Monday, June 07, 2004

Trouble with handling Crime

There seems to be a modern Catch-22 in handling crime. We try to use punishment as a deterrent, but it really doesn't deter. The prisons are full of people that simply didn't think they'd get caught, or simply just didn't think at all. Also, the punishment should fit the crime. That's not to say let's use the ancient eye-for-an-eye standard. The Constitution protects us from that sort of nonsense (usually).
One problem is that the bar for what passes as reasonable punishment has been lowered substantially in the 20th Century. There is somewhat of a reversal of this going on right now, as many crimes now have much higher jail times.
Another problem is that punishment for serious, violent crimes shouldn't be treated as a deterrent, since it's not. We should simply punish the criminal in a way that fits the crime and leave it at that.
Yet another problem is that our prisons are actually considered desirable turf by gangs. They intentionally commit serious crimes in order to get arrested and sent to prison so they increase their membership in a given prison. So, prison isn't the necessarily best way to exact justice. This is where we encounter the crux of this catch-22.
The way out of this problem may to be punish people in a way that directly addresses their motives. There are attempts at this, such as counseling, but that only goes so far. What other options are available?

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