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Justice? What's that? - Ed's journal
Justice? What's that?
So, we have, at the moment, a justice system that's 'suffering a bit'.

We have too many people in prison, for our prison population. Fines are fundamentally 'unfair', because they only take in relative ability to pay in the repayment constraints.
ASBOs are almost having the opposite effect of what was intended, in that they're being used as a badge of honour. And our justice system suffers from 'cushy deal' syndrome - there's just too much feeling that 'prison is too soft' and 'community service is too easy'.

But at the same time, the purpose of a legal system is multiple - first to serve justice, but also to impede and restrict rates of crimes - either by removing 'dangerous' elements from society, or by reducing re-offending rates.

So clearly, our legal system is in need of reform.

For the first step, is the prison system. Is it punishment, or is it re-education? Well, there's very definitely a correlation between education, and re-offending rates. Both due to 'more thought' and 'more to lose'.

So what if our prison system had a couple of additional constraints - achieving a designated standard of education, would be a prerequisite in your parole hearing. The level required, being proportionate to the magnitude of the offense.

In the rare case of people being removed as a 'danger to society' then clearly that's a psychiatric assessment, and should be 'indefinite, but with annual review'.

And maybe increase the fixed term, but essentially allow people to 'buy their way out' through learning (well, past minimum time).

For lesser offenses, prison time doesn't help at all. Indeed, jail time can seen to be negative - removing someone from society, isolating them, requires them to 're-integrate' afterwards.

Fines too, suffer from disprortionate utility of cash - I can shrug off a £60 speeding ticket, because that's a few hours overtime. But someone who's not earning so well, might not even be able to pay the fine. But it doesn't really serve as a deterrant.

So how about rather than our current system of fines, we introduce a system of public flogging. This serves both fairness - a lash cares not about the size of your wallet, and also means societal integration is a non issue.

It also provides a very definite 'negative constraint', which will actually serve _better_ than a fine and a few points on my license - you're held up as a negative example, and serve as an object lesson.

It can also serve as restorative justice, to have the 'victim' offer the final blow. I don't think anyone would argue that someone 'got off lightly' in that regard.

Oh, and it's cheap to administer too.
8 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 5th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)


Human rights I hear echoing around the courts!

Perhaps the choice or consequence method could be introduced so that actions have an effect?
The stocks and the pillory were once the public retribution which may still be a choice for a convicted person and save space in a prison and expense??
ool272 From: ool272 Date: March 5th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cruel. Unusual.
(Deleted comment)
From: linamishima Date: March 5th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
So true. Especially if it were a public act. I've even overheard a group bragging about court appearances, ffs...
From: linamishima Date: March 5th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Part one of two

I've spent a week with no money at all, eating nothing but noodles in broth. I've lived in a town where there really was no hope. Weymouth offered minimum wage only if you didn't have a driving licence, and not much of that outside of the holiday season anyhow. It was physically impossible to save enough to get that driver's licence, given the cost of housing, and then odds are, you'd need your own car.

When you've lived like that, crime really appeals. You can see why someone would commit theft, and it is very hard to not consider it. Life was miserable.

There are three objectives to any criminal justice system: to prevent re-offence; to act as a deterant to others; and to help the victims.

If you actually look at crime, you will see that there are effectively three types. Firstly, there are crimes of circumstance. The majority of petty theft or gang violence is not entirely optional to the people in question. Drug users suffer from addiction, those living in run-down areas have no other future at all, and the media forces us to believe that we should not be wanting when we are destitute. Secondly, we have crimes of skewed morality. White collar crime, fraud and scams. We may even refer to some of these as being 'victimless'. Finally, there are those violent crimes for which morality has failed altogether. Rape and serial murder. A case could well be made against including 'crimes of passion' in this category, but no sudden revelation should be able to drive anyone to attack another person against their otherwise different morality.

Unless you consider the reason behind the crime, it is meaningless to talk about the appropriate action to be taken. Not fining someone who committed fraud is ludicrous, as is throwing someone back into the same awful situation they came from.

Our society has been influenced far too much by our evolution, a history of omnivores and carnivores. We naturally favour aggression, to the point that we fail to see that we also naturally favour dealing with aggressors and coping with the results of violence. The evidence is clear, corporal and capital punishment are poor deterants, and can only harm innocents within the system. Their use also sets the wrong example - that it is indeed possible for someone to decide who 'deserves' such treatment. I personally have never understood any religious person's support for such acts, when they run contrary to their own teachings.

The only reason why such methods are still supported is not one of effectiveness, but one of pure vengeance. Vengeance is the wrong emotion, and an ultimately hollow one. Nothing improves or changes from such acts. And it most be noted that physical pain is perhaps the least effective method for such things.

Imprisonment is sadly the only effective solution to crimes of insanity. I am not sure it would be correct to assume that even though they are free of other mental health issues, that they are mentally well. If there is to ever be a hope of release for these people, intensive therapy would be required. In addition, I am also in favour of allowing prisoners to ask for additional medical intervention (for instance, if a male rapist develops remorse, but fears their ability to control themselves in the future, drugs or even surgery could be requested - but never forced).

Where circumstance is to blame, it would be negligent to not address that which has resulted in the crime occurring. Jobs need to exist, good living environments, community activities... a hope for the future. Meanwhilst, those convicted should have any immediate issues addressed, with a look to give them both the practical skills and the self-assurance to better themselves. The nature of any sentencing would be dependant upon the crime committed and the person in question. Some people would not be able to undergo intensive courses and work training from home, and so a custodial sentence would be required.
From: linamishima Date: March 5th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Part two of two

As for crimes of skewed morality, these are the crimes that most warrant community service. The typical offender of these is already highly educated and able to function, but they believe themselves to be worth more than the community. Volunteering work and providing free, skilled, labour is the best course. However again, in the worse cases, a removal of freedoms might also be a wise idea, with them still having to work hard from within custody.

As for the prison system itself, I'd be lying if I didn't agree that it was too appealing! I ate noodles in broth for a week, that gives you a certain understanding that food, board and warmth are not guaranteed, and that yes, there is a certain understandable advantage to being locked up. In their current form there is also too much means for people to share knowledge of illegal activities, and too little encouragement to better one's self as a whole person.

Personally, my ideal prison reform is simple. For many people, the worst time in their life was being ordered around by overly strict teachers, having to keep to hard routines, perform given tasks. The only reason they don't look bad in hindsight was all the additional free time and parental care. As much as the educational system is harsh, however, this structure definitely does help people develop skills, stay focused, and be able to deal with 'regular life'. I would personally change prisons into form of boarding establishment, except with significantly longer hours and running for six days a week. Productive work (with references given!), eduction and training in new skills, exercise, and mental health therapy would all be given, with the amount of each tailored to the criminal in question.

This would also require, however, another change in society - that we then allow regular, innocent, people the same level of access (ideally even more) to these services. That people without work are helped into suitable jobs rapidly, and patients with mental illness get talking therapies soon after a diagnosis. Everyone should have access to whatever additional schooling they desire at little personal cost (perhaps invest the profits of the prisonschools into this, as with the recovered proceeds of crime).

We need to learn to feel pitty, not hate. It's far more healthy.
ehrine From: ehrine Date: March 6th, 2008 09:24 am (UTC) (Link)
In theory there is a system of education in place that requires some of the more dangerous offenders to undergo certain training and what have you before they can be released. The issue here? The prison service does not have the resources required to provide the training being asked for. End result is that people were being locked up for indefinate terms with no actual hope of being released. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7252951.stm has some details on this (as well as links to older related stories).
From: feanelwa Date: March 6th, 2008 10:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Because if the sentence for bodily harm is bodily harm, then:
(a) where is the message that it was wrong to hurt somebody in the first place?
(b) scars will become as much a badge of "honour" as an ASBO or wearing your trousers very baggy with one leg tucked into your socks
(c) a victim of rape may as well hunt down the perpetrator and beat the shit out of them, because it's only what the state would do, without first being interrogated about your sex life by a courtroom full of people.
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