This BLOG pushes for robust justice and argues against what I see as overly-lenient sentencing (as well as arguing against institutional idiocy, complacent incompetence and more), but I want to say some things to address those who feel that criminals are just folks who, in a tough spot, made bad decisions.
I AGREE WITH YOU 100%. If we want a happy just society, then the law courts are entirely the wrong place to start. By now, they’re usually young adults, and into crime. The pattern for their lives has been set. Our choices are all poor choices. The RIGHT place to start is by looking at how we grow our citizens. That means parenting, and schooling in the formative years.
However, we are where we are. When crimes have been committed, and victims have been damaged, and society has paid out a fortune, we need to act in ways which will make things better for society as a whole, with as little down-side as possible.
In my book, that means these things:
1. Sentences have two important roles. They should punish the criminal, and they should deter would-be and repeat offenders.
When a sentence is paltry, it serves neither purpose, whilst simultaneously costing society dearly to running a criminal justice system, which hands out wrist slaps.
2. Restorative justice should be at the heart of our criminal justice system. Where possible, the criminals should be held personally and financially responsible for restoring what they have destroyed.
3. Rehabilitation should be a goal, but not to the extent that it conflicts with the previous two items. And by the way, the way we currently do rehabilitation is MASSIVELY ineffective whilst also being MASSIVELY expensive AND IT DOES DAMAGE THE PREVIOUS TWO. A triple whammy.
So, please don’t comment on how “there but for the grace of God go I”. You may be right, though actually, you’re wrong in my case. I come from a very poor background and a troubled family. I have not committed crime, but I accept that others will, and those others aren’t necessarily “wicked” – a concept with very limited usefulness.
I am saying, again, that we are where we are, and dealing with those who commit crimes which damage society should be strongly discouraged before and after the fact, and heavily involved in putting right their wrongs.