First off: interesting thread, CGM!
I have to agree that criminals seem to get off too easily. I guess what's frustrating is that it is so rare for a criminal to serve his/her entire original sentence.
I definitely agree with boopme that "white collar" criminals get off way too easily.
But on the other hand, I think we have to be very careful when we start to move toward more aggressive punishment. Not that it isn't called for these days...but it is a slippery slope!
As I read through this thread, one of Gandhi’s quotes kept ringing in my ears: “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” I have thought about that often. There are crimes that can be paid for, and crimes that can't. I suppose I would define "payment" in this case by reparation. A oft-used example of justice via brutality is the ol' "steal a loaf of bread? Loose a hand" model. In this case I would suggest that the crime by no means justifies that punishment. A loaf of bread can be baked again; a hand cannot be replaced. To me it wouldn't make any more sense if the crime and punishment were swapped; cut off someone's hand, and you'll be forced to bake him a loaf of bread to make up for it.
When it comes to rape, violence, and especially murder...I think most would agree that there really is no possible reparation. The loss of a loved one cannot be fixed. Nothing in the universe can repair that damage. Mara pointed out a mass-murderer. That angers all of us, and we want the murderer to have the worst possible punishment. Normally the strongest punishment is thought to be death. But I can't help thinking, how will one execution pay for 22 lives...especially since lives are something that can't ever be "paid for" in the first place?
It seems to me that after a murder is committed, all we can do is decide how we will deal with our pain, anger, and grief. Should we make the perpetrator suffer as much as possible? Should we lock him up for the rest of his life? Should we end his life for taking another?
I have to ask: in the end, what good comes from making an ugly, violent world even more violent?
I guess my only conclusion is that the best thing a society can do is to remove the criminal's personal rights for the rest of his or her natural life. It seems to me that if a society chooses to enact violence on that individual, it sacrifices a bit of its civility in exchange for revenge.
Is revenge too strong a word? I really don't think so. Again, the death of an individual is not something that can ever be changed or "fixed." So what is the motivation for more violence, other than the hope of some measure of satisfaction in the death of he or she who took your loved one from you?
Now, this is all my own point of view compiled from my own personal life experiences. I have not lost a family member to a violent crime. I won’t claim that I know how that feels; however, I have indeed
suffered loss. I suppose my view is at least in part shaped by the idea that the world is full of suffering; while some measure of it is unavoidable, a large portion of it we inflict on each other. Making ourselves and our society as ugly as the perpetrators of violent crimes just doesn’t seem to me to be the right path toward making the world "less painful."
Mara, while justice and law are tied together, justice is rather subjective*...isn't the point of law to make clear what justice actually requires in times when clarity is difficult to maintain? Isn't law what prevents justice from simply becoming revenge in the first place? Just a thought…
Now, switching gears a bit:
While I believe (of course) that any legal adult is responsible for his/her actions, I can't help but wonder if crime in general is not so much a problem in and of itself, as a symptom
of an unhealthy society? For example, why else are crime rates higher in economically impoverished areas, no matter what country?
***Warning! 'Liberal bias' ahead! Read at your own risk!***
*Mara, justice is indeed subjective. For example, I don't think the American people, nay, the world
, will have ‘justice’ until Bush n' Co. are all wearing orange jumpers. But again, that's just me...
Edited by locally pwned, 13 October 2006 - 06:57 AM.
"The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking." - Albert Einstein
"The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
"If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands." - Douglas Adams