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Crime and punishment

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10 years 9 months ago - 10 years 9 months ago #1 by sozzled
Crime and punishment was created by sozzled
The crime and punishment debate is probably one that will never end. The questions asked at the beginning were:

What are your views on crime and punishment? Do convicted criminals receive the punishment they deserve? Should punishment be an aspect of the system at all? Should we be looking at 'causes' of crime (lack of education, poverty, etc.) and seeking to address them, instead? Do current punishments act as deterrents? Any other issues relating to this topic you'd like to raise?


It's a fairly universal truth, as many contributors wrote, that the punishment handed out to offenders doesn't always appear to fit the crime as evidenced by the following comments:
  • Sometimes the punishment doesnt seem to fit the crime. The judges can only mete out what the laws dictate - and I assume those laws were created with all sorts of things considered.
  • I have always thought that the punishment didn't fit the crime and the sentences handed out have been inconsistent and lenient.
  • I still believe in the death sentence for murder (as long as it’s not turned into a public circus). Maybe if it was re-introduced we wouldn't have the overcrowding in prisons and England wouldn't be considering sending some of their inmates to us?
  • I think if you take a life through violent means (murder) then you don't deserve to be shown any mercy. As for rapists and paedophiles – they also destroy lives from within – then they should also be locked up and the key thrown away as most reoffend anyway. So why risk other people being abused or even killed, to give some person who doesn't care about the preciousness of life another chance to hurt again?
  • Going to prison isn't scary; you get three meals a day, a bed, access to counselling, education, leisure activities, television, and a library. Perhaps if our jails weren't cushy places ppl would, for the most part, think a bit before they committed a crime.

Some people suggested a couple of rather "interesting" suggestions as this selection of comments shows:
  • What do we do with them? How about boot camp? Give 'em a few months of hard labour and see if they're in a hurry to reoffend.
  • Sometimes I wish that we had corporal punishment here in Australia. Then, maybe, others would think twice before letting their emotions run out of control.
  • I'm all for a good public flogging or a beheading.
  • Behead 'em and then flog 'em and then hang the judges who sentenced 'em and then put 'em in the stocks, in solitary confinement, for the rest of their lives and chuck beheaded cabbage-heads at 'em and feed 'em nothin' but Prisoner re-runs and Kenchucky Fried gravy and then broadcast their miserable lives, 24-7, on Big Brother and ...
  • We could send em down to the center of town and have them sing Broadway's greatest hits while wearing a tutu, swim fins, and the Groucho Marx glasses and mustache.

As for why people turned to crime as a "lifestyle" - I think that's what people meant - opinions were divided:
  • If you start looking at every aspect of a persons background as to "why" somone does something, no one would be jailed at all I would say. It takes away "responsibility". Two people can grow up in the same lower socio-economic area - one can become a bankrobber and another becomes a doctor. Society sets rules and it doesnt matter where or how you grow up, we are aware of what is right and wrong.
  • Poverty is not a reason why people turn to crime. Nor is lack of education, or an abusive upbringing. If these things were reasons, then we could expect all of the people from those kinds of background to be criminals. Clearly, not all people who have a bad start in life turn out to be criminals, so, I believe the unique factor in this issue is individual choice.
  • Have young people become desensitised so much by television, movies, PlayStation games etc. that life isn't even real to them? If this is the case it scares the hell out of me.
  • That person obviously has placed no value on human life. I feel that pleading insanity - temporary or other, would be a cop-out.
  • It's my observation and belief that factions exist within the social sciences profession that seek to portray some who commit crime as 'victims of society', who, rather than being punished for wrongdoing, require the 'understanding' and help of the rest of society.

This was just a sample selection of some of the comments made in our discussion in another place. In my next posting I'll continue with some of my own thoughts on the matter.

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Last edit: 10 years 9 months ago by sozzled.

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10 years 9 months ago - 10 years 9 months ago #2 by sozzled
Replied by sozzled on topic Crime and punishment
In this part I'll reproduce some of my serious (and some not-so-serious) arguments involved in the crime and punishment debate:

Lest people misinterpret my sense of “compassion” as some kind of namby-pamby, psychedelic, New Age Sensitivism (“What?!?!?” I hear many of you scream in your thoughts as you read this, “Sozzled = sensitive!?!? Get real!”), knowing that I’m dead-set against all forms of capital punishment, I still consider that it’s important to get the punishment-fitting-the-crime mix better tuned.

If we recite cases where the justice system seems to have gone awry, off on some navel-gazing, Nimbinesque, free-lovin’, forget-about-who-are-the-victims-in-the-case, sherbet-fuelled tangent that's obviously failed in it's duty to protect society (such as the case in Queensland where nine men got non-custodial sentences for gang raping a 10 year-old – no excuse; penalty is being appealed), we might be deluded into thinking that the whole system is a complete shemozzle. It isn’t. We might also be led to believe that we’ve gone too soft on criminals and that we should bring back hanging, drawing and quartering to fix things right again.

It’s far too easy, looking from the sidelines, to think of ourselves as experts … or dismiss criminology, penology and a whole raft of other “-ologies” as nonsense sciences. Using the sporting analogy for one moment, we can watch a game, identify the missed scoring opportunities, the poorly executed teamwork, the coaching mistakes, bad strategy, etc. and reflect on things from the comfort of our living rooms or offices on Monday mornings with words like “if I’d been playing, I would have done it differently!” Yeah, sure you would.

Would we, if we were inextricably woven into the fabric of cases that go through our criminal courts, really do things all that differently? Would the benefit of our “enhanced” skills improve matters? Would we achieve a better balance between protecting society and those who break its laws? How should history judge us: as even-handed but compassionate … or the hanging judges?

The two main things that separate us from other animals (or primitive savages, for that matter) is our ability to hurt/kill our kind for no reason that's justified on the grounds of self-defence/self-preservation and our abiity we can show mercy even towards those people who seem bereft of it themselves. Mercy (or the absence of it) are not factors for "managing" crime – there just a reflection of society. Societies that claim to be "compassionate" are no better, nor worse, than societies who still hold to the eye-for-an-eye system of justice. It’s the down-side of humang-kind’s nature, our ability to exercise free will to do good or evil, that puts us where we are in the animal kingdom.

We sometimes hear people talk about a woman who murders her child probably doesn't deserve any compassion. Of course, we never know the full facts of the case but, I agree, this kind of crime always sounds particularly heinous even though, in Australia, murder of any kind is viewed as heinous. The Australian Institute of Criminology reported that, in 2006, the homicide rate was 1.5 per 100,000 people in this country. It’s therefore unsurprising that murders are not a usual occurrence here (compared with the homicide rate in the United States of America for the same period: 5.7 per 100,000).

Quoting figures like these - they roll off the tongue like butter sliding off a hot knife - we lose the significance of what this kind of victimisation does to society as a whole. It’s not just that we are appalled that we have 1.5 homicides per 100,000 people – I wonder if, in the US there’s an equal complacency at their rate which nearly 4 times ours? – but there isn't any real quick fix to curing the problem.

Let's put things into perspective: our crime rate is comparatively among the lowest in the world. In the United States, where they go on about being the land of the free, etc., they have a prisoner population of 744 per 100,000. Now, I might’ve missed something here, but that’s 744 people out of every 100,000 who who have done something so terribly bad that the other 99,256 feel they need “protection”. Perhaps we’re a tougher nation after all? Or more "understanding"? The incarceration rate in Australia in 2006 was 163 per 100,000 … that’s 4½ times lower than the US. Are we a nation of wusses? Hell no!

Would I feel safer living in the United States? Do I think they’ve got a better balance between compassion and justice? Do I think that 163 people out of every 100,000 people in Australia, spending time behind bars, is too low? I don’t have the answer, nor the understanding.

However, it’s abso-bloody-lutely vital that every case going before the criminal courts is prosecuted and defended with equal vigour and that final judgement is made, protecting all the rights of the victims and the accused, not only on the basis of the facts but also tempered by humang compassion and understanding. Crime has no winners and losers: everyone – criminals and victims – are all the same.

A couple of days later I wrote:

I had this thought, a couple of days ago when I was scribbling my earlier essay, about what "makes" people behave the way they do, especially in the case of a woman who's charged with killing her infant son. Y'know, if you interviewed this person 10, 15, 20 years ago and said "considering all options available to you to solve any big problem you're ever going to face in life, would you consider murder to be one of them?"

I would have to say that I could not conscientiously agree that there is any grounds for justifying murder as a means of solving one's problems. Self-harm and suicide, likewise, fall into this category. So, if you canvassed everyone in society - including those serving time in prison for murder - and asked them if murder was a "solution", I reckon you'd find that everyone would agree that homicide is totally repugnant. Of course, there are people who have no moral scruples whatsoever, but they're really sick and they don't deserve consideration in this discussion; in those cases, society has to take steps to protect itself, exacting the maximum penalty available at law in order to achieve that protection.

Do I feel sorry for everyone who's killed someone else? Of course I don't and my opinion might not be influenced even if I was in possession of reliable information about the case. Unfortunately, it's human nature to rely on hearsay, gossip, intimation and innuendo and we're quick to condemn.

On a much different level, consider some of your pet peeves. For example, Australians (as a whole) generally believe in the "fair-go" principle and the "fair day's pay for an honest day's work". Bludging on the system is something that really gets up our noses. So, what happens when a tip-of-the-iceberg problem gets lots of press, and the Government steps in (wringing their hands like a pack of Scrooges) and say "we'll fix this lot up ... there'll be no more free-loadin', we'll make the buggers work for the dole, and damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!" OK, so I got a bit carried away with references to civil war Admiral Farragut, but you get the picture. What happened, of course, is that honest, well-intentioned unemployed people got caught up in net designed to catch out dole-bludgery. We also had sensationalist, foot-in-the-doorway, tabloid TV reporters hell-bent on finding honest Joe unemployed man-in-the-street and depicting him as some kind of Ivan Milat of the welfare system.

Unnggh! That's what gets up my nose! It's the dopey, skimming-the-surface-of-current-affairs, tabloid press and electronic media who sensationalise the bad in our society. Nothing sells newspapers and prime-time TV advertising spots better than spotlighting the sordid underbelly of society.

So, let's get back to the situation where a person starts out in life by believing that murder is unconscionable as a solution, but commits murder anyway. I s'pose a lot of people would instantly give up on that person. "Your problem, you pay the price." Tushy wrote, "there is more than enough help out there..." Yep! So why don't people ask for help, or take the help that's offered? Maybe they do. It is most unfortunate that some people choose the "easy way out" option and bump-off the person who they feel is the root cause of their problem(s). I think the reason that violence occurs [as a way of dealing with problems] is that people feel helpless, hopelessly trapped and unaware of the possibility that other, non-violent options even exist, let alone are suitable in their case!

What we don't hear, don't know, are the statistics about the number of successful interventions that have prevented homicides (including George's pet hate, infanticides). Wouldn't it be reassuring to know that, for every case of a child being killed that 100 more had been prevented? I bet the tabloids wouldn't find much "joy" in that kind of story. I suspect that humang-kind's predilection for, and preoccupation with, "grubbiness" possibly means that we don't really care if there have been any successful interventions at all. It would be very interesting if studies have been conducted about the success of counselling programs, LifeLine, or other community projects designed to stop people from totally losin' the plot. Wouldn't it?


If you think I'm wrong then say "I think you're wrong". If you say, "You're wrong", how do you know?
Last edit: 10 years 9 months ago by sozzled.

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10 years 9 months ago #3 by sozzled
Replied by sozzled on topic Crime and punishment
The discussion (as I've said earlier) is not over although the topic has taken many turns into dealing with specific episodes of horrible crimes, "over zealousness" by police in apprehending criminals, and insensitivity by judges in meting out a sentence to those convicted that doesn't seem to meet the seriousness of their crimes. We'll leave those examples for others to write their thoughts about, as they may care to do.

In the meantime, I'd like to finish my contributions for today with my thoughts from the discussion in another place that summarises my position:

There is a kind of argument that goes like this: if we - as a whole community - took the view that the law needs to be applied more rigorously, if courts imposed tougher sentences and made sure that the punishment fit the crime, we'd send a stronger message to criminals that their behaviours won't be tolerated and that this, this threat of retributive justice and fear of punishment, will curb a rising tide of crime. That's probably over-simplifying things, but I think we'd agree that it's the gist of law-and-order campaigners.

My position is that law-and-order is a weak, last-ditch attempt to arrest the collapse of civilised society as we know it. By the time a situation has developed to the point where law-enforcement has to intervene in order to protect society, the damage has already been done. Law and order isn't pro-active; it's reactive. It always has been and it always will be. I say that people will continue to commit crimes not because they're afraid of the punishment they may receive if they get caught, or even the fear of getting caught. People do bad things because they're continually having their bad thoughts reinforced by a cold, unsympathetic and uncaring community. If the community showed that they cared more about setting a positive example, instead of reinforcing a negative belief in humanity, maybe then we'd see a turnaround in crime?

I have two words to demonstrate my theory: Martin Bryant.

Now, we probably all know who Martin Bryant is and what he did, but were law or order responsible for a turnaround in society's attitudes regarding gun control? Of course they weren't! The law dealt with Bryant and sentenced him to a life of imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Big deal. He killed 35 people and injured 37 others. Many people will argue that a lifetime in prison (at taxpayers expense) is too good for him. What message, if any, does his sentence send to others who might be tempted to emulate his deeds?

No. The fact is that the Port Arthur massacre was a watershed in Australian political history. To his credit, [former] Prime Minister Howard took a tough stand on gun control - some cynics might accuse him of exploiting the episode as political opportunism - and the events that led to this situation, notwithstanding, community attitudes were altered overnight. Furthermore, community attitudes changed, not because of how the courts might eventually judge and sentence one man for his crimes, but because we were jolted from our sleepy complacency by the immediacy to find a solution, by the sudden realisation that the unthinkable had happened and might happen again, and because of decisive efforts of the community's leaders (irrespective of Mr Howard's personal or political agenda).

Let's broaden our scope by comparing our views with "the land of the brave and the free": the United States of America. In the USA, it's a very different game where the matter of government involvement over gun ownership is inextricably linked to the country's Constitution. As we know, in the USA it's arguably a person's right to own and bear arms (albeit, for the purposes of maintaining a rapidly-deployable self-defence force). There's a big difference, though, in exercising one's constitutional right and the obligation to exercise it responsibly and lawfully.

Unfortunately for all the legal posturing and "law and order" that exists in the USA, we continually see, read and hear of news stories about daily massacres of innocent citizens by crazed, gun-toting, mass-murderers. What has law and order done to curb the violence that's epidemic in the USA? The United States has, perhaps, one of the largest per capita prison inmate populations of any country in the world and they still have one of the world's largest crime rates. This fact supports my argument that law and order, per se, does not modify criminal behaviour. Rather, punishment (in the absence of other measures that minimise the risks to which societies are exposed) becomes a sorry testimonial about a society lacking the ability or will to mend its ways. After all that's said and done, "law and order" hasn't been the panacea that people have hoped for and it seems that a lot more has ended up being said than done.

I'm not saying that we oughtn't strengthen our law and order institutions. I'm not suggesting that we oughtn't do our best, as a community, to insist that we justly sentence those who break our rules and, if needs be, punish them. I am, however, saying that somehow, somewhere along the way, we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and judge whether our approaches to society's problems are worthy of admiration.


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10 years 7 months ago #4 by ConcertForGeorgeNut
Replied by ConcertForGeorgeNut on topic Crime and punishment
Female vandal gets three month prison sentence

www.smh.com.au/news/national/vandal-jail...2/1233423135587.html

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10 years 7 months ago - 10 years 7 months ago #5 by sozzled
Replied by sozzled on topic Crime and punishment
The case where a young woman received a three-month custodial sentence for scribbling her nickname on a wall: that's just all wrong! Maybe the magistrate was having an off-day or maybe the offender was bein' a smart-arse in court but I fail to see the justice in throwing someone into the clink as punishment befitting the crime of doing squiggles in public. I mean, for pity's sake, make her buy a can of paint and paint over the mess and the problem's solved! Three months in jail? Hell, no!

I'm not soft about prison sentences: there are times when a custodial prison sentence is an appropriate and necessary punishment. This case is one of those when it's just plain wrong to impose a prison sentence.

But while I'm cross about the costs to the community as a result of vandalism, I'm extremely cross about the editorial that appeared in today's Daily Telegraph, that great bastion of law-and-order and fomenter of the mob.

Graffiti vandals once sought to explain their crimes as "freedom of expression".

Denied other means of expressing themselves, they felt compelled to deface buildings, public transport and any other surfaces.

In the age of the internet, that excuse is no longer valid. Now freedom of expression is only a few keystrokes away.

Anyone with even an elementary knowledge of English can express themselves as expansively as they wish, and to a potential audience massively larger than any graffiti kid could wish for.

Indeed, teenager Cheyane Back has her own social network site - but despite that, she still scrawls on restaurant walls.

Not any more. Sentenced to three months in prison, Back vows she'll never return to her previous scribbly ways.

Back's sentence is a long overdue response to a serious urban blight. While it may seem harsh to send an 18-year-old inside for a relatively minor crime, the value in this sentence is the message it sends to other would-be offenders.

Individually, each graffiti incident is small. Collectively, they are ruinously expensive and ugly. That's why Magistrate Ian McRae's sentence is a worthwhile one.

Meanwhile, we can still enjoy Back's website poetry. One verse reads:

Steal from the rich. Hang with the poor

F . . . the world. F . . . the law

To which Mr McRae might have easily replied: Epic fail. Go to jail

I find this sort of jingoistic editorialism quite offensive, particularly the libellous smearing of the young offender (who must be feeling bad enough without all the added attention) with the sentence, "Indeed, teenager Cheyane Back has her own social network site - but despite that, she still scrawls on restaurant walls." According to the report in the same paper Cheyane Back said that this was the first time she'd done this sort of thing. Whether we can believe this or not, there's no evidence that she's a serial graffitist and there's certainly no basis for insinuating that what she did was as a form of rebellious "freedom of expression"!

Actually, there's no crime in being a rebel. We need rebels. Maybe we don't need rebels scrawling over our buildings and turning our pristine, ordered concrete jungles into, well, jungles of more primitive sorts.

"Sends a message to other would-be offenders"?? This kind of clap-trap mentality shows how out-of-touch The Daily Telegraph is with the community.

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Last edit: 10 years 7 months ago by sozzled.

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10 years 7 months ago #6 by ConcertForGeorgeNut
Replied by ConcertForGeorgeNut on topic Crime and punishment
I think I read somewhere in that article that the jail sentence was being appealed. Although I loathe graffiti and the numbnuts who "create" it, I agree that a jail term for this kind of crime is overdoing it

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10 years 7 months ago - 10 years 7 months ago #7 by sozzled
Replied by sozzled on topic Crime and punishment
Perhaps, George, I should have added that if the magistrate believes that his sentence will send "a message to other would-be offenders" then he shares a similar clap-trap mentality to The Daily Telegraph and shows how out-of-touch he is with the community. Or maybe he's been reading too many tabloids?

Perhaps these kinds of sentences might have been common in the eighteenth century (although the texta wasn't too common among teenagers before 1952) when vandals might have been boiled in oil or transported to the colonies for the rest of their natural lives, but they didn't work then and they certainly wouldn't be appropriate today ... and definitely not for a first-time offender.

Doesn't say much for the way be appoint our judges, does it?

If you think I'm wrong then say "I think you're wrong". If you say, "You're wrong", how do you know?
Last edit: 10 years 7 months ago by sozzled.

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10 years 7 months ago #8 by ConcertForGeorgeNut
Replied by ConcertForGeorgeNut on topic Crime and punishment
On the other hand, if we're gonna say that judges and magistrates must be allowed to exercise discretion in sentencing, I guess we need to accept that there's gonna be some sentences that we see as overly harsh, just as we see some as "a slap on the wrist". Can't have it both ways.

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10 years 7 months ago #9 by paws
Replied by paws on topic Crime and punishment
I am a bit late with this but I believe it would benefit our comminities is jails were only used for violent or muder crimes. White collar , traffic, illicit drug offences etc should be punished by making short or long term community service sentenses, tax deduction from income to compensate the victims, loss of passport and imposing of travel restrictions.

This woukd teach a sense of community, recompense the community....give the criminal a sense of purpose and some community rules and training.

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10 years 7 months ago - 10 years 7 months ago #10 by sozzled
Replied by sozzled on topic Crime and punishment
That's an interesting proposition, paws, to suggest that prison should only be used in cases of violent crimes and that white collar criminals should be (somehow) made to work-off their debt without being punished by a custodial sentence. However, I'm sure there are a lot of people who wouldn't have been happy if Rodney Adler (One Tel, HIH Insurance), Ray Williams and Brad Cooper (HIH Insurance executives) had not been given a prison time.

Even so, there are degrees of crime as there should be degrees of punishment ... and this is what the discussion is all about. What might be useful is knowing that Australian criminal law can be classified as follows:
  1. Offences against the Person of the Sovereign
  2. Security of the Commonwealth (treason, sedition, espionage. terrorism)
  3. Offences against the Person (homicide, suicide, causing bodily harm, assaults, kidnapping, rape, prostitution, and bigamy)
  4. Public Order (riot and affray, explosives and firearm offences, bomb and others hoaxes, drug trafficking, participation on unlawful groups, illegal gambling)
  5. Property (stealing, robbery, sacrilege and housebreaking, larceny, embezzlement, fraud, false pretences, criminal damage and destruction, sabotage, bushfires)
  6. Proper Administration of Government (corruption, blackmail, forgery)
  7. Protection of national infrastructure (money laundering, postal and telecommunication offences, computer offences, aircraft, vessels, vehicles and railways)
  8. Pubic Justice Offences ("perverting the course of justice", obstruction and interference, perjury, escaping from lawful custody)
I agree that if an offender is able to compensate the victims of his crime, without the need to send that person to jail, then this should be considered when imposing the sentence. However, as I've said before , I believe that the law is a poor substitute to correct criminal behaviour:

My position is that law-and-order is a weak, last-ditch attempt to arrest the collapse of civilised society as we know it. By the time a situation has developed to the point where law-enforcement has to intervene in order to protect society, the damage has already been done. Law and order isn't pro-active; it's reactive. It always has been and it always will be. I say that people will continue to commit crimes not because they're afraid of the punishment they may receive if they get caught, or even the fear of getting caught.

I disagree that crimes that don't directly harm a person should not attract a prison sentence. There are always degrees of criminality but, in many cases, the only appropriate punishment is a term in jail as the ultimate sanction that society can impose on those who cannot respect our laws.

If you think I'm wrong then say "I think you're wrong". If you say, "You're wrong", how do you know?
Last edit: 10 years 7 months ago by sozzled.

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