The Shooting of Ahmaud Arbery by Gregory and Travis McMichael and an Analysis of the Georgia Code as it Relates

        The shooting of Ahmaud Arbery and subsequent arrest of Gregory and Travis McMichael is a peculiar scenario and will no doubt be one of the most interesting trials of our lifetime. There are specific facts of the case that coincide and are discussed in Georgia statutes but it will ultimately rest in the jury’s eyes and how well the defense can defend the shooting. Withholding speculation, the facts of the case are mostly undisputed.

          Ahmaud Arbery was seen on camera entering into a residence under construction in Brunswick, Georgia. Ahmaud Arbery entered the premises, but did not cause any damage to the property, nor did he remove any property from the premises. This is an important revelation in the case as Georgia statute is very clear on trespassing. 

According to Georgia Code,
§ 16-7-21 - Criminal trespass

          (a) A person commits the offense of criminal trespass when he or she intentionally damages any property of another without consent of that other person and the damage thereto is $500.00 or less or knowingly and maliciously interferes with the possession or use of the property of another person without consent of that person.

          Arbery did not damage anything inside of the property and there were no workers at the time that he entered the property. There was also nothing stolen from the property, meaning that Arbery did not trespass according to this statute.

            (b) A person commits the offense of criminal trespass when he or she knowingly and without authority:

(1) Enters upon the land or premises of another person or into any part of any vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft of another person for an unlawful purpose;

        Well, in Ahmaud Arbery’s case, we have no idea why he entered the premises. If he had been arrested or interacted with police officers at the scene instead of two men who were not identified as police, a proper interrogation and investigation would have taken place to determine why he entered the residence. Without any input from Arbery, the only thing people can do is speculate. Some will automatically feel that he entered for illicit purposes in a quest to vindicate the shooters, but the truth is that multiple people had entered the exact same premises as well and none of them were chased and fatally shot. People, including a couple and children, entered the house under construction on October 25, November 18, December 17, February 11 and February 23. This could give credence to the argument that the McMichael’s were right about a “string of burglaries” in the area prior to the shooting, but the only burglary in the area had been on January 1st and no houses were entered. A car outside of the residence of the McMichael’s was broken into and a 9mm handgun was stolen.

*Please do not leave weapons unsecured in your car!

            An entire article can be written on the proper securing and storing of firearms in itself, but it is public opinion that leaving a handgun in a car overnight is not being a responsible gun-owner. Also, having lived in some rough parts of Phoenix, AZ, I can guarantee you that had they really lived in an area plagued by burglaries, they would not have left a handgun in a car and if they did and it had been used, the party responsible could possibly be charged with a crime themselves.

            It’s estimated that “between 300,000 and 600,000 guns are stolen in the United States annually.” An argument can be made that some gun owners have to leave their weapon in their car when at work or at another business that does not permit entry with a weapon, but falls apart for the McMichaels as it was taken from their car outside their house.

(2) Enters upon the land or premises of another person or into any part of any vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft of another person after receiving, prior to such entry, notice from the owner, rightful occupant, or, upon proper identification, an authorized representative of the owner or rightful occupant that such entry is forbidden; or

Ahmaud Arbery entered a residence that no person was currently inside of to tell him that he couldn’t enter. Also, he was not the only person to enter, as shown above. The owner has seemingly given multiple statements to New York Times and neglected to ever mention having put up a No Trespassing sign on the property. Instead he states that Arbery could have entered the home in order to drink water before continuing his jog.

          “There is a water source at the dock behind the house as well as a source near the front of the structure,” Ms. Graddy (the owner’s lawyer) wrote. “Although these water sources do not appear within any of the cameras’ frames, the young man moves to and from their locations.” In one angle, from Dec. 17, the man “appears to wipe his mouth and/or neck,” the statement continued, and “what sounds like water can be heard. He walks out of the house, eases into a jog, and disappears from view.”

        This is important as it shows another counter to people claiming that he was not out for a jog. Also, Arbery’s house is only two miles from the neighborhood that he was shot in. This is perfect distance for his jog defense to hold up. The only thing separating the two neighborhoods was a four-lane highway, which a lot of residents in the area claim separates a predominantly white neighborhood (where Arbery was shot) and a predominantly black neighborhood (where Arbery lived with his mother. Arbery was also known to keep in physical shape and would do pull-ups in his yard using a standing tree, as observed by his neighbors, meaning that it was regular for Arbery to keep up with exercise.

(3) Remains upon the land or premises of another person or within the vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft of another person after receiving notice from the owner, rightful occupant, or, upon proper identification, an authorized representative of the owner or rightful occupant to depart.

          Because the owner was not on the property at the time, there was no warning from him to leave. The McMichaels can argue that they were an authorized representative of the owner, because the owner had asked George McMichael to inform him if he saw anyone on the premises. There is no evidence from either the homeowner (Mr. English) or his lawyer that he told the McMichaels to chase the suspect down and attempt a citizen’s arrest. Also, this subsection of the statute states that this idea of trespassing is only valid if someone gives a notice to the suspect to depart. The chance was never given, therefore Arbery was not trespassing under this statute.  

(c) For the purposes of subsection (b) of this Code section, permission to enter or invitation to enter given by a minor who is or is not present on or in the property of the minor's parent or guardian is not sufficient to allow lawful entry of another person upon the land, premises, vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft owned or rightfully occupied by such minor's parent or guardian if such parent or guardian has previously given notice that such entry is forbidden or notice to depart.

          There were no minors involved in this case so Arbery was not trespassing under this subsection.

(d) A person who commits the offense of criminal trespass shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

          This subsection is probably the most important of all and will be elaborated on after the next section. In short though, it is important and extremely relevant to this case that trespassing is considered a misdemeanor and not a felony, according to Georgia law.

(e) A person commits the offense of criminal trespass when he or she intentionally defaces, mutilates, or defiles any grave marker, monument, or memorial to one or more deceased persons who served in the military service of this state, the United States of America or any of the states thereof, or the Confederate States of America or any of the states thereof, or a monument, plaque, marker, or memorial which is dedicated to, honors, or recounts the military service of any past or present military personnel of this state, the United States of America or any of the states thereof, or the Confederate States of America or any of the states thereof if such grave marker, monument, memorial, plaque, or marker is privately owned or located on land which is privately owned.

          Arbery did not deface any property, military or otherwise. An interesting part of this statute, however, is that it states that defacing confederate memorials is automatically a trespassing charge. A neighbor of the McMichaels, an African-American man who served in the Air Force for named Tony Shaw, stated that from his own backyard, he could see confederate flags being flown. He also states that, “They’re not used to seeing a lot of black faces around here.” This means that no matter how you personally feel about the confederate flag, it does seem to be celebrated in areas of racial divide. This doesn’t help the McMichaels and, depending on his jurors, might not seem favorable.

            Now that we have dissected whether or not Arbery committed a crime in the first place, we can dive into the statue giving private citizens the means to make a lawful arrest:

2010 Georgia Code
§ 17-4-60 - Grounds for arrest

O.C.G.A. 17-4-60 (2010)

17-4-60. Grounds for arrest
A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.

          It can be argued that the McMichaels had reasonable suspicion that Arbery was committing a crime, however, that crime, as combed through earlier in this article, was not a felony. This means that no matter what the McMichaels thought about Arbery and trespassing, it is not a felony. They had no claim to pursue him. This is just as absurd as someone chasing, with deadly weapons, a teenager smoking a cigarette or a citizen jaywalking.

            It can also be argued that George McMichael (a former investigator for the district attorney) did not have any arresting authority at all. In 2006 he was stripped of his official arresting authority because he continuously skipped a use of force class. Whether or not this risk of force class would have helped McMichael make better decisions when confronting an unarmed jogger is irrelevant, but someone who deliberately had their authority taken away should be even less likely to attempt an arrest as someone who has not.

            Ahmaud Arbery did not commit the offense of trespassing. Under Georgia Code, nothing that Arbery did that day even came close to justifying trespassing. If he had committed the offense of trespassing and it can be proven in court, it was a misdemeanor and not a felony. According to Georgia Code, a private citizen can not chase a fleeing suspect if the crime was a misdemeanor and not a felony. If the pursuit was unlawful, then pulling out a shotgun was absolutely unlawful. Someone cannot use the self defense claim if they were the aggressor, and the facts of the case prove that Arbery committed no crime and therefore, was not subject to a citizen’s arrest.



The War Against Rehabilitation

        Currently, our inmates and convicts are almost determined to fail. Harsh sentencing of drug offenders, inmates being seen as monetary value, and not being taught any work-skills while in prison makes it extremely hard for convicted individuals to make a life post-release. This causes them to migrate back into the subcultures that directly contributed to their arrest and conviction. When you couple this with the innate cruelty and torture of solitary confinement and other practices of prison staff, convicts have no realistic chance of integrating back into society.

Society is constantly evolving and its norms and culture alongside it. What was acceptable ten years ago may not be acceptable now, and vice-versa. A great example for this would be in criminals convicted of drug offenses, and especially for marijuana. As more and more states start to decriminalize and legalize marijuana, it seems more and more ridiculous to hold someone in prison for drug offenses.

            If a convicted offender were to apply for a job, the hiring manager would probably ask about their background. If the person was only convicted for drug offenses, they may have an easier time getting hired than for an assault or burglary. This is dependent on the establishment, but as the culture shifts into decriminalizing more and more substances, so does the understanding that perfectly normal, capable people may have drug charges.

            Another faucet of society that has been evolving is the drug culture itself. Members of a drug culture often operate in the same ways as any other subculture and typically have their own way of dressing, their own history, and their own shared beliefs. Just like a video game subculture, or a car club subculture, certain things would be considered normal and certain things would be considered taboo. These subcultures surrounding drugs may make the process for rehabilitation increasingly harder and put offenders at risk of reoffending, but some may also provide an overall better place in society post-conviction.

            Let’s say an offender gets a conviction for buying cocaine for personal use and ends up being sentenced to a couple of years in prison. Upon release, it is going to be extremely hard for this inmate to find work as not a lot of places hire convicted felons. If they can get a job inside of their own subculture, their risk for re-offending is going to increase significantly because they are back where it is acceptable to use cocaine and surrounded by people that do. In this offender’s case, the drug culture is actually inhibiting their rehabilitation by making it exponentially easier for them to use again.

            This same problem can be seen with any drug subculture and it even leaks into mainstream society through music and television/movies. The more that drugs are at the forefront of society, the easier it is for first-time users to be tempted to indulge. With the possibility of breaking the law by buying and selling drugs increasing, the possibility of being convicted of a crime increases as well. The abundance of these subcultures then makes rehabilitation increasingly harder as well by allowing the offender to fall back into the cycle of use.

            This can be true of any subculture that engages in criminal activity. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Overall, 67.8% of the 404,638 state prisoners released in 2005 in 30 states were arrested within 3 years of release, and 76.6% were arrested within 5 years of release.” (Matthew Durose, 2014, Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States) Making it increasingly difficult for convicts to survive in society post-prison is one of the reasons for such high recidivism rates. If someone gets out of prison after serving for ten years for burglary, that person will have difficulty entering the job market. They may pick back up stealing and burglarizing in order to purchase foods and goods to survive.

            One of the biggest changes to criminology over the last few years would be the ever-increasing calls for a more rehabilitation focused criminal justice system. Public perception of the drug war and its victims has changed to a more treatment-oriented system where drug courts curb the burden that the corrections system once had to hold. Violent offenders are also being highly scrutinized as mental illness is becoming more and more understood. As medicine and science evolves, treatment can evolve as well, leading to more rehabilitation focused sentencing.

            Mass incarceration is a burden on our system that offenders have to bear. The only reason that an offender should be put in a prison for the entirety of their life is if they are an absolute danger to the community and there is no need for rehabilitation. This could be a violent offender with multiple convictions on their record, or a sexual predator who frequently preys on underage victims. A drug offender who may have been caught with a large shipment of methamphetamine or cocaine should not spend their entire life or even more than ten years in prison depending on past convictions.

The United States’ sentencing laws are outrageous in certain circumstances. Litigation has done it’s share of decreasing the amount of time received for crimes, but still has a long way to go. It’s been found through multiple studies that revenue levels directly predict incarceration rates and growth. (Lynch, 2011, Criminology and Public Policy, 673-689.) The same studies also prove a correlation the other way around as well. As mass incarceration becomes a norm in certain states, so does legislature to increase revenue.

Arizona is one of the best examples of this. As the move to normalize mass incarceration in the state increased in the 1970’s, so did revenue generating ‘schemes’ as well. These ranged from taxing alcohol and tobacco more heavily, to imposing more fees on drunk drivers. This legislation to increase these revenue streams were put directly into building more prisons and paying for the cost of mass incarceration in the state. As more and more states increase revenue streams to pay for mass incarceration, more and more offenders are handed lengthier sentences and the criminal justice system moves away from rehabilitation.

This changes the offenders’ lives drastically because they are often given very large sentences and no way to recover after. They may develop a mental illness from being in prison for an extended time and not have the tools after to become a productive member of society. If the system had focused on their rehabilitation from the beginning, they could have contributed more. Because our system is so focused on punishment, these offenders really have no chance at a better life, post-sentence.

            Correctional professionals are not off the hook either, so to speak. The widespread use of isolation or segregated treatment as punishment for offenses while in prison is virtually unconstitutional and inhumane. In 1890, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Miller stated that

“A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others, still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be any subsequent service to the community.” (ACLU)

Even after the input from the highest court in the land, however, prisons and corrections officials still implemented the widespread use of solitary confinement as a practice. In the United States, around 7% of the prison population is in solitary confinement, or about 80,000 individuals. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that detainees in solitary confinement in California prisons in 2004 accounted for 73% of the suicides even though they were less than 10% of the overall total prison population. (ACLU) This means that by utilizing solitary confinement and essentially relying on it so much is causing our prisoners to kill themselves. The purveyors of this concept are technically responsible for these deaths.

We have an ethical and constitutional obligation to ensure our inmates are not subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. If an inmate is sentenced to ten years in prison but ends up committing suicide before the ten years is finished, the prison and its employees have failed to uphold what they were obliged. When the Supreme Court ruled on the right to healthcare for inmates, they, “…reasoned that to place persons in prison or jail, where they could not secure their own care, and then to fail to provide that care, could result in precisely the pain and suffering prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.” (Health Affairs)

In Orange Country, California, three women are currently suing the Orange County jail for indirectly causing the deaths of their children. One of the women, Sandra Quinones, claims that after her water broke, it took deputies over two hours to get the woman to a hospital, a trip that involved a stop for coffee at a Starbucks. The baby passed away in the hospital. Another woman, Ciera Stoetling, gave birth in the county jail after informing the jail nurse that she was having contractions. The nurse told her that there was not enough staff to take her to a hospital and she would have to wait two more days. The baby later passed away. Regardless of the circumstances of their arrest, these women did not deserve to lose their children, especially over a coffee break at Starbucks. The inhumanity displayed by the guards and staff at the Orange County Jail is inexcusable, but unfortunately, seems business as usual.

Why is treatment of an inmate innately cruel by the prison staff? Is it a belief that prisoners deserve to be punished further than just being in prison and if so, why do the guards believe it to be their own responsibility to enact? Since first documented in the Stanford Prison Experiment, humanity acts strangely when placed in positions of power over one another, especially when the person underneath has been sufficiently dehumanized. This normalization of cruelty is portrayed everywhere we can look for it, from Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, to Orange County Jail.

            Convicts deserve fair and impartial treatment throughout the process of engaging with the criminal justice system. The fact that they cannot find employment when they are released means they cannot become productive members of society. If they are tortured in prison by being placed in solitary confinement constantly, we are breaking their capacity to handle the difficulties of life following their release. All of these factors increase the chances of recidivism ultimately meaning that the criminal justice system did not do its absolute best to help our convicts or our communities.




ACLU. (2014). The Dangerous Overuse of Solitary Confinement in the United States. Retrieved from ACLU:

Dubler, N. (2014, March 10). Ethical Dilemmas In Prison And Jail Health Care. Retrieved from Health Affairs:

Lynch, M. (2011). Mass incarceration, legal change, and locale: Understanding and remediating american penal overindulgence. Criminology and Public Policy, 673-689.

Matthew Durose, A. C. (2014). Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States. U.S. Department of Justice.

Zoukis, C. (2017, July 20). What Humanity Learned From The Stanford Prison Experiment. Retrieved from Huffington Post:

Photo by Craig Lloyd from Pexels

Juvenile Issues In Our Justice System and How To Fix Them

        There’s no group that deserves redemption as much as our youth. If we can save our youth, whether through system reform or policy change, we can shape the entirety of our criminal justice system for future generations. Through understanding how the juvenile’s brain works, we can shape our rehabilitation programs to tailor their needs. They need to be guided through each step of the criminal justice system and monitored closely when they are released. Someone could be assigned to a juvenile, sort of like a case manager, to help them understand every step of the process. Perhaps, if they don’t feel as cornered by the system, their rehabilitation will be a lot easier.

            A juvenile facing a felony conviction would have an ample amount of weight on their shoulders. The system can be daunting, and the juvenile would benefit greatly from being guided through it. In the beginning I would try to be as comforting to the juvenile’s situation as I possibly could. Because the juvenile is facing incarceration time, he would most likely be kept in a juvenile detention facility during the trial process. I would try to be as sensitive to their needs as discretion could allow.

            During the trial, I would work with the juvenile’s representation to help in any area they may need and also engage with their family so that the juvenile hopefully feels less alone while incarcerated. During the trial process, the sentencing can be extremely daunting for the juvenile and if is a lengthy sentence, it would be important to keep them focused on rehabilitating and keeping a positive outlook. Before 2012, children could actually be sentence to life in prison without parole, which is utterly barbaric.

 These children may have committed heinous crimes, but life in prison is an extremely harsh sentence to impose on someone who’s brain has not developed yet. Of course, it’s also unconstitutional, as ruled by the Supreme Court in 2012 with the cases of Jackson v. Hobbs, and Miller v. Alabama. (Sentencing Project) This is important as there is an ample amount of science being published regarding the functionality (or lack thereof) of the teenage brain.

Adolescents are still developing, and since, need to be treated in a different manner than their adult counter-parts. The teenage mind is a complex and often misunderstood thing. It is filled with hormones and most of the time is only focused on getting through adolescence. Neurons are enlarged in the teenage brain to the extent that they are more easily capable of learning new things than adults are. Because of this, the teen brain is also more susceptible to stressors than the adult brain. (Harvard Magazine) When you pair this fact with immaturity and not understanding fully how to deal with those stressors, you can see how teens can be more impulsive, reactionary, and at times, violent than adults. Not all adults know how to manage stress either, but teenagers are notoriously worse at handling stressors.

            Another factor to take into consideration when discussing the teenage brain is the development of the cortex. It’s shown in teenagers to be one of the last parts of the brain to develop, and this is very important as the cortex is sort of the decision maker of the brain. (Chamberlain, 2014) Without a fully developed cortex an individual may be more inclined to act irrationally or make hasty decisions. This could also explain why teenagers do not take their future into as much consideration as their adult counterparts and could be more willing to throw it away on something such as exacting revenge on a bully or having unprotected sex. The instant gratification for teenagers is often more powerful than the careful, deliberate planning and organization one partakes in when thinking about long term goals.

Inside of the cortex lies the right supramarginal gyrus, which would also still be developing in the teenage brain. The right supramarginal gyrus is responsible for empathy in human beings, and an underdeveloped one could be the reason that some teenagers can take a life or multiple lives when the idea sounds so heinous to an adult. (Psychology Today) There are ways to improve your empathy, but most of the ways aren’t going to be favorable for teenagers. Psychology Today describes some of the ways that you can improve your empathy by: meditation, daily exercise, and volunteerism. (Psychology Today) Some teenagers may exercise daily, but that’s a small part of helping the development of empathy. Since the brain is malleable through neuroplasticity, working on meditation and volunteerism could help teenagers exponentially and should possibly be introduced in schools as part of the curriculum. There should also be programs while the individual is in prison to capitalize on these studies.

Another part of the brain developing during adolescents is the cerebellum. The cerebellum does help with understanding the social ques around you as well as other cognitive processes. (Chamberlain, 2014) This means that some teenagers that are inepter than others in social settings may misinterpret something in the conversation and this could lead to embarrassment. This embarrassment coupled with an underdeveloped cortex and right supramarginal gyrus could cause the teenager to explode and do something that is unfavorable to his future. Since the cerebellum is the last part of the brain to mature, care should be taken when dealing with teenagers who are in undesirable social environments. They’re basically a ticking time bomb.

The first step to rehabilitation for our youth is to hopefully prevent them from committing crimes to begin with by increasing our education on the state level. There is a direct correlation between better education and lower crime rates. This is because the better we treat our youth, whether that be through teaching or better programs and technologies, the less deviant they feel and less likely they are to lash out. Our education system in the United States is abysmal. Our teachers are underpaid, our schools are under-staffed, and our children are paying for it. The problem with treating recidivism is that it costs money. That’s why every state needs to follow the few states that have legalized recreational marijuana and put that revenue back into our prevent, rehab, and reform systems. “Total marijuana tax revenues are now expected to climb to $94 million annually by 2016, according to the latest projections. This would equate to a $1 billion-dollar retail market. The revenue figures are high enough that Colorado now finds itself in the enviable situation of having to figure out what to do with all that money. And it's catching the attention of other states, like Vermont, now considering legalization.” Washington Post

A lot can be done with $1 billion dollars, and I would spend a large portion of it on rehabilitation, but it can also go to preventing crimes by better integrating programs into schools and to better fund schools. Elementary schools would receive the most funding, as they can start the earliest with showing children the rights and wrongs of society and how social deviance can lead to a lifetime of wrong decisions and stripped freedoms. There would be a more intensive criminal justice requirement for teenagers to complete, as it is such an integral part of our society, yet most students never complete even one criminal justice class in high school. Students are intelligent enough to grasp concepts dealing with socialism and criminology and we need to trust in their abilities and that education is the correct preventative tool. The funding for rehabilitation and reformation will start with removing mandatory minimum sentences and forgiving most drug related offenses, especially if they were under twenty-five upon arrest. Then we must take the non-violent offenders out of maximum-security prisons and group them with like offenders. The money for rehabilitation will be spent on programs that reduce recidivism and help the juvenile understand why he can’t sell crack-cocaine or black-tar heroin.

            The case manager for each juvenile, or group of juveniles, would also be responsible for ensuring that they receive the programs and attention they need while in prison and upon release. Motivational interviewing would be a great approach as their brains haven’t finished developing and they need to maintain a positive outlook. The funding for this system would come from taxing recreational marijuana, which would also stop teens from ending up in prison for marijuana as well. There are ample people in the field to take on these career roles, and the need for them is high as a lawyer isn’t as personal and is most likely too busy with the case work to help as much as a juvenile case manager can. The days of throwing children into cells and forgetting about them until they are released from prison need to come to an end. 


Works Cited

Bergland, C. (2013, October 10). The Nueroscience of Empathy. Retrieved from Psychology Today:

Campus Safety Staff. (2018, October 15). The K-12 School Shooting Statistics Everyone Should Know . Retrieved from Campus Safety Magazine:

Chamberlain, L. B. (2014). The Amazing Adolescent Brain. I have this on hand if anyone wants it emailed. 

Cline, J. (February, 27 2011). Do Later School Start Times Really Help High School Students? Retrieved from Psychology Today:

Rovner, J. (2018, October 22). Juvenile Life Without Parole: An Overview. Retrieved from The Sentencing Project:

Ruder, D. B. (2008, September). The Teen Brain. Retrieved from Harvard Magazine:

Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels

Making Sexual Harassment a Crime

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Whether used as a maneuver of power or for sexual gratification, sexual harassment should be considered a white-collar crime. The multitudes of victims that are trying to lead a normal life and work their normal shift without being victimized is on the rise. In 2018 an estimated 81% of women and 43% of men were unwillingly sexualized in the workplace. (Chatterjee, 2018) Civil court lawsuits and employee termination has failed to provide the correct amount of punishment to perpetrators. Sexual harassment should be looked at through a criminological scope and given a misdemeanor status to curb the rise in our workforce today.

There are two forms of sexual harassment; one which creates a hostile work environment, and quid pro quo. A hostile work environment stems from a person in the workplace using sexual harassment to deny a co-worker, subordinate, or even a supervisor the normal, day-to-day work-life that all employees deserve. Quid pro quo focuses on the exchange of something between two employees if one of them can sexually harass the other. Both of these forms wreak havoc on the workplace and denies employees the right to the non-toxic work environment that everybody deserves.

            These two types of sexual harassment can take three different forms. The sexual harassment can be verbal, physical, or visual and all three should never be tolerated. Verbal sexual harassment can include anything said, even what someone might think is a joke. They also include text messages, emails, and things written on a board during a meeting. Of course, these are just a few of the ways that verbal sexual harassment can transpire, as sexual predators are constantly evolving their ways and means, and nothing is fully off the table for how they can harass another employee. These are things such as writing a note to a co-worker or even asking someone about a risqué story from their past.

            Sexual harassment through visual means can be anything from staring at a co-worker’s body in an uncomfortable and blatantly obvious way or winking at someone too much. If it makes someone uncomfortable, even if nothing is said, it is still sexual harassment. Physical sexual harassment stems from anything that transpires between two employees in which there is physical contact and it’s completely unwarranted on the receiving end. This can be anything from brushing up against a co-worker’s breasts while reaching for something to bending someone over a desk to show them how they would perform sex acts on them from behind.

Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson, the criminologists behind routine activities theory, published a journal detailing the specific ways in which crimes take place through “routine activities.” For a crime to transpire, three elements need to be in place: an available target, a motivated offender, and the absence of a guardian to stop said crime. (Cohen & Felson, 1979) This means that as long as the reward is worth the risk the offender is taking, and the victim is not sufficiently protected from the crime being committed, the crime will take place.

            This can be applied to sexual harassment in the workplace. The motivated offender is the predator, motivated by either the need to show power over the victim, or wanting to satiate a sexual desire. The suitable target is the victim, only suitable because they are in the same environment as the offender. The target can be the offender’s subordinate, or it can be their supervisor, and they may need something from the offender, such as a part in a movie or a promotion. The lack of a capable guardian lies in the employees who see the toxicity that the offender presents but fails to do anything about it.

            Just like with the criminological approach to routine activities theory, breaking down each level could dampen sexual harassment as well. Take away the offender’s motivation by the promise of swift, harsh punishment if they dare to harass a colleague. It should even be made into a misdemeanor and punishable as such. Take away the lack of a guardian through workplace training by showing employees the importance of coming forward or intervening against toxic behavior. The only level of the routine activities theory that would not need to change is the suitable target. The victim is doing nothing wrong and this behavior is directed toward unwilling participants.

            Sexual harassment was, at first, difficult to separate between blue and white collar. The victim may be a blue-collar worker and may have been sexually harassed by a white-collar worker, lending credence to the school of thought that sexual harassment using blue and white-collar terms is undefinable. (Wright, 2001) This is false. Sexual harassment itself is a white-collar crime as white-collar crime only needs the following three factors to be considered as such: time, location, and role of the victim. (Payne, 2017) This can arguably make every sexual harassment complaint white-collar, regardless of the employee themselves being considered in a blue-collar or white-collar role.  

            At the judicial level, sexual harassment has been argued in front of a judge multiple times. The first was in 1986, where the Supreme Court itself oversaw the case of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, in which the ruling went in favor of the Civil Rights Act’s Title VII. The ruling stated that, “…the language of Title VII is not limited to a proscription of only "economic" or "tangible" discrimination.” (Wright, 2001) This means that, for the first time, a hostile work environment was proven to exist and did not necessarily need a tangible object, position, or promotion in order to constitute sexual harassment.

            The 1993 case, Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., clarified a lot of questions that were left from the Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson. The decision of Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc. also brought forward new ways of thinking about sexual harassment, such as the objective and subjective elements. This means that the standard for sexual harassment requires, "…an objectively hostile or abusive work environment [one] that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive," as well as the victim's subjective perception that the environment is abusive. (Wright, 2001) This means that the courts can now take into consideration the individual work environment on a case by case basis, ultimately leading to the decision of Rabidue v. Osceola Refining Co. in which it was first considered that the courts presiding over cases can take a look at the inherent differences between blue and white-collar environments. (Wright, 2001)

            The next case, Gross v. Burggraf Construction Co., which was argued in front of the Tenth Circuit. In this case, the decision to consider the environment was taken a step further. Because Gross was working in an environment that commonly uses profanity, between both males and females, her claim that she was sexually harassed was thrown out. Because the boss used crude language with both the female and male workers and was typical of the environment, no sexual harassment took place, according to the ruling. This established that the industry be taken into consideration. If the same language was used between a principle and a teacher, the case would have been scrutinized in a different fashion.

            The ruling in Gross does not take into consideration that the industry may be filled with profanity and sexual harassment. What happens when a person is sexually harassed in an environment that courts would consider crudeness a normality? In Williams v. General Motor Corp., Williams had been working in their role for thirty years before filing a sexual harassment claim. (Wright, 2001) While there was nothing specifically tied to her gender in the harassment, the court looked at all evidence as a whole and agreed that she had been sexually harassed in the workplace. (Wright, 2001)

            Sexual harassment has been an extremely controversial subject in the media world. According to a study conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation, “About 41 percent of women in media and entertainment say they've been sexually harassed by a colleague or boss at some point in their careers.” (NBC News, 2018) This places media at the top of the list for sexual harassment amongst white-collar industries. The reasoning behind this can be seen in the way that relationships are extremely important in the media industry and how having powerful allies can help boost a career. This makes it easy for people to become the victim of sexual harassment as the “big-wigs” in the industry can use their prestige to bait the victim into a sexual obligation. This type of sexual harassment can be a hostile work environment such as a reporter being sexually harassed by her boss, or it can be quid-pro-quo where a powerful producer or director gives an actress or actor a specific role under the understanding that they will engage in sexual activity with them. Luckily, there is a movement that looks to steer away from the toxicity of the media industry.

            The MeToo movement has recently gained traction and for good reason. It started as a movement for minority victims in low-income areas to share and discuss these traumatic experiences that are taking place all over the world. Since its inception in 2006, the movement has been grounded in holding predators accountable and providing long-term systemic change in society. (MeToo, 2018)

            The interesting thing about the MeToo Movement centers on the changes that it already has made. In the last week, famous and controversial movie director Woody Allen received a break from his contract with Amazon as he had made some critical comments against the MeToo movement over social media. (Neumeister, 2019) This is good news, as it’s anyone’s guess why this predator was even given a contract by Amazon in the first place. More importantly, it shows other predators that these actions will not be tolerated, and even being critical of the movement by itself will not be tolerated.

            Another example of the great work this movement is providing lies in the attention it is bringing to the “non-disclosure” side of sexual harassment. When high profile cases settle out of court, the true grasp of the predator’s actions are never fully shown. This leaves the person free to victimize more people as they are never held accountable for their actions. (Gousman & Erb, 2019) Accountability is a vital part of the cycle of sexual harassment that needs to play a larger role than it has in the past. By holding predators accountable, punishment can be implemented, and the workplace will be that much safer and comfortable. Perpetrators of sexual harassment can no longer use “lack of education and training” as an excuse when they are caught. In twelve states sexual harassment training is a requirement in the workplace. (Gousman & Erb, 2019) The more training that is provided to the employees, the more priority is placed on sexual harassment and the more involved the employees will see that the company is.

The Army is another organization that is making great strides in sexual harassment training. Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention training is given every six months where for one day, twice a year, we all crowd into a classroom and spend the entire day watching cheesy, low-budget, scenario videos on what to do and not to do. Some of the situations are painfully obvious, such as not to rape one another. Others are situations where a person may tell a joke and another servicemember listening may take offense. Soldiers in the training always asked questions, and it was important to me as I understood the importance of why we were there.  Having this training twice a year highlighted the significance that the Army was placing on it, and all companies should follow suit. In the civilian sector, there is less emphasis on training, and the way to combat this is by legislation that forces companies to provide sexual harassment training to its employees and turning sexual harassment into a punishable crime. 

By placing proper repercussions on the act of sexually harassing a fellow colleague, predators will be more inclined to think before they speak, gesture, email, text, or even look at a coworker. People deserve to be able to go to work in an environment that is free from toxicity and unwanted advances. Having a job should not be akin to signing up on a dating website. If a completely harassment free workplace is to be attained, harsher consequences need to be implemented. Harassment should be criminalized just like it would be if dealing with a stalker. Through the changing of all sexual harassment in the workplace to a misdemeanor would enforce the laws established in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If white-collar crime is defined as being committed during the course of one’s job, where the offender’s occupational role plays a central feature in the perpetuation of the crime, and their occupation is considered “legitimate” by societal standards, then sexual harassment can be considered a white-collar crime. (Payne, 2017) This would be more heavily enforced if the crime was made to be a misdemeanor, as long as proper evidence proves sexual harassment took place. 

Works Cited

Chatterjee, R. (2018, February 21). A New Survey Finds 81 Percent Of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment. Retrieved from The Two-Way / NPR:

Cohen, L. E., & Felson, M. (1979). Social Change and Crime Rate Trends: A Routine Activity Approach. American Sociological Review, 588-608.

Gousman, R. S., & Erb, D. W. (2019, April 12). Examining the Impact of the #MeToo Movement on Workplace Policies. Retrieved from Credit Union Times:

MeToo. (2018). History & Vision. Retrieved from MeToo Movement:

NBC News. (2018, July 25). Women in media reported highest rates of sexual harassment among white-collar industries. Retrieved from NBC News:

Neumeister, L. (2019, April 12). Amazon: Woody Allen’s #MeToo comments wrecked movie deal. Retrieved from Associated Press:

Payne, B. K. (2017). White-Collar Crime. Washington D.C.: Sage.

Wright, A. H. (2001). From the factory to the firm: Clarifying standards for blue-collar and white-collar sexual harassment claims under title vii of the civil rights act of 1964. University of Illinois Law Review, 2001(4), 1085-1108.

The Lack of Discretion in Abu Ghraib and Other War Crimes


           Inhumanity exists in every faucet of society. The Code of Hammurabi did nothing to hide this by harsh sentencing and executions. As society progresses into a more progressive construct, inhumanity is not treated, but rather hidden or covered-up. Sometimes it is in the name of science that people are mistreated, and sometimes it is out of pure mens rea. The sociology behind the use of discretion changes on a case by case basis, but a constant, however, is that when humans are placed in a position of power over helpless and de-humanized people, cruelty tends to prevail.

            Abu Ghraib opened in the 1950’s and was a seemingly normal prison at first. It was built by British contractors and used by Saddam Hussein throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s. It closed down in 2014 after being renamed the “Baghdad Central Prison,” and since, three mass-burial sites have been uncovered. These burial sites contain over a thousand people, most of whom were political prisoners.

            The prison was burglarized shortly before United States forces took control in 2003, and everything that could be moved was looted or vandalized. When the 372nd Military Police Company took command of Abu Ghraib, it housed around seven thousand detainees. The conditions for detainees and soldiers alike were abysmal and a vast number of inmates had yet to be convicted of a crime. In the early months of 2006, the reservist soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company would be at the center of the biggest human rights abuse scandals of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

            From an internal memorandum penned by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, the abuse of the detainees was rampant. Chemical lights and broomsticks were used to sodomize inmates, rape was often threatened and group masturbation forced, Military Working Dogs were utilized to intimidate and attack inmates, and prisoners were beat with chairs and other objects. (Hersh, 2004)

Most of the soldiers involved knew what was happening and were even praised for it. One SSG Ivan L. Frederick II had written to his family in emails and letters that Military Intelligence was in charge of the operation, and that they encouraged the inhumane treatment. Frederick recalled a time in his letters when a detainee under the jurisdiction of the C.I.A was brought in for questioning.

“They stressed him out so bad that the man passed away. They put his body in a body bag and packed him in ice for approximately twenty-four hours in the shower…The next day the medics came and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake IV in his arm and took him away.” (Hersh, 2004)

Frederick had already been told the month before when bringing up the inhumane treatment by his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Phillabaum to “[not] worry about it.” This nonchalance coupled with encouragement and praise provides a catalyst for even the most morally astute men to commit the most heinous of crimes.

This was not an isolated incident and in fact, has happened a few times in American history. Guantanamo Bay has had it’s share of scandals throughout the years and what has been ascertained is that terrible detainee treatment seems to be the Standard Operating Procedure for intelligence agencies to extract information. Some supporters of this treatment even argue that because the detainees are not actually prisoners of war, the Geneva Convention does not apply to them. (Amnesty International, 2006) This mindset provides a convenient loophole for interrogators to torture or instruct the torture of inmates with little-to-no repercussions.

In 2003, the Pentagon approved techniques that would allow interrogators to use practices that would be highly scrutinized in the following years. A classified list of these techniques was the “First documented official policy permitting interrogators to use physically and psychologically stressful methods during questioning.” (Priest & Stephens, 2004) While this doesn’t explain why the lower enlisted Military Police at Abu Ghraib were able to act in such an immoral way, it does offer credence to their defense that they were, “Just following orders.”

            In 1936 Japanese-occupied Manchuria, Unit 731 led by General Shiro Ishii conducted inhumane human experimentation on thousands of prisoners for the Japanese Empire. Unit 731 is considered by many as one of the most disgusting, terrorizing, and strangely interesting displays of evil to be enacted by humanity in the last couple of centuries. The atomic bomb that was dropped on two Japanese cities at the close of the war almost makes the atrocities suffered by Unit 731’s victims seem humane and fair.

            Uncovered at the site in Manchuria was evidence of thousands of biological experiments, on victims of all ages and backgrounds. The Japanese did not discriminate, and much like the war crimes committed in Nazi Germany, a complete disregard for human life was paramount. The experiments ranged from infecting individuals with biological agents, using skin-penetrating bombs to infect them, to testing how long in freezing water an individual can survive. It is noted that unlike the German human experimentation trials, every one of Unit 731’s victims succumbed, if not from the experiment than to be studied in the autopsy. (Howard Brody, 2014)

Germany was no stranger to war crimes during the holocaust, and human experimentation was not much different than in Japan. Because of the Nuremburg Doctors’ Trials, more information was uncovered about why these experiments were allowed to persist and why a seemingly average sentry or military prison guard could be coerced into acting in such an evil manner. It’s obvious that not everyone involved suffered from a lack of empathy causing psychological disorder, so why follow an unlawful order, especially as vile torture?

            According to the findings of John W. Thompson, “The Nazis justified their experiments on three grounds—racist, eugenics/public health, and wartime national interests.” (Howard Brody, 2014) The same grounds for experimentation was later uncovered by Dr. Norbert H. Fell, upon interviewing past members of Unit 731 in post-war Japan. While Germans believed that other races would “taint their Aryan bloodline,” members of Unit 731 felt that the Chinese and Koreans (vast majority of the experimented) were inferior to them. Wartime national interests and patriotism in Imperial Japan played key roles as well.

            While racism was a powerful motivator for the Axis Powers, it does not explain why the Military Police soldiers at Abu Ghraib acted in such a way. The United States’ Army is comprised of a multitude of races and every step of a soldier’s enlistment is careful to promote an environment where all peoples are treated as equal.  This means that, based on past atrocities, they could have been acting in such a way because they were simply protecting wartime interests. This makes sense if they were following the orders of the interrogators placed above them, but it still requires thought processes and conducting specific actions to be cruel, so why would any Abu Ghraib Military Policeman, Unit 731 member, or Nazi German guard stationed at Auschwitz still act unethically even when being told to?

Geneva Conventions and ethical treatment of prisoners is consistently drilled into the head of every trainee before heading to a combat theatre. The rules of engagement are echoed throughout the squad before every mission. All soldiers have the right to exercise freewill and question their leader’s intentions as long as their leader is acting unethically. While there is no clear-cut answer on why seemingly normal and ethical humans of sound mind can act irrationally, helpful information may have actually been found in the United States during the 1960’s.

            The Stanford Prison Experiment is world renowned for what it taught us about the psychology of group dynamics. Even though it was cut short and discredited on multiple grounds, it is one of the most influential studies to have ever been conducted. Participants claimed post-traumatic stress for the rest of their lives after the six days spent in the fake prison in the Stanford underbelly. Even the volunteers who role-played as the guards suffered from some sort of emotional stress following the conclusion of the most controversial experiment in modern American history.

            In 1971, Philip Zimbardo placed an ad for volunteers to engage in a sociological experiment in which half of a group would be divided into guards, and the other half, inmates. The groups were randomly selected, with the guards receiving sunglasses and batons and the inmates not being allowed to use their real names or wear underwear. Among other tactics used to force helplessness was solitary confinement and withholding of food. Zimbardo himself understands that this was a mistake as he was changing too many variables about the experiment to keep it scientifically accurate, but a lot was still learned about human behavior over the next six days.

            According to Christopher Zoukis, a prisoner rights’ activist and contributor at Huffington Post, states that, “When you take people from any walk of life and dehumanize them, you get an inhumane result.” (Zoukis, 2017) The Stanford Prison Experiment was designed to test how humans acted in captivity. “What it did was show the world how broken, and how dangerous, the system truly is, and what people are capable of within its structure of power and powerlessness.” This is important when considering that the soldiers in Abu Ghraib had no formal training and all but two of the lower enlisted had any corrections experience. When people are placed in charge of another, dehumanized and powerless individual, the result will almost always be unethical and inhumane.

            Prisons in the United States are suffering from the same epidemic of inhumanity that spurred the premature end of the Stanford Prison Experiment. In response to the experiment itself, an inmate who had been in solitary confinement for thirty-six months stated that:

“If I even whispered to the man in the next cell [this] resulted in being beaten by guards, sprayed with chemical mace, black jacked, stomped, and thrown into a strip cell naked to sleep on a concrete floor without bedding, covering, wash basin, or even a toilet. I know that thieves must be punished, and I don’t justify stealing even though I am a thief myself. But now I don’t think I will be a thief when I am released. I am not rehabilitated either. I now only think of killing those who have beaten me and treated me as if I were a dog,” (Zoukis, 2017)

            This is appalling because when we sentence a criminal to be taken into custody by the state or country, we are trusting that we are being ethical and humane in this decision. A vast trove of news events actually shows the opposite, however.

In Orange Country, California, three women are currently suing the Orange County jail for indirectly causing the deaths of their children. One of the women, Sandra Quinones, claims that after her water broke, it took deputies over two hours to get the woman to a hospital, a trip that involved a stop for coffee at a Starbucks. The baby passed away in the hospital. Another woman, Ciera Stoetling, gave birth in the county jail after informing the jail nurse that she was having contractions. The nurse told her that there was not enough staff to take her to a hospital and she would have to wait two more days. The baby later passed away. Regardless of the circumstances of their arrest, these women did not deserve to lose their children, especially over a coffee break at Starbucks. The inhumanity displayed by the guards and staff at the Orange County Jail is inexcusable, but unfortunately, seems business as usual.

Solitary confinement is another way that our prisons commit acts on par with what the victims in Abu Ghraib experienced as well. In the United States, it’s on a much larger scale and it is estimated that at any given time that there are 80,000 inmates in solitary confinement across America, or 7% of the entire prison population. (ACLU, 2014) In a Supreme Court case from 1890, In re Medley, 134 U.S. 160, 168, it was stated that prisoners in solitary confinement, “…fell,  after  even  a  short  confinement,  into  a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became  violently  insane;  others  still,  committed  suicide;  while  those  who  stood  the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.” (ACLU, 2014) This means that solitary confinement was deemed ineffective and cruel over a century ago, but we still house 7% of our prison population in it, meaning we are essentially committing an inhumane and unethical act in doing it.

Prison guards, whether at war or domestic, tend to act incongruent with ethics and humanity. Guards in Unit 731 believed that their race being superior precluded any humanity needed to be shown to their prisoners. German guards at concentration camps believed in the war effort so much that they helped carry out inhumane experimentation on inmates. Humanity has not evolved to a point yet where cruelty is not in our social construct and since, evil still persists today. The Military Police personnel that were in charge of Abu Ghraib decided that their discretion included sexual abuse and violence against their political prisoners, most of whom had not been convicted of any crimes yet. Inhumanity is a trait that all humans are capable of, and whether leadership understands this and is taking advantage of it, or it is a collection of circumstances that places people in these positions of abuse, the entire system is engaging in cruel and unusual punishment.


Works Cited

ACLU. (2014). The Dangerous Overuse of Solitary Confinement in the United States. Retrieved from ACLU:

Amnesty International. (2006, February 6). Guantánamo Bay - a human rights scandal. Retrieved from Amnesty International:

Hersh, S. M. (2004, April 30). Torture at Abu Ghraib. Retrieved from The New Yorker:

Howard Brody, S. E.-B. (2014). United States Responses to Japanese Wartime Inhuman Experimentation after World War II: National Security and Wartime Exigency. Camb Q Healthc Ethics, 220–230.

Priest, D., & Stephens, J. (2004, May 9). Pentagon Approved Tougher Interrogations. Retrieved from Washington Post:

Zoukis, C. (2017, July 20). What Humanity Learned From The Stanford Prison Experiment. Retrieved from Huffington Post:

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