An Ohio man will be spending the next thirty days in a jail cell thanks to his immature behavior. William Bailey was caught mocking and taunting a neighbor girl who has cerebral palsy. The girl’s mother recorded Bailey and his son with her cellphone camera as they pretending to use crutches and limp. Bailey also reportedly threatened the girl’s mother.
There is no question that Bailey was out of line. There is no question that he is an insensitive jackass. There is no question that he is an out-of-control idiot. But do his actions actually warrant 30 days behind bars? There is no doubt that Bailey needed to be taught a lesson in civic and neighborly relations, but does a month in jail really help here? The actual charges of “menacing” and “disorderly conduct” are a stretch, to say the least. I’m all for making public idiots suffer public humiliation, but I can’t say I support judicial tyranny. Mocking and making fun of someone is certainly in poor taste, but it should not be punishable with jail.
This is the problem with “hate-crime” and “bullying” laws. It is almost impossible to voice opposition to them without sounding pro-hate and pro-bullying. I am certainly not for either of these, and while hate and bullying are not synonymous, they are related. Bullying can take on many different forms, even to the point of violence, but verbal abuse, while definitely not acceptable, is still only verbal. When we get to the point of legislating language and intentions—as we do with hate-crime and bullying laws—we are only a step away from losing the freedom of speech altogether. I may not approve of what I hear coming from another man’s vocal cords, but I also do not want to live in a country where only certain words are legal to speak.
The same goes for non-violent actions. Threats, of course, should not be taken lightly, but throwing a man or woman in jail because of what they have said is what happens in a police state, not in a free country. People say things out of anger all the time, but this doesn’t mean that they should be locked up for it.
Instances like this one are where the law really gets tested. I can sympathize with the judge who wanted to teach Bailey a lesson, but I cannot support his ruling. I do not know all of the specifics of the case, nor do I really want to subject myself to reading the entire transcript of the proceedings. The point here is that Bailey’s neighbors, and not the local police, bear responsibility for not shaming him and treating him like the 43-year-old child that he really is. Where was the girl’s father in all of this? Why wasn’t he more present in the situation? What if Bailey comes out of jail angrier than he went in? After all is said and done, the two families must still live next door to each other. Will this jail sentence really reform the middle-aged bully, or will it only serve to aggravate him further? Only time will tell.