There is little satisfaction seeing a young man handcuffed, searched and led out of a courtroom to a stark hallway that will deliver him to months and years in a jail cell.
In this case, the crime was child pornography. One of the most heinous of offences. Looking at and distributing images of the unspeakable horrors inflicted upon innocent children, horrors from which, even if rescued, those children will likely never fully recover.
Yet, like most cases, victims reside on both sides of the judge’s decision.
Courtrooms, like a societal stress test, reveal the flaws and weaknesses affecting the heart of society. Flaws and weaknesses that blur the lines of good and bad.
According to the evidence provided, this man had no prior criminal record and was the repeated victim of violence and sexual abuse growing up. He was targeted as a youth for being black. Undoubtedly that targeting was not limited to his generation. He now joins the disproportionate number of people imprisoned in Canada and the United States who are black or indigenous.
Inside the courtroom the story of his self-loathing, mental illnesses and inability to find affordable help for his addiction was heard. How he made his trail more and more easy to track so he would get caught and maybe get help through the prison system. How he was stalked and beat up when his guilty plea was publicized. How he is afraid of being murdered in jail.
Should he be spared prison? Not at this moment, not with this system. He was classified as maximum to high risk to re-offend without treatment, treatment that was only accessible via jail.
What’s really needed is systemic change and the rallying of resources where they will make a difference.
Clearly, more resources are needed immediately to track down the people who actually create the images as well as the international organizations which traffic in human beings.
But real social change would require more support for families, for parents, for the people raising children. The pandemic is a good example. Who is left struggling the most? Parents, particularly those living in poverty, the working poor.
Also, the current push to make education more inclusive and focused on addressing systemic injustice needs to take priority.
And maybe, instead of complaints about the justice system being ‘soft on crime,’ we could use more soft hearts who will push for a just society for everyone.