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Punishment or revenge?

By Sandy . . . Mary Moore of Clayton County, Georgia, was 21 years old in September of 2022. That is surely very young to be a corrections officer and a security specialist in a county jail, responsible for assuring that jail detainees were secured; but that is what she was.

In late September, she was arrested and jailed for inappropriate sexual relations with an inmate. There is nothing to suggest or even hint at force.  The encounter was caught on video, and she confessed. She was later charged with sexual assault and is out on bond.

Reaction to this was swift and condemning.

“That’s ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous”; “. . . doing something stupid”; “She should have been arrested. They need to leave her in there.”; “. . . inappropriate behavior.”

Is it ridiculous? Stupid? Inappropriate? Yes, yes, and absolutely.

Should she be fired? Yes.

Should she lose her corrections officer certification? Of course.

Should she be charged with sexual assault? Should she be sent to prison and “left in there”?

Why? What will that accomplish?

Just this: The state will undergo costly legal proceedings. She will certainly be found guilty, most likely through a plea deal that could give her some prison time – more cost to Georgia taxpayers – and earn her a place on the Georgia sex offender registry. This will assure her of a lifetime of struggling with even basic needs and of diminished earnings, all of which predict possible dependency upon state services – all at more cost to Georgia taxpayers.

Why? All that needs to be accomplished is that she no longer be in a position to misuse her position as a corrections officer, something easily accomplished by assuring that she would never again be credentialed in that capacity. That would be an appropriate, measured response.

This was, after all and as the video will attest, consensual sexual activity between consenting adults. Stupid, ridiculous, and most decidedly inappropriate. But it is consensual and, taking place virtually any place but where it did, totally legal.

To charge her with a sexual crime, to destroy her future, is an emotional response, an over-the-top, unnecessary, costly emotional response.

This has become the norm for sexual activity that is inappropriate or offensive to the public.

Teens sexting each other are charged with distributing child pornography rather than being mandated training on the dangers of inappropriate internet usage.

Men found guilty of serious sexual crimes are given sentences measured in hundreds of years “to set an example.”

And adults having consensual sex with other adults in inappropriate situations are treated as sexual criminals.

These are emotional responses. They are driven by our distaste for the behavior, our sense of indignation, disgust, disapproval, or fury.

Punishment should not be based on moral indignation nor fury at wrongdoing.

Punishment should be sufficient to deter repeat of the crime. Anything more is not punishment.

It is revenge.

Sandy Rozek

Written by 

Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

5 Thoughts to “Punishment or revenge?”

  1. AvatarJames Coghill

    Yes you are correct. It is revenge. Revenge for having the audacity of offending someone. It doesn’t matter who the parties were or what the intent was or even what it was that you did. You offended someone and for that you deserve whatever you get and the longer the better. Your sentence after that will be confronting people who think this way for the rest of your life.

  2. AvatarA Mistake They Made

    If she was a he what would happen? It must be fair, and no double standards applied. If it is wrong then it is wrong for he, and she. If it is a crime for a man then it must be a crime for a woman. If it is not wrong for a man, or a woman then it should not be a crime. I above all hate the double standards I have witnessed in my life time between men and women.

  3. AvatarTim in WI

    Subjecting oneself to self harm is unconscionable. This is why many offenders run to courts asking for relief. The people claim their actions with respect to the machine database are entirely civil and without retributive quality.
    Legally speaking, the vast majority of offenders have signed plea agreements which automatically require a signed waiver of civil rights. Thereby, standing for post conviction relief is given mostly away to the power of the state. It is a formal surrender to the will of the people.
    This is why advocacy traction through court decisions is so difficult to gain. What advocacy needs is those cases in which states do not have the luxury of a signed standard waiver. Why? It permits the registered “…arguendo” identified by SCOTUS Itself in Connecticut DPS 9-0 decision. Look for yourselves, and you’ll read in black and white the remaining substantive claim. Advocate lawyers need to ask themselves: “For what purposes would the Supreme court take the extraordinary and unusual step to publish an opine on the substantive question in the mist of an limited procedural due process case.” The reason was…inevitable preAct cases where state’s do not have standard waiver in the qualifying offense.

  4. AvatarTS

    While I agree with this all, Sandy, it is the person in a position of trust over the person who is subordinate to them, which is the same principle used for those adults who are over minors (even who consented) or others who commit alleged inappropriate actions (deemed by others but not between two consenting adults).

    If she wanted to make the other person’s life difficult at any point afterwards, then she could have and probably been lauded for it until she was caught one day knowing it was wrong to do it since the start.

    Yes, it is revenge, it is punishment, but the concept is set no matter who the consenting people are and has to be used as an example in the eyes of those who implemented it. Discretion is a lost art and science now days in the legal system because concrete boundaries have to be set or all will be lost.

    What you have written is all that needs to happen to her given her youth for this situation, but will society accept it? No, not for the Old Testament ways they want today, even in the old South.

  5. AvatarS. Manion

    I was reading the whole article and even looked up the story. Seems like this prison has a lot of violations occurring within it.

    In 2004 or 2005 in Taylorville IL. a similar incident happened. A female guard was found to be having relations with an inmate and also one of the Assistant Wardens was found to be engaging in inappropriate behavior towards staff. The female guard was immediately arrested and walked out of the facility and the Assistant warden resigned pending charges (not sure what happened after in either of those cases. The fact is no matter what state or city a person given official capacity is in; she or he must act as the standard for exemplary behavior.

    At the same time do I agree with the lifetime registration and inability to secure gainful employment after 10 years is served? No, I do not. I believe male or female no matter the race, sex, or age that a person should be allowed to pick up the pieces of her or his life after “punishment” of a “sexual offense.”

    The problem is that society has turned the issue into less of a “crime and punishment” scheme and more of an “enduring criminal burden” which in Illinois is said to be, “voluntary registration” yet punishable by statute if not done in the required time. As bad as it is to recognize; it’s worse to be charged with a “sex offense” charge than a charge of “Murder.” Why does that matter? Because one of those has no survivors except the perpetrator(s). How is that acceptable or even ethical? That’s my question.

    I do not agree with how much these statutes have diminished the sentences ruled on for those that take a life from a person. It’s almost as if being killed by someone is less offensive than being assaulted. Now that just seems backwards in my opinion.

    I have a nephew that endures this registration everyday and prays for relief one day so he can become a tax paying citizen again. I have told him, relief may not come in your lifetime. To me that’s almost worse than punishment. It’s like looking through a glass at all the things you know you qualify for and can do to be productive; but stuck inside that glass you are forced to watch time and your life pass you by.

    I pray for change one day.

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