Saturday, May 8, 2010

Amy Beck - Burbank Teacher Sentenced to 2 Years

Amy Beck, a teacher, had sex with a 14 year old student. There is no doubt whatsoever this was wrong. She must be dealt with by the justice system.

In her favour, however, consider that it is reported she walked into a police station and confessed. There was no indication in the article I saw that she would have been found out otherwise. There is no indication in that article that the victim had made any sort of complaint. In addition, she apparently entered a guilty plea to the charge so the boy would not have to testify. There is no indication this was anything other than a single affair with one student and was not repeated with anyone else.

It seems to me that she had already come a long way toward correction and rehabilitation. I would have thought that much more could be done by imposing a period of probation during which she would be obliged to attend treatment. Instead she has been put in prison and required to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.

In my opinion, this case is yet another example of how society equates bad behaviour, which must be corrected if possible, with being a bad person, which is not necessarily a life-long reality. Correcting behaviour may be impossible when a person refuses to acknowledge it, but in this case she demonstrated the courage to face her problem directly.

I don't know whether the judge in this case was appointed for life or elected. The problem with being elected is that a judge has constituents he must satisfy if he wants to retain his job, even if he believes he can accomplish the legitimate goals of correction and rehabilitation society requires using less severe means. His options are restricted. The problem with an appointed judge is that they may lose their objectivity, in which case they may need to be removed. That should be possible as well, but in practice is very difficult at best.

In any event, I strongly suspect that society could have been better served by keeping Ms. Beck out of prison and using the resources that would be thereby freed up to bring to bear a reasonably lengthy period of meaningful treatment.