In a 2008 essay in the journal In Character, history professor Wilfred McClay writes that as a society we have twisted the meaning of forgiveness into a therapeutic act for the victim: “[F]orgiveness is in danger of being debased into a kind of cheap grace, a waiving of standards of justice without which such transactions have no meaning.” Jean Bethke Elshtain, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School writes that, “There is a watered-down but widespread form of ‘forgiveness’ best tagged preemptory or exculpatory forgiveness. That is, without any indication of regret or remorse from perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes, we are enjoined by many not to harden our hearts but rather to ‘forgive.’ ”
—  Emily Yoffe, from What Do Grown Children Owe their Terrible, Abusive Parents?, published in Slate

People with a misdemeanor conviction who get picked up for another minor offense are more likely to face subsequent conviction—and that, according to Issa Kohler-Hausmann, an associate professor of law and sociology at Yale, is part of a deliberate strategy. Kohler-Hausmann made this case in a provocative 2014 Stanford Law Review article, “Managerial Justice and Mass Misdemeanors,” about the rise of misdemeanor arrests in New York City, which occurred even as felony arrests fell. Authorities, she argued, tend to pay “little attention” to assessing “guilt in individual cases.” Instead, they use a policy of “mass misdemeanors” to manage people who live in “neighborhoods with high crime rates and high minority populations.” These defendants, she wrote, are moved through the criminal-justice system with little opportunity to make a case for themselves. They are simply being processed, and the “mode of processing cases” is plea bargaining. (This year, New York City settled a federal class-action lawsuit against it for issuing hundreds of thousands of unjustified criminal summonses.)

Emily Yoffe, “Innocence is Irrelevant” The Atlantic (x)

Eyster believed that Sweatt was innocent of the drug charges against her. “This is a hardworking woman who lived in a heavily policed community for 10 years,” she told me. “If she were a drug dealer, she would have already been evicted. She doesn’t have a history of drug use.” But the idea of taking this case to trial was a nonstarter. The best path forward, Eyster decided, was to humanize Sweatt to the prosecutor—hence those time sheets—and then try to negotiate a plea bargain. In exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecutor might not recommend a prison sentence.

The strategy worked. The prosecutor reduced the charge from a felony to a Class A misdemeanor and offered Sweatt a six-month suspended sentence (meaning she wouldn’t have to serve any of it) with no probation. Her paraphernalia charge was dismissed, and her conviction would result in a fine and fees that totaled $1,396.15.

Upon hearing the news, Sweatt embraced Eyster and wept with joy. Then she stood before the judge and pleaded guilty to a crime she says she did not commit.

This is the age of the plea bargain. Most people adjudicated in the criminal-justice system today waive the right to a trial and the host of protections that go along with one, including the right to appeal. Instead, they plead guilty. The vast majority of felony convictions are now the result of plea bargains—some 94 percent at the state level, and some 97 percent at the federal level. Estimates for misdemeanor convictions run even higher. These are astonishing statistics, and they reveal a stark new truth about the American criminal-justice system: Very few cases go to trial. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged this reality in 2012, writing for the majority in Missouri v. Frye, a case that helped establish the right to competent counsel for defendants who are offered a plea bargain. Quoting a law-review article, Kennedy wrote, “ ‘Horse trading [between prosecutor and defense counsel] determines who goes to jail and for how long. That is what plea bargaining is. It is not some adjunct to the criminal justice system; it is the criminal justice system.’ ”

Emily Yoffe, “Innocence is Irrelevant” The Atlantic (x)

Help! I Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Dad, but My Wife Says No.
Q. Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Husband: My wife has an annual income of more than $400,000. My salary is roughly one-tenth of that, with no prospect of going much higher for the rest of my working life. Both of us work equally long hours. Although we could live very comfortably on her current salary, she insists that I continue to work to contribute to family finances. We have two young kids who are cared for by a nanny, and another lady comes in regularly for domestic help. It actually makes better sense financially for me to be a stay-at-home parent, but my wife will have none of this. I don’t understand why she insists that I work when she has a stable and high-earning job, compared with my stressful long hours for low pay. Every week I’m tempted to just quit my job and let her deal with it.

You gotta read Emily Yoffe’s answer to this. She knocks the ball out of the park with the first 7 words.

From Dear Prudence:

Q. Etiquette for Sleeping With a Former Teacher: I graduated from high school almost 10 years ago. Since then I have lost 50 pounds and go by my formal name rather than my nickname, as I did in high school. Recently I ran into a former teacher at a bar. He struck up a conversation with me, and I quickly realized he didn’t recognize (or potentially remember) me. We hit it off, he invited me back to his place, and because I felt deeply attracted to him, I spent the night with him. It never seemed like a good time to tell him I was a former student of his, so I took the coward’s way out—and didn’t. He wants to take me on a proper date, now, and I know I have to tell him about my lie by omission. I am still struggling to find the right words. Any advice?

A: Let me begin with an aside. As a general rule, if you find you’re really attracted to and interested in someone, sleeping with him on the first date (and this wasn’t even a first date) is not necessarily the best way to start what you hope might be a promising relationship. Good that Mr. Chips wants to see you again, but be prepared that Mr. Chips expects to end the evening in bed. But since this time, you’re going to go to dinner first, find a clever way to give him the big reveal. “You know, Mr. Chips, I’m still smarting over that B-minus I got for my mid-term.” You’re an adult woman long out of high school, so there is absolutely nothing improper about your getting together with a former teacher a decade after the fact.

What. The. Fuck.

Is there ANYTHING that isn’t fucked up and terrible about this answer??? “Just as an aside, you’re a slut for sleeping with him and he’ll never respect you. Also, you should tell him you were a student in the most horrifying way imaginable. Possibly while wearing a schoolgirl uniform?”

One Christmas evening when I was 9 years old my whole family went to see Goldfinger and I stayed stunned in my seat until the credits rolled because I had to catch the name of the man I now loved. About 25 years later I was rushing through the lobby of an office building lobby in Los Angeles when I literally bumped into Sean Connery. He said, “Excuse me,” softly with that Scottish burr, I looked up and exclaimed, “My God!” and he smiled indulgently when my knees buckled.
—  Emily Yoffe