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Jerry Davich: Mercy or justice — which is more essential in our society?

Jerry Davich.

Jerry Davich.

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Updated: February 6, 2014 6:21AM



Mercy or justice — which of these is more essential in our society?

The reason I ask relates to a recent newspaper story about a 31-year-old region woman who “misplaced” her two young children.

Charity Atkinson called police last month to report that her 5-year-old and 3-year-old children were missing. The single mother of two reportedly exited a neighbor’s house when officers arrived and she led the cops back to the wrong house.

The officers soon found her two kids in the right house, but they were sleeping on the floor without proper beds and they hadn’t been fed by their mother. She was arrested, charged with neglect and residential entry charges, and put into jail.

End of story? It was for most of us, including me.

But not so for a man — a stranger to the woman — who showed mercy while the rest of us assumed justice. This man, who doesn’t want his name revealed, was outraged over this situation and also our societal response — locking her up and throwing away the key, so to speak.

I’m told that he bailed the mother out of jail, paid for a hotel room for her to stay, and even tossed in some spending cash to help her get back on her feet. Police confirm that she was bailed out on Dec. 30.

“I have never been prouder of him than I am now,” the man’s brother told me. “Is jail really all we have to offer people who need help? We have it all screwed up.”

The mother has obvious problems, and possibly mental health issues, too, the man’s brother said.

“He said Charity was extremely embarrassed by the incident,” he noted.

Of course, anyone would be, especially in a seemingly failed parental role.

“You end up with a young woman who sat in jail for nine days because of the lack of $1,000 and anyone who cared,” the brother said.

“I agree with my brother that the criminal justice system is broken badly. I think it is now a business without conscience or soul or regard for the consequences of its actions. Our society cares more about a hurt animal than a hurting human being.”

That is certainly the truth, but don’t get me started on that touchy issue.

Instead, would you pony up that cash and concern for an imperfect stranger if you could afford it? Or would you let the criminal justice system (and social service system) do its job and conveniently forget about this woman? Let’s face it, that’s what we typically do in such cases.

So, I ask you again, what’s more important in a civilized culture — mercy or justice? In this particular case, it’s merely coincidence that it also involves Charity.

On a related note ...

This little data-blurb prompted a lot of discussion on my social media sites. It’s the top five crimes that lead to getting locked up, based on the percentage of the U.S. prison population.

1. Drug crimes, 18.1 percent

2. Robbery, 13.6 percent

3. Murder, 12.2 percent

4. Assault, 10.4 percent

5. Public-order crimes, 10.1 percent

Welcome to the human race

Dear newborn babies of 2014, welcome to the human race in my annual greeting.

On the day you were born, our country’s population was the highest it’s ever been. And every eight seconds after you were born, another baby joined our swelling ranks.

Your parents have high hopes for you, I’m sure. The rest of us do, too. Still I wonder about your future.

Will your life be easier than ours, as nearly every next generation has been for eons? Or will our mistakes boomerang back to you and your fellow class of newborns, whether it involves our threatened environment, our spiraling economy, or our addiction to gas, food and war.

Experts of the future say you can expect as much progress in the next 20 years as the world has seen in the past 100 years. I can’t imagine what your life will be like when you’re my age, or when you hit the average life expectancy in this country, around 72 years old. By then, the average life expectancy may be 82, giving you an extra decade to make your mark in the world.

However, what will your world look like? Will you witness a cure for cancer, or AIDS, or loneliness? Will your leaders find renewable energy options, or design artificial intelligence, or fully endorse stem cell research?

Will such things as quantum computing, high-tech invisibility, surgical robots and Jetsons-like space-cars be a reality, or simply 21st century science fiction?

By the time you attend college, there may be a new international space race taking form, easily overshadowing the Apollo moon program of my youth. By 2030, this new program may land humans on Mars, tourists on the moon, and solar power satellites in the heavens. Imagine that.

Never mind, you won’t have to imagine it. You’ll live it, we hope.

Then again, my generation used to imagine that the world would be vastly different by the futuristic year of 2014. But progress, like our species, marches slowly, we have learned.

Will you march to the beat of your own drum? Will you be a loving child, a good student, a hard worker, a strong parent, or a memorable grandfather? Regardless, happy birthday. And also to the other 12,000 or so babies born on New Year’s Day.

We’re not only counting you. We’re counting on you.

Public presentation next week

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, I will be giving a free public presentation on “Kicking Off the New Year Right” at the Maria Reiner Center in Hobart. My last presentation there was well received and I always enjoy returning to chat with its members.

For more information, contact Pam Broadaway or Kristina Kuzma at 947-1864 or via email at kkuzma@cityofhobart.org. Hope to see you there.

Connect with Jerry via email, at jdavich@post-trib.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.



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