The whole thing is really worth a read. But here is the intro:
If, over a long career, you sentence a lot of people to prison, several things can happen to you. Most of them are bad. Here’s a short list of some of the bad things:
* You can begin to see offenders only in numerical terms. ”What’s the base offense level, criminal history score and sentencing range? Next!”
* Unless you are very careful, you may become inured to the horrific impact that prison sentences have on offenders and their families. ”You say your parental rights will be terminated if you go to prison, well, they’ll be better off anyway.”
* You begin to suppress the anger that naturally flows from the horrific crimes you are forced to study. Unless you struggle mightily to resist, you will then allow that anger to boil up to the point of an inner rage. That rage in turn fuels a righteous indignation that, metaphorically speaking, permits you to sentence Satan while thinking of yourself as the Archangel Michael.
* With a despair akin to that found in the best of Richard Pryor’s stand-up routines, you may find yourself making jokes with punch lines about the futility of rehabilitation. “Say, did you hear about the guy who went to prison, was rehabilitated and came out an even better monster?”
All of these things are unconscious. If they weren’t, you would be one sick puppy.
Now, this must not become a pity party. I have a hell of good gig. I get paid decently, and the pension is great. People call me “judge” and the bowing and scraping I get with a snap of my fingers is a nice extra perk. That said, if you care about doing a good job when you sentence people, you better try to find an antidote for the creepy things I have just described.
For my (partial) antidote, I realized that I needed a mental image of a physical object that would evoke a sense of balance. The image that I settled on derives from a gift given to me by a fellow named David Tommy Gene Suggett.
The better portion of the essay, in my opinion, is the story that follows about Suggett.