Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Remission of Sins

Or not:

But real expungement is becoming significantly harder to accomplish in the electronic age. Records once held only in paper form by law enforcement agencies, courts and corrections departments are now routinely digitized and sold in bulk to the private sector. Some commercial databases now contain more than 100 million criminal records. They are updated only fitfully, and expunged records now often turn up in criminal background checks ordered by employers and landlords.

Thomas A. Wilder, the district clerk for Tarrant County in Fort Worth, said he had received harsh criticism for refusing, on principle, to sell criminal history records in bulk.

“How the hell do I expunge anything,” Mr. Wilder asked, “if I sell tapes and disks all over the country?”

Pretty Lady always thought there were some ethical issues with dashing cousin Charles' corporate schemata. Indeed, when she discovered how he'd earned the unconscionable fortune which allowed him to indulge his passion for car-racing on weekends, she seriously considered having all of her junk mail permanently forwarded to his address. Seeing as how he was personally responsible for her, and fifty million other people, having received it in the first place.

Now it seems as though dear Charles has branched out into Exposing People's Pasts, and Pretty Lady throws up her hands. She understands that in a society with near-total breakdown of community, the need arises for a competent system of Checking Up On People.

But if every minor infraction one commits, while in a state of youthful angst or confusion, is to dog one's steps forever and ever amen, why don't we simply execute all convicted criminals instantly? Misdemeanor, felony, what's the difference? It would be quicker, and possibly more humane.

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