By Judith Levine . . . If it’s true that all seven of the football players arrested for hazing in the Sayreville, New Jersey, War Memorial High School locker room are students of color, that is one more reason not to prosecute them as sexual felons.
I don’t mean not to prosecute them in adult court. I mean not to prosecute them at all.
If they’re guilty, they should be disciplined by the school, kicked off the Bombers team, and held accountable to their victims by making amends in words and deeds.
But the punishment the state will mete out far outweighs the transgression. For kids who are 15 to 17 years old, it will be life crushing.
Yes, more life-crushing even than being punched, kicked, groped, or subject to an unwanted finger inching into your anus.
The state has charged the boys, variously, with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing, involving what the New York Times called “the sexual penetration of one of the juvenile victims.”
The juvenile victim in question describes it as the pressing of a digit or digits against the shallow dent between his clothed buttocks—unpleasant, but hardly the traumatic experience the law, and the press, assume it to be. The other sexual aggressions appear to amount to grabbing of butts and genitals.
Nonconsensual penetration of any orifice constitutes aggravated sexual assault under New Jersey law — in fact, “the depth of insertion [is not] relevant as to the question of commission of the crime.” That’s a first-degree felony, carrying a sentence of 25 years to life.
But even if the boys would serve less time, in adult prison or juvenile detention, or no time at all under a plea deal, a conviction almost definitely will put them on the sex offender registry. New Jersey’s minimum period of registration is 15 years. That 15 years also amounts to a life sentence.
All former felons suffer thousands of state or federally imposed collateral consequences of conviction—from the inability to get a car salesman’s license to permanent denial of the right to vote—condemning them to poverty and social alienation.
But amid the U.S.’s harsh penalties and post-incarceration sanctions, sex offender registry, community notification, and related restrictions—collectively known as Megan’s Laws—stand out for their harshness. Registered offenders must continually apprise the state of their addresses, school enrollment, or jobs. Localities restrict where they can live or drive or walk. Parole officers may enter their homes at will. They cannot join the military. They are ineligible for college loans. They may not work with children or youth, even if their crimes had nothing to do with children or youth. In many cases, they may not live with their own children. (See counterpunch for full article)