more than Socialists who pretend to stand under the law of the Constitution while continually crying foul when those laws are applied to them.

The Framers expected Americans to live in accordance to personal responsibility and based all of our rights and laws under the Constitution on that very premise!

Gayle said...

Yes, he needs to be punished and he needs help. I agree with you, Mark.

It is a perfect example of choosing emotion over reason and definitely goes along with that video I posted. This guy needed drugs and didn't even consider the consequences. I'm sure his "need" overrode his reason, but he should have used whatever reason still existed in his drug-addled brain and gone for help before it got to that point.

Excellent post!

Timothy said...

Just a quick thought: jail time is not meant to be a deterrent. It's meant to punish the crime. A sin has been committed against the government and the people and that is what is to be punished. It can act as a deterrent, but is not a purpose.

To say there are extenuating circumstances is one thing and for a judge to decide, but punishment of breaking the rule of law is still needed.

OK, I said I wouldn't comment, but did so anyway...

Erudite Redneck said...

Just saw this post.

Mark the date. I agree with Lone Ranger!

"That's one of the primary differences between a liberal and a conservative. When you ask a liberal whether it's OK to steal food if you're hungry, he'll say yes. A conservative will say that it is ALWAYS wrong to steal, even if it is 'necessary.'"

Also, of course, I believe need help, THEN he needs punished -- not the other way around.

Also, here's another major difference: Incarceration means more than deterrance. It also means punishment, and even societal retribution. But it also has to mean an opportunity for rehabilitation, otherwise, it;s all just a matter of those with power being able to lock up those without power.

So sayeth the Jesusy lib.

Erudite Redneck said...

Oh, I just noticed Toadsuck-al-Ozarka's small comment:

Dude, go to the hell you imagine I deserve.