I have heard so many stories of people who allow their darkest memories to overtake their compassions. I have heard confessions of men and women who allowed their passions to become sick and twisted before they became humane and kind. “Those men who are guilty of rape,” I have heard,The Rights of the Guilty Articles “Should be tortured. They should have their testicles removed and they should be murdered, and then brought back to life to be killed again.” I have heard such cruel stories of torture, brutality, and inhumanity that should be, or was, given to the guilty. Passionate mothers speaking about the potential brutalities that should be given to pedophiles. Impassionate conservatives speaking about the long and violent prison sentences that should be given to drug dealers and users. When a person has their son, daughter, spouse, lover, mother, or father murdered, they sometimes make a plea that the guilty should be tortured to death — while other times, their passion is expressed in a beautiful manner, and they make plea of society to be just, generous, and fair. When I speak of the rights of the guilty, I am not talking about those wrongly convicted of guilt, or those potentially convicted on unfair grounds. I am speaking of those who have, by all our understanding and reasoning, committed the crimes that they did — the truly guilty. It is within this essay that I shall make an attempt to defend the rights of those who have broken our laws.
A Defense of the Guilty
When I make a defense of the guilty, on what grounds can I make it? When we begin to think about those who fill up the category of guilty, such as murderers, rapists, thieves, and other assorted lawbreakers, we immediately think about terminating their rights to protect society. The right to liberty, for example, to walk around and do as you will, is immediately stricken from those who are convicted of murder or rape. Those very basic rights that are granted to everyone, even the right to vote, are restricted by those who have committed harsh enough crimes. Amidst all these claims that the public must be protected from the criminal element, there are shouts for vengeance, for “justice,” for punishment, even for torture and execution. So, why would I, or anyone for that matter, defend the guilty?