A story that was big in the news late last week was that of a Texas teen who avoided jail time from having killed four people from having driven drunk. The outrage over the story had to do with the fact that the sentencing is putting this teen, who is also the child of very wealthy parents, in therapy at a private resort instead of in jail. At first, this didn't sound terribly horrible. I find that we have a problem in this country that our solution to bad behavior tends to be simply "jail time."
But, upon further thought, this sentencing is problematic based on who the perpetrator is and with the line of reasoning that was used by the defense. Essentially, it was argued that the teen had not learned proper behavior because he had not learned there are consequences for bad behavior. (This was referred to as "affluenza," which is not a professionally recognized term, from what I understand.) Now, I'm actually on board with that bit of reasoning as I've come to realize that we humans do form our moral compasses in part from recognizing consequences for behaviors. If someone grows up without consequences, they will indeed not have such recognition. This is in itself an argument for punishment so that this teen can finally learn about such consequences firsthand. If the claim is that the problem is a result of lack of punishment, then the solution is not and cannot be to continue this trend. The fix has to be at minimum a regular* punishment, if not even a harsher punishment.
Yet, a lack of punishment is what he got. So what is he going to learn from this? I fear not much. Especially when adding in that his therapy is going to be at a nice resort. How, then, is that therapy going to work? His therapy sessions are supposed to attempt to teach him that there are consequences for actions, but all he needs to do is look at his real-life situation to realize that the lessons he should be taught are not true. In other words, there is bound to be a contradiction between what his lessons say real-life is like and what he knows real-life to actually be like via personal experience. Personal experience is likely to win in this.
* I don't know if I can stress this enough. As I said, at first I was not so opposed to the sentencing because I don't think our current system delivers proper consequences for actions. Worst of all is that we don't seem to treat criminals as though they are humans. How, then, can we expect them to successfully merge back into society when their terms are over? The problem in this case is that since the problem is claimed to be a lack of punishment, anything less than what is normal for our current system is no good. I would like to see what is normal change, but this is a case that I have come to realize could not be used to change this system, nor will it be able to change the system since other teens won't be able to go to a resort for therapy.
On a side note, I saw some comments on a YouTube video reporting this story suggesting that the parents then be punished since the argument was that this teen didn't learn about consequences for actions due to how his parents raised him. It sounded like a good idea, though I had doubted police would even try that. Unfortunately, the article I linked above says that "The judge in the case, Jean Boyd, rejected the suggestion that the boy’s parents were ultimately responsible for his actions." So not only does this probably rule out any consequences for the parents, this makes this sentencing even worse than I had thought as of this weekend. If the parents are not to blame, then how can this teen have "affluenza"? Is the judge blaming money??? Recall that the problem of "affluenza" is due to a lack of proper consequences for actions. Certainly the parents have to have some responsibility for this! When children are growing up, parents often have to play the part of police, judge, and jury and impose consequences for bad behavior if the consequences don't manifest "naturally" (i.e, touching a hot stove will produce the consequence of a burn, so no parental intervention in that roll would be needed in such a case). After hearing this, I think this judge really needs to be reprimanded herself. Or, at minimum, some "therapy" in logical reasoning.