Viewpoint: Confused by Scripps keynote graduation speakers

by Ben Boulton

On the day that two keynote speakers at the Scripps College graduation ceremonies advocated for police and prison abolition, to enthusiastic applause, a racist with a gun massacred 10 people in Buffalo, New York, including a retired cop attempting to stop the carnage.

So, professors Mark Golub (convocation speaker) and Andrea Ritchie (commencement speaker) should we release the killer immediately so he can continue to exterminate Blacks? How can a humane society rob such a person of his freedom?

Should we send the wayward young lad to an unlocked re-education center where he would be cleansed of his genocidal urges. There must be available space somewhere on the Scripps campus. If we could just require him to watch “The Jackie Robinson Story” and “Schindler’s List” he’d certainly be cured in time to serve as Scripps’ 2023 commencement speaker — a shining example of why we don’t need prisons.

Professors, you must see from my ramblings that I’m confused. I listened intently to your speeches but you skipped right over the questions that were bursting in my brain. No police? No prisons? Well, what are you for? Vigilante justice? Anarchy? Decriminalization of murder, rape, robbery? Then what happens to the people who murder, rape, and rob?

Were you talking about some utopian future, void of human aggression, territoriality, and greed, a future when, therefore, police and prisons will be unnecessary? A future not divided between the haves and the have-nots. Ah, a nice dream.  . . . But wake me up. . . . Wouldn’t that require abolition of the very plutocracy that sends Scripps its daughters?

If you could answer a few questions, professors, I wouldn’t be so confused:

You have a cell phone. You witness an assault and you hear a cry for help. Think quickly now. Do you call the police? What if you are crying for help? Would you mind if I call the police?

Suppose you possess a key to unlock all prison cells (where people are “caged among rats and forced to eat food festering with cockroaches,” to quote Ritchie’s hyperbole). Do you announce that tomorrow you will turn the key? What about the victims and cooperating witnesses? Would you allow them time to get a gun and go into hiding? You know, there just might be some scores to settle. Could the government operate a colossal witness protection program for all those snitches?

A question for Scripps administrators who applauded the calls for a police-less, prison-less society: Are there any reasons for maintaining your campus police force? Abolition must start at home, right? And why not remove those emergency call boxes located throughout campus — or least prohibit students from using them to report any crime that could land a person in jail?

All these questions. Here’s the big one, professors: What about the victims? Why not one word of empathy for those brothers and sisters?

Do you ever take your students to court to witness sentencings? Do they ever hear survivors sobbing for some sort of justice? Do you invite victims’ advocates into your classrooms, just to . . . ummm . . . provide a balanced education?

Is your aim education, or indoctrination? Either way, you’re cashing in on fringe ideas that can only exist on comfortable islands such as Scripps.

Why chant abolition, abolition, abolition, not reform, reform, reform? Reform is a noble cause that could attract a coalition of sensible citizens — and that could use the intelligence and energy of Scripps’ students.

And why all the hyperbole, professors?  I learned in college that hyperbole is a type of logical fallacy used to distort the truth, mislead naive people, and support shaky claims.

Like Whitman’s learn’d astronomer, you professors must possess proofs and figures and charts and diagrams. And I know that you must be able to provide clear answers to the specific questions I’ve asked on this page — because they must be the same questions to which your critically thinking students demand answers relentlessly.

From 1982-1990 Boulton covered police and courts at two daily newspapers in Connecticut, including two years covering federal court exclusively. Boulton wrote in-depth articles about various aspects of the criminal justice system, including police misconduct.


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