Monday, August 01, 2005

Law and order

Generally the right have an attitude of "zero tolerance to crime - they believe that if the punishment is great enough then people will not commit crimes (generally speaking)
The left sees crime as the result of society and sees tackling the causes of crime as a better strategy - conveniently they see crime as being causes by things like "anything the right supports" and prevented by "anything they support".

As you can tell I find the left's argument to be wishful thinking but having said that the rights argument is just fundamentally wrong and there is a good argument for looking for root causes.

There are a number of fundamental principles of a justice system
1) Revenge
2) Rehabilitation
3) Deterrence (two types deter them and deter others)
4) Incapacitation (protect society by separating them from it)
5) Appearance (giving the public the impression the system functions and will not harm "you" this is important because the law can operate only when the majority of people see themselves as law abiding)

2 is the best argument and 1 is by far the worst.

Most people on the right seem to opt for option 1 if you see an argument that talks of tougher sentences or "no exceptions" this is basically the argument they are making because if they were interested in for example rehabilitation everything would be contingent on if they were rehabilitated.
Rehabilitationists should be highly in favour of very flexible parole.

So the right generally focuses on 1 & 4 (tougher sentencing, abolishing parole without exception)
The left focuses on 5 and just a touch of 1 and 2

I think the government should focus on rehabilitation. In the current system we seem to just place prisoners in jail and allow them to abuse each other learn criminal strategies and then release them again. Humans are habitual creatures and you cannot let them get into bad habits - we must change that revenge based strategy to something more functional.

However the enaction of this policy is very different from what you would see from most left commentators. Unlike them I do not see the criminals as a constituency that one must be nice to. I am happy to relax some of the rights of individuals in prisons in order to allow for strategies such as very tight surveillance psychological strategies and aversion therapy to permit very concentrated attempts at rehabilitation. I expect my prisons would be very hard work - almost military in their nature since we would do whatever it takes to teach the criminals how to not be a criminal – but I also see no point in harming criminals just for the sake of harming them, since that harm will just come back to you when you release them.

Therefore I oppose any arbitrary rules like those proposed by ACT for fixed sentencing or no parole. The greens are right in their arguments for rehabilitation but they don’t seem to propose methods that are particularly likely to achieve their aims – good aims but no ability to follow through that is the trademark of the idealistic greens as opposed to more pragmatic parties. To others their view of rehabilitation almost seems like just a lack of action. I note that they support restorative justice and note this might work but I don’t support it particularly since I see it as just one of many tools that may work in some cases and be destructive in others. This only makes sense in as far as it rehabilitates - if it doesn’t do that then it is just another waste.

One of the most important aspects of my law and order policy is that every law must be enforceable. Humans are habitual creatures and you cannot let them get into a habit of breaking the law. This means you cannot pass a law that most people are already breaking and you cannot pass laws you do not intend on enforcing. For example a law against stealing just creates law breakers UNLESS you plan on punishing thieves. I therefore support greater police numbers in order to achieve these ends. If breaking into houses is going to be illegal you must make sure one cannot run a profitable business breaking into houses.

I also support the ability of the legal system to deal with minors. I have seen crimes committed at schools and almost nothing done about them. I suggest the potential, for example, of taking them from their environment and putting them in special 24 hr educational facilities. Arguments such as “they are not old enough to be responsible” cut no water with me.
It is the worst of all options to allow young people to learn the habit of breaking the law and getting away with it.

I think that the police should "focus first on thieves and thugs, and only then on traffic tickets and unintended wrongs." however tickets are not a bad thing in themselves - it is one of the best methods of revenue gathering to take money from law breakers since this is a form of tax that actually improves behaviour while almost all other tax causes a negative distortion in behaviour (e.g. working less)

I believe paperwork and restrictions on police are a major cause of the reduction in their ability to deal with crime. Ideally police would carry video tapes with them everywhere they go and that would be available for police complaints authorities - however in exchange police would have much less paper work and more rights of search seizure use of force etc.


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