I have been mulling over UT's decision to give Daniel Hood a football scholarship.
As you've likely read by now, Hood was convicted when he was 13 years old in assisting with the rape of his cousin. He is 17 now, and by all accounts, he has been a model citizen since who says he is remorseful and is not running away from his crime in public statements.
John Adams wrote an asinine column today about the situation, which was the first I'd read about it. The reasoning Adams offered for why offering him a scholarship was a bad decision was cynical and sad. My first reaction was to take the opposite position, since Adams' opinions add about as much value to the public dialogue as the Boston Globe's stock would add to your investment portfolio.
But then I read the court document that Clay Travis linked to and it made my stomach turn. Not just the description of the act itself, which was heinous, but Hood's victim-blaming and lack of remorse in the immediate aftermath.
I also am extremely uncomfortable in particular with how the vicitm's forgiveness is being used as evidence that he has reformed. That doesn't prove anything. Victims of rape frequently don't even report what happened because they are too scared. More importantly, victims of rape and abuse will often rationalize the perpetrator's actions.
Nor do the glowing recommendations from his school really mean all that much. People have this image of rapists as sketchy men in trench coats who lurk in alleys, but most of them are people who by all appearances are upstanding members of society.
Our court system has determined that juveniles are supposed to get second chances as adults, with the record wiped clean, for almost any crime. Since the incident happened when Hood was 13, we aren't even supposed to have even known about it. That the information is public knowledge at all was due to someone's mistake.
Believe me, did I ever make some poor decisions when I was a teenager that would not reflect well on me now if they were public knowledge. I will only elaborate enough to say I am very fortunate to be the beneficiary of some second (and third) chances in life myself.
So, it's fair to say we wouldn't be having this discussion at all had it not been for a mistake made by the courts; that for every Daniel Hood with a crime like this that we know about, there are thousands more like him that we will never hear about because our justice system has determined we shouldn't. Some of them will reform and go on to lead productive lives. Others will squander their second chance.
Ultimately, it is a judgment call, and there is no formula to determine the right decision. Lane Kiffin has determined that Hood means what he says, that his actions have demonstrated he has reformed, and that he isn't a sociopath who is pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. Everyone involved understands this is an extremely risky decision, and they appear to have been as transparent about making it as they possibly could have been.
It would have been hard for me to make the same decision that Lane Kiffin made. But it was probably hard for someone else to offer me a second chance, many years ago.