Monday, 2 August 2010

Crime and punishment

I made a comment recently on a friend’s Facebook wall, or whatever it is called, stating that I was against punishment. It occurs to me that this stance might horrify many people, and I’m not just talking about Daily Mail readers. It might well be just a question of semantics but I truly am against ‘punishment’. Punishment is the action of a bully. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of certain laws, if a person commits what is judged to be a crime by the society that they live in then punishment is not the answer. Punishment is essentially driven by the destructive emotion known as revenge. Revenge has no place in a civilised society.

There are two ways in which our approach to crime is wrong. The first is the revenge aspect that manifests itself as punishment, and the second is that we consistently fail to address the root causes of most crime; those causes being poverty, social deprivation, mental illness etc etc. If someone is convicted of a crime the emphasis should be on rehabilitation. If for their own safety or the safety of the community it is considered necessary to withhold their liberty for the duration of their rehabilitation or part thereof then that is not unreasonable. But removing someone’s liberty should not be seen as punishment. Punishment achieves nothing. Every time someone commits a crime it must be seen as a failure, and it is my belief that it is rarely failure of the individual but a failure of society. Society fails so many people. Rather than dealing with crime in a reactive way we need to prevent crime from happening in the first place. No to “tough on crime” but yes to “tough on the causes of crime”. The solutions are clearly is not as simple as a few slogans. Changing the makeup of society won’t happen overnight. Reducing the gap between rich and poor is never going to be easy. The need to do this has so far eluded the mindset of the majority of the electorate. But that is no reason not to try and persuade them to believe in it. If people could grasp that by significantly reducing the gap between rich and poor that everybody would benefit then perhaps the vast majority might start to come round. You can’t have justice whilst there is injustice.

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