Yeah, I said it.
A bit of prologue before I explain myself:
5 Atlanta Falcons were fined yesterday for violating NFL uniform policies by displaying "unauthorized personal messages" which supported their locked-up teammate. Anyone who follows the NFL knows that this is not unusual, the league having previously fined QB Jake Plummer for honoring his college and pro teammate Pat Tillman (who was killed in Afghanistan) and forbidding Colts QB Peyton Manning from wearing black shoes to honor Hall of Fame Colts QB Johnny Unitas because only the Ravens were sanctioned to publicly pay their respects. (When Unitas played, the Colts were in Baltimore.)
So, in that respect, I don't fault the NFL for coming down on these players because they are being consistent with policy, however stupid the policy is.
In fact, I don't fault the NFL at all. They are a business heavily reliant on their cultivated image and do what they feel necessary to maintain it. Furthermore, if they banned Michael Vick from ever playing again, I wouldn't have a problem with it. What he did was reprehensible and deserved harsh rebuke and punishment.
But not prison.
Prison is a horrible place, and more horrible than it should be. Gang warfare, the drug trade, random violence, murders, rapes and sexual slavery are all part and parcel of the American correctional system. A stint in prison can be psychologically damaging even if you get out without physical harm. It is a denial of the fundamental right of human liberty -- which it should be for those who violate the rights of others. (It is a crime itself that we allow our prisons to function like this and they should be reformed, but that is not within the scope of this post)
But Michael Vick did not violate anyone else's rights. Dogs, however lovable, are not people. They have no rights, as properly understood. As a practical matter, even the SPCA realizes this.
Nearly every animal shelter in America kills animals. They call it "euthanasia" -- but we all know what it is. When animals are unwanted and not adopted, the shelters "put them down" -- a violation of the most fundamental right-- the right to life.
Some people, even staunch libertarians, are backing the government on this one. Yet, if the animals had rights, would not the government not be responsible for the dogs killed and tortured over the course of the undercover investigation? If those were people being tortured and killed, the government would be unquestionably obligated to stop the action immediately. They weren't, because the lives and well-being of those dogs were sacrificed for the court case. That could never happen to people because?...PEOPLE HAVE RIGHTS.
All of this is not to say Vick should not be punished. I have no problem with a state or municipal court fining Vick, and harshly if they so choose, for violating some moral standard of the community. Also, as I said above, the NFL can do with his employment whatever they wish within the stipulations of his contract. But as it currently stands, Vick pleaded guilty to federal charges, which by itself is BS on a stick, and is also facing state charges in Virginia for the same crimes -- a clear violation of Double Jeopardy protection.
So yes, free Mike Vick. Neither he nor society will be better off by subjecting him to the violent criminal culture of prison life. It is perfectly within reason to think that both he and society will actually be worse off once he is released.