“Crime and Punishment”; nothing pretentious about that for an FAC thread title, huh? (and none the worse for having been used by someone else before)
We’ve had a few threads over the years about crime. This thread is intended specifically to discuss our views on the underlying purpose the penal systems of our governments serve.
Laws are created by governments so as to effect Order. The three basic purposes of a penal code are:
1. Deterrent effect – punishment is doled out to whomever is caught breaking the law. The more harsh or severe the punishment the greater the deterrent effect. Who would be willing to risk getting caught stealing if the punishment is to be stripped, coated in honey and tied/staked in front of an ant colony? If a death penalty is enforced for certain laws it has the additional bonus of eliminating the possibility of repeat offenses.
2. Removal effect – as mentioned above, the death penalty has the effect of removing perceived threats from society permanently! Most governments, however, rely on imprisonment as the principle means of punishment. Individuals convicted of breaking laws are removed from society and contained with others who share the same fate for the duration of however many years they are sentenced. While incarcerated the criminals pose no threat to society.
3. Reform effect – the idea behind this underlying view is that some individuals resort to crime because they either lack skills to be productive members of society; posses some attitudes that run counter to goals of government; or just are just plain ignorant of society’s dictates/needs and require training/re-education. Recidivism should presumably diminish as successful attempts to reform are employed.
The three philosophical bases listed are portrayed in a black and white fashion, but realistically most penal codes are some combination of all three. Do you think lengthy prison sentences generally result in offenders experiencing remorse or contrition for their criminal acts? Do you think the imposition of lengthy prison sentences diminish the incidence of people doing stupid things (e.g. drunk driving, robbing liquor stores when they’re 16, etc.)? What sort of retraining or education could be provided for someone convicted of some ‘white collar’ crime? If indeed a successful penal code is a combination of all three bases, how then are judges to know which sentence is to work most effectively in a given case? How can we ensure among judges that this same intelligent discrimination is applied uniformly?
Criticisms of the US penal system are varied, on one side of the aisle we have folks screaming that judges are too lenient and that too many opportunities for appeals exist, on the other side we have folks screaming that implements like the '3 strikes' law are blunt instruments poorly suited to make any distinctions as to the nature/severity of offense.
Let’s hear your thoughts on crime and punishment.