Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Stop Pampering the Criminals

This post is in part being inspired by one of the comments, in my previous article, which reads:

“My position has nothing to do with a belief in the inherent goodness of human beings. While I think that most of us are trying to live decently, I am under no illusion. Selfish impulses, pride and anger can cause some people to do some very bad things.

“I am really arguing that we need to find solutions that actually reduce crime. Harsher punishment doesn't work. It just gives society some measure of vengeance but will do nothing to make us any safer.

“Rehabilitation, counseling and sometimes prescription drugs do reduce crime. The fact that a life spent as a criminal may turn into a productive and happy life is a bonus that makes it a win-win situation.

“Of course, if one of my children or wife was the victim of a violent crime or rape, I would probably react very emotionally. My concern for the criminal would quickly yield to my need for revenge and I can imagine myself wishing castration or death.”

Now, trying not to take too much hide off my commenter, but not wanting to back away from points that I consider to be important (in other words, Cycles2K, again I ask that you don’t take this personally okay?), I have come to the following opinions:

There is no solution that will reduce crime -- except tougher sentences. What makes anyone think it wouldn't work? We've never tried it, have we?

And I don't equate "tougher" with "harsher," either -- there is a difference between the two. (Side note: I wish, when kids are taught synonyms in school, that they were taught that "similar" does not mean "same!")

And the argument that punishment for a crime is "nothing more than vengeance" is getting old and ready to retire. Of course, it’s vengeance! Problem is, those on the side of “rehabilitation” tend to see it as being a bad thing. I see it as justice. And as for not making us any safer, well, we’re not safe now, so I don’t really see this as a valid point. In order to be “safer,” we’d have to have something to compare with what we have now, and we don’t have it.

If rehabilitation worked, there would be far fewer crimes, especially against property and people -- all the so-called sensitivity training courses and anger management courses are a form of rehabilitation. And they are quite useless, I can tell you from experience. All they accomplish is to provide psycho-charlatans with employment, and throw law-abiding folk into a state of confusion. They make victims feel guilty for being victims -- and that is as much a crime as the original offense.

We are teaching criminals that they have every right to be criminals – and we are actually helping them become – and remain – criminals. And while we’re doing that, we’re also teaching the rest of our citizens to become victims – and to stay that way. Police repeatedly tell citizens not to try to stop criminals, and when a citizen actually takes a successful course of action, the police dissemble, disregard, and warn against doing it again:

“Carlson said the man was arrested after he was "tripped" by an unidentified mall patron.”

Is this an attitude born out of fear of unemployment – that if citizens actually get successful in defending themselves that cops will no longer be needed? We don’t have enough cops as it is, and the ones we do have are underpaid and definitely underappreciated. You’d think the cops would welcome the assistance, but they don’t. They see prepared citizens as a threat of some kind. I think perhaps the cops are being brainwashed as much as the rest of the country. What say you?

One of the things we’re doing wrong is to take an individual crime and apply a group solution. It just doesn’t work. We need to apply the criminal justice system individually.

And here’s a fine example of what happens when we try rehabilitation on a criminal:

One of the most notorious drunk drivers in the Ottawa area has been found not criminally responsible on his latest impaired driving charges …

“Ten years ago, Brownlee was given a seven-year prison sentence and barred from driving for the rest of his life after he killed an Ottawa woman, Linda Lebreton-Holmes, and her 12-year-old son while driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit."

So, did it work? It did not. He’s not only back on the street, behind the wheel of a car -- after being banned for life from driving for killing two people while drunk -- but now he actually has do-gooder counselors and psychiatrists telling us that he can’t be a criminal because he’s not responsible for his actions, anymore.

They are partially correct.

He is not completely responsible for his latest crime.

Our legal system must bear the rest of the burden of blame – and that includes the people who laid the original charge if they in any way, shape, or form, allowed a plea bargain to reduce any sentence he might have otherwise been given. It includes the judge that handed out such a lenient sentence – seven years – for criminally ending the lives of two people, one of which was a twelve-year-old child. It includes the lawmakers that refuse to legislate that human lives taken are not worth the money required to prevent repeat offenders by keeping them behind bars. And it includes the apathetic citizens, who don’t want to be burdened or bothered by the responsibility of seeing that the government actually does what everyone says it should be doing – looking after its citizens. Its law-abiding citizens, that is.

I’m not looking to turn a criminal into a “productive” citizen. I’m not looking for a win-win solution. I’m looking for a way to stop repeat offenders, period. And the best way I can see to accomplish that goal is to put the criminal – especially the violent criminal – behind bars for a long period of time.

Will it stop others from committing crimes? No. Bit it will stop the one who is now sitting in prison, won’t it?

And that’s all I ask.

11 Comments:

Blogger DazzlinDino said...

My comment in your last post sounded a little more bitter than I intended......

The whole system is SUPPOSED to be there to protect the public, and it's failing. I do see the importance of a decent rehab project, but we are a species that reacts to fear, and fear of a harsh prison system would be a better deterent than even increased sentences. We need a system that has a reputation.....

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 4:33:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Actually, our system is not set up to protect the public. Like most legal systems, it's reactive in nature. But the Canadian system is worse than most, because our criminal laws neglect to include a very important element -- a living victim.

Ever wonder why all prosecutors in Canada are caled Queen's Counsel? Instead of Prosectuing Attorney, or District Attorney? It's because they represent the state rather than the victim of a crime.

All crimes in Canada are committed against the State. The government. We, as individuals, cease to exist. That's why, when the criminals are sent to trial, unless you are a witness, the court would prefer that you do not show up at all -- you-as-victim have no place in the legal system once the crime has been committed. You certainly have no say in the charges brought, or the sentencing process (all that eyewash about victim impact statements is a sop to public opinion, nothing more).

You think you sounded bitter? I'm just gettin' warmed up...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 5:39:00 AM  
Blogger Psychols said...

Hi Chimera,

I take nothing you argue personally. This debate is an interesting exchange of differing viewpoints.

I agree that jail is a deterent and that the objective of the criminal justice system is to reduce crime. The question is what is the best course of action.

We can compare the effectiveness of the rehabilitative solution to a more deterent solution by comparing Canadian and US crime rates. Certainly crime is lower in Canada, yet the US has mandatory minimum sentences, a higher percentage of their population in jail and so-called zero tolerance policies.

My disagreement is fundamentally that there is no evidence that longer jail terms are really a deterent but that there is some evidence to the contrary. The war on drugs is the perfect example. Mandatory minimum sentences and increased police powers made no real progress but produced plenty of collateral damage.

Anger management and other programs can be effective if they are taken freely. They tend to be less successful when enforced. I think it is important to maintain these programs so that convicted men and women who want to improve their lives are given the opportunity to participate. If it helps them avoid re-offending then it means fewer victims and one more productive Canadian. (I know you are not looking for win-win, but the alternative may be lose-lose).

Prisoners are going to learn something while they are in jail anyway. Better that they learn to be productive Canadians instead of how to be more effective criminals.

I'm no expert on any of this, but remain unconvinced that longer jail terms are going to reduce crime. We have seen reductions in crime in the last decade but I think that even the experts are perplexed as to what happened. Both the US and Canada saw improvements, yet we took entirely different paths. Still, we remain a safer nation than the United States and I am most eager to keep it that way.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

"..the objective of the criminal justice system is to reduce crime."

The object should not be to reduce crime, but to administer justice (ie punishment) to the criminal on behalf of the citizens. The system does not do this.

I would really prefer not to compare our system, which doesn't work, with any other system that also does not work. We really need to find a new solution altogether.

And Ian has a wonderful thread going (just started, in fact) regarding the war on drugs:

http://ianism.com/?p=120

I want to focus here on violent crimes only -- murder, assault, home invasion -- especially the "just for kicks and because we can" violent offenders.

I took an anger management course because I was curious to find out what it was that judges kept forcing offenders to do in the apparent hopes that it would stop them from repeating their offenses.

What a farce!

Cyc, I swear, I managed to make the facilitator (mustn't call her an instructor -- not PC) lose her temper! And all I was doing was asking for answers to what I thought were valid questions! I didn't have to be there -- I was a volunteer, and just looking for validation that this program would work.

If I, as one of the un-hostile participants, can make the facilitator lose her temper, and she lives with the program on a repeat basis, what does that tell you about its effectiveness?

Having taken the anger management course, I find it not only ineffective, but patronizing. The entire course is geared to steer you towards group-think. Act responsibly towards society. Dampen your passions. Redirect your energies toward "useful" projects.

How utterly 1984!

Thursday, March 30, 2006 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger lmba said...

It is a crime where in this world in this day and age that a perpetrator or criminal has more rights than that of a victim.
That is whats wrong with this society. They are more worried about offending someone than protecting our victims.
If it was left up to me we would go back to the old addage of "an eye for an eye." If everytime some pervert touched our children we cut off the offending body part there would be less crime on our children. If everytime someone stole something cut off one of their hands. If everytime someone assaulted someone cut off whatever body part they used to assault their victim. No wonder crime rates were lower back in the "good ole days". All these sickos and theives and abuses knew that they would be with one less body part if the committed a crime.
If some of you think this is too harsh or inhumane just think about what the victims had to suffer at these criminals hands. Or better yet just let the victims and their families get ahold of these sickos.
I will not apologize for how I feel. Thats what the problem is here. Too may people apologize for how they feel for fear of offending these criminals. I have no sympathy for someone who gets off by victimizing others.
"AN EYE FOR AN EYE" IS WHAT I HAVE TO SAY!!!!!!!

Friday, March 31, 2006 1:50:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Imba:

Well, I was looking for passionate responses when I posted this thread, and you are, indeed, passionate.

I think that invoking Hammurabi's Code might be a wee bit extreme in some cases (although I will admit that sometimes the thought of pulling the switch on a convicted child- or cop-killer is enticing).

Rather than torment anyone with a missing body part, I would prefer to torment them with a whole body, but no place in which to freely engage it. Lo-o-o-ong prison sentences, in other words. Spent in solitary confinement, for some. Depending entirely on the nature and severity of the crime, and the possibility of the victim's complete recovery.

I would want to do as the Canadian system does not -- acknowledge the reality of a living victim in the form of a human being (as opposed to "the state" or "the Queen," depending on where you are in this country).

I would also like to get rid of the cookie-cutter sentencing mentality. Tailor the punishment to fit the crime. Each case on its own merits.

Friday, March 31, 2006 2:42:00 PM  
Blogger Psychols said...

The object should not be to reduce crime, but to administer justice (ie punishment) to the criminal on behalf of the citizens. The system does not do this.

I guess we disagree on the fundamental objective of the criminal justice system. I am more interested in crime reduction than punishing criminals.

Having taken the anger management course, I find it not only ineffective, but patronizing. The entire course is geared to steer you towards group-think. Act responsibly towards society. Dampen your passions. Redirect your energies toward "useful" projects.

Interesting, I too took a course voluntarily, but not as an investigative process. In my case, I was getting too irritable to my family. (My doctor thought I was nuts because he said I was not abusive and should not be hanging around abusive guys). Still, it was beneficial to me and the few other guys that attended voluntarily. It was less effective for the guys that were forced to be there.

The program I took never suggested that anger was bad, in fact it suggested that anger was just fine. The focus was on providing strategies for using anger constructively. I detected no intent to reduce passion, create a group think mentality. I recall no suggestion that anger should be subject to sublimation, but there was some discussion of the fact that anger was the result of a number of other emotions.

A facilitator getting angry would not have been considered odd in that program. I even became angry in one session and the facilitator congratulated me because she thought that the anger was appropriate at the time.

Perhaps the effectiveness of any program reflects the facilitators or the program itself.

If it was left up to me we would go back to the old addage of "an eye for an eye." If everytime some pervert touched our children we cut off the offending body part there would be less crime on our children. If everytime someone stole something cut off one of their hands. If everytime someone assaulted someone cut off whatever body part they used to assault their victim. No wonder crime rates were lower back in the "good ole days". All these sickos and theives and abuses knew that they would be with one less body part if the committed a crime.

Limba, I am not sure that this supposition is proven. i.e. I have seen no evidence that harsh punishment actually reduces crime. I realize that common sense suggests that it should reduce these crimes, but I have yet to see any evidence that it actually does reduce these crimes. It may satisfy our need to punsh (which to me is revenge) but it does not make us any safer.

The discussion about maiming criminals is similar to the death penalty discussion. Ethically, I don't think society should be doing that to people. Logically, I think the risk of permanently maiming an innocent person is significant enough to dismiss it as a real solution.

I would also like to get rid of the cookie-cutter sentencing mentality. Tailor the punishment to fit the crime. Each case on its own merits.

Chimera, on this we agree. We need to rely on the wisdom of the judge to properly asses the merits of each case and assign an appropriate penalty.

Saturday, April 01, 2006 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Candace said...

cycles2k, for evidence of "an eye for an eye" reducing crime, compare our stats to those of Islamic countries. I'd say draconian measures work. Unfortunately, we'd probably have to take all the rest of the crap that comes with Shari'a law, so while comparing our crime stats to those of Saudi Arabia works for this argument's purpose, it also shows that in a modern society, it's not much of an option.

I'm interested in your belief that a reformed criminal can become a productive member of society. I've worked in the HR industry for close to a decade and I can tell you that getting a job after serving time is not very easy. Many companies require their employees be bondable; a prison record makes that impossible (courier companies require this, for instance). The trades are likely still open, but that may well be it.

Such sentiments are unlikely to change any time soon.

So why would a pimp, earning thousands per day or week (I haven't a clue what they earn, but it must be good money or no one would do it), want to become an electrician's apprentice for $15/hour?

As for tougher penalties not reducing crime, if the pimp is off the street for 5 years instead of 5 months, then that is 4.5 years longer that he, at least, is not plying his particular trade. That has to count for something!

And what of serial killers? Do you REALLY think that Karla has a hope in hell of becoming & staying a productive citizen? If you had a daughter, would you take the chance of having her as a neighbor?

Saturday, April 01, 2006 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Candace -- lots of excellent points. And even the drug dealers in my neighborhood don't want Karla around -- she'd scare off all their customers!

I'm surprised that you don't know that everyone in Canada is bondable, though (if you work in HR, I would have thought you'd know this factoid). Most people don't know, on the other hand.

Here's what happens:

In Canada, you are not allowed to ask a prospective employee if they have a criminal record. Once they are out of prison, that's supposed to be inviolable information. They can volunteer it, but you -- as an employer -- are not allowed to ask.

So, instead, employers started asking, "Are you bondable?"

If the interviewee hesitates, or says no, that's a big clue to the employer that the person might have a criminal record (they believe that they cannot get a bond; and the "system" is not set up to give out information that you don't specifically ask for).

The correct answer to that question is always, "Yes." If you have a record, the bond will cost more. But no Canadian citizen can be refused a bond. Not even the ones who have a record.

Sunday, April 02, 2006 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Cycles: "We need to rely on the wisdom of the judge to properly asses the merits of each case and assign an appropriate penalty."

Aaaaahhh...I wanna put a qualifier on that.

I want mandatory minimum sentencing guidleines, and I want them to have teeth! And those guidleines have to come into effect after the verdict, and they cannot be seen as a consideration during deliberations. I don't want some jury being hung on a verdict because one bleeding heart doesn't agree with the possible mandatory minimum sentence -- it might be "too harsh."

On the other hand, I don't want some poor guy who killed another guy -- out of self-defense only -- to go to prison for the rest of his natural life, either; not if it can be clearly shown that he was given no other alternative than to kill in order to save his own life or that of another.

Depend on the wisdom of judges? Not entirely. I've seen some of the unwise things judges can do. But give them guidleines? Absolutely!

Sunday, April 02, 2006 1:05:00 PM  
Blogger Psychols said...

Candace,

The idea that keeping the pimp off the street for 5 years will reduce crime is appealing on the surface. It applies to common sense, but is not supported by scientific research. Common sense tells us the world if flat, the stars rotate the Earth and matter is solid.

It is possible, but not easy, for a person with a criminal record to become a member of society. Fortunately there are firms that do hire ex-cons.

Your assertion that it is difficult for convicted criminals to integrate into the workforce supports the argument that harsh penalties fail. A criminal record consigns an person to lifelong unemployability yet we still complain about crime.

Chimera, I am not surpised that you support mandatory minimums. I do not. I realize that some judges betray a certain lack of judgement in their sentencing but that is a personel problem, not a policy issue.

Sunday, April 09, 2006 1:15:00 PM  

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