Why do Sick People do Sick Things? Because They're Sick, of Course

There are sick people in this world. They lack the mental capacity to reason, to empathize, to connect with others. Some we medicate. Others slip through the cracks until they commit a heinous crime. Some we medicate but they cause serious harm anyway. Think Virginia Tech. Think Columbine. Think Cheshire, Connecticut, where career criminals stalked, beat, raped, and murdered the family of Dr. William Petit July 23 before setting their house on fire and attempting to drive off.

After we mop up the blood we ask why it happened and we blame ourselves as a society. Contrite lawmakers create more bureaucracy for would-be killers who wish to buy guns. We seem to be doing something, the anxiety subsides, and we hardly notice we're letting the sickies rule the day.

We kid ourselves that even the sickest among us is reformable, that they will act in a healthy way with the right combination of pills and jail time and maybe some therapy. We paper over their cracked minds and then are surprised when the fissures show through.

Sitting among some mothers at the pool the other day while our daughters swam, the topic of safety from sexual predators came up. One of the women had been online and discovered that a man convicted of sexual assault lives on the Main Street of our little town. Our conversation focused on how we keep our kids safe and how we protect their vulnerable souls in a society that places convicted perverts in our midst.

The very existence of the federal sexual offender registry points to the problem in our thinking. The registry puts the onus on the individual to find out if there are any perverts in the neighborhood. We should find this out because we know these people are likely to re-offend, that they can't be cured, that prison does no good. Nevertheless, they're allowed to live right alongside our children.

Why won't we accept the fact that sick people shouldn't be mainstreamed? The presence of such people skews our sense of normal. It's normal to keep your children under constant surveillance lest they be kidnapped and molested. It's normal to spend hours poring over lists of perverts to see where they are in your community.

It's normal to accept the pervert, the stalker, the pedophile, and other pathological creeps as a neighbor because--well, why? It's a waste of time to wonder why sick people do irrational, cruel things to others. They do it because they're sick. We make ourselves vulnerable by believing the right combination of medication, therapy, jail, and rehab can make them well or at least harmless. We'd be better off by acknowledging that sick people do sick things and we suffer if we open the door to them and pretend they're normal. We might even acknowledge their humanity if we accept them for what they are in all their sickness; in so doing, we might even respect our own.


  1. Anonymous8:06 PM

    You know, I heard that California (I beleive) is thinking of setting a capacity for its prisons. RIght now, that means a whole slew of people will be released when the maximum goes into effect. I bet there will be a few sick people there that get let out. That's scary.

  2. Anonymous9:50 PM

    A really tough issue. I'm reminded of a bash.org quote:
    User1: so many f*****g criminals, its bulls**t
    User2: heh, if we sent all the criminals to some empty continent and just left them there to die
    User2: and showed up like 50yrs later like, "sup?"
    User2: whatd u think they'd say?
    User3: something along the lines of, "G`Day mate"

    Personally, I think that a national sex registry is a really bad idea, because it never allows people to move on. Sure, there are some people who don't heal, but there are others who will. By putting them on that list, they will never live down what they have done, they will never be able to live a normal life again, and it's probably just making them more likely to reoffend.

    When I was in high school, I was constantly hearing that I was gay (even though I wasn't). After hearing it enough times, you start to wonder whether you are that way, whether there's some truth in what they say. If you never let these people live a normal life, then they're more likely to reoffend than if they were just allowed to live a normal life.

    Sure, there are some people which will reoffend no-matter what, and that's a real shame, and it makes it so hard to find the right course of action. We can't just lock them up for their natural life, because a) it's too expensive, and b) it's convicting them for something they haven't done. It reminds me of a Sci-Fi book I read once where they would arrest people before they committed a crime. It's just not what we do - it's not right.

    However, I can't say that we just let everyone free, because we do need to have some preventative measures. But it is such a tough issue, there's no real right way to handle this.

  3. We often overlook the victims of crime because they're ordinary people; there's not much to think about because they're like us. Instead, we focus no the deviant and the criminal because these types are so unusual, so fascinating. The result very often is that we are more concerned for their rights and well-being than we are our own or the victims'. We want to make it right--normal--with and for them. My point is that normal very likely isn't an option for someone whose chemistry, whose wiring, is so malformed that they commit heinous crimes. We kid ourselves into thinking we can regulate their minds with meds.

    We might live in a healthy world if we could acknowledge bad and wrong for what they are instead of making excuses--and room next door--for it. Spades are spades.

    I think it would be amazing, too, to look after the well-being of ordinary people instead of the well-being of the people who undermine our peace of mind and safety.

  4. Anonymous2:52 PM

    in washington they just let a ton of people out of prison because it's overcrowded...sad

  5. So what's the solution?

  6. Sick people need to be cared for. In the case of the criminally mentally ill, they need to be institutionalized permanently.


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