I had a friend once, or maybe I have to call him an acquaintance because I didn’t know him intimately. But I came to know him well enough that he shared a good bit of his life with me.

He was a burglar. Not the romantic kind who stole diamonds out of rich women’s bedrooms, the gritty kind who needed money and broke into poor people’s houses to get it.

He carried a gun when he did that, not to threaten people with; he always tried to break into houses that were empty. He carried it in case he made a mistake and a homeowner attacked him.

He was pretty good at what he did for a while. He stole valuables, pawned them, and made enough money to live.

The people in the neighborhood of northwest Detroit where we lived knew how made his money. Nobody called the police because people in Detroit don’t do that. And he was considerate about not preying on the neighborhood where we lived. He did his B&Es across town. Or at least the next neighborhood over.

He got arrested two or three times but never went to prison for any significant amount of time.

Until the time a homeowner took after him with a baseball bat. He was afraid for his life, and he drew his gun and he killed that homeowner.

I’m all for defunding the police and radically reforming the prison system, but what do we do about people like my friend the burgling murderer?

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com