Crime, Punishment and the Rutgers Case

Published: March 21, 2012 NYT


To the Editor:

Re “Jury Finds Spying in Rutgers Dorm Was a Hate Crime” (front page, March 17):

This case raises critical questions for the gay community and for us all. How do we balance justice and compassion? Should this young man be imprisoned for up to 10 years for a cruel and immature act that had a dreadful consequence he did not foresee and would not have wished?

What is accomplished by imprisoning him, apart from satisfying our urge for retribution? Is this really the way to end bullying, or are we in danger of becoming the bullies we abhor?

We suggest that Dharun Ravi be sentenced to work for a gay rights organization. There his prejudices would be confronted every day simply by coexisting with people whom he might grow to like and respect.

We hope that a prominent gay rights organization will intervene in the sentencing hearing, saying: “Justice has been served. We applaud that. The message has gone out that harassment and bullying of gay people will not be tolerated. However, we do not support the maximum sentence for this young man and ask the court for leniency.”

Milwaukie, Ore., March 18, 2012

The writers are, respectively, a gay rights activist, a criminologist, and a peace and reconciliation activist. The Rodriguezes’ son died in the Sept. 11 attack.