It happens every day. A video is posted on facebook and a zillion comments follow. Against my better judgment, I read some of the comments on one of these shares. Interspersed among comments wishing that more video was shown of the dog to the “awwwww doggie!” responses was a group of people who expressed that it was cruel for dogs to be “enslaved” to serve people, even people with disabilities that “need extra help”. I’ve never met one of these types (at least one that acknowledged it openly), but many of my friends have. What surprised me was a comment stating that it was not only cruel of us as humans to force dogs to work for us, but that criminals should be trained to provide guiding services to blind people.
OK, so forcing a dog to work for love and praise and pets and treats and constant companionship is cruel… but forcing a blind person to be at the mercy and whim of another person – criminal or not – is completely logical? And training a released criminal to perform guiding services at the whim of a blind person is not enslavement? Oooookay. Let’s run with that line of thinking. If someone chose to do this… how would one be matched with a guide criminal?
Which institution will train your guide criminal? It would be advantageous to select an institution close to home, because there’s no way a blind person can travel independently before they are matched. So blind people should all live in the basement of their chosen training jail or prison, and in the event that’s not possible, they should at least live next door, with no tricky streets, steps or any changes in elevation more than 1/16 of an inch. Ideally, the jail or prison should screen their guide criminals carefully, produce capable trainees, and make sure they are trustworthy people, but the fact they’re there at all should be sufficient reason for blind people who are recipients of their trained guide criminals to weep and genuflect in gratitude. I’m sure there will be studies eventually, but what previously-enjoyed activities would increase the success rate: embezzlement, robbery, assault, drug possession, driving under the influence of alcohol? And would it be expected that a guide criminal should be able to continue to enjoy these activities post-placement, even if it might put the blind person at risk?
What attributes would be preferred? Sure, compassion is one; they need to love what they do in support of the poor poor blind people of the world… But what about reliability, personality, habits, age, gender… I mean, this person is supposed to be on-call for guiding duties 24/7 in the unlikely event that a blind person would actually want to go somewhere. So you’d want someone with a good enough work ethic to – at a moment’s notice – keep a blind person safe from creepy people, from falling down stairs, or from looking or acting normal in any way… but they can’t be reliable enough to hold down any other job after all of that training in case the blind person needs their services. How much do you tell a blind person about their guide criminal’s life pre-placement? They shouldn’t care, but occasionally one of them might ask about their great skills or bad habits or health problems or family background or why they would want to be a guide criminal in the first place.
The logistics of working with a guide criminal… What if they get distracted and wish to go on a hot date with that attractive person across the street? Would they need to bring their blind handler along for this date? What do guide criminals eat? Where would they sleep? Does anyone cover medical expenses in the event they get sick and can’t work? What behaviors or health conditions would make a guide criminal no longer fit for service? Since blind people are incapable of deciding things for themselves, who decides if a match just isn’t working out?
I don’t think the guide criminal lifestyle is for me… I’m off to enslave my dog by taking her for a run around the neighborhood, followed by a seriously good game of fetch, a big bowl of fresh water, and a snuggle on my bed. Doing such things with a guide criminal would be… really creepy. But, hey, thanks for indulging my catharsis in imagining a life where conscripting the time, dignity, and autonomy of not only blind people but post-released criminals is a thing…