Saturday, December 06, 2008

Crime and Punishment

No, not the Dostoevsky novel, but a fascinating discussion at The Volokh Conspiracy, a law blog.

The issue: should a criminal receive reduced sentencing, based on prior military activity (i.e., a good record, meritorious service, the like)?

It caused me to think: What is the purpose of a sentence in a criminal conviction?

Is it to punish the criminal?

Is it to vindicate and satisfy the victim?

Is it to keep the offender away from society, so they will not re-offend?

Is it to rehabilitate the criminal? What does rehabilitation mean today?

My view is personal: I want that person locked up long enough to change him/her, if possible. For that purpose, in a first-time crime, a relatively short "shock probation" where the person is sent to regular prison, then unexpectedly released a few months later, and placed on probation for an extended time (which can be revoked if they offend again), is suitable for non-violent offenders. Ohio used to use that method in the 1970s. I don't know how it compared with incarceration for deterring repeat offenses.

If change isn't seemingly possible? I want that person removed from society. Period.

I want the non-violent crimes punished through alternative ways, including restitution, if possible. I want non-payment of child support taken OUT of the criminal system. We have to find some other way to handle it. We have to eliminate this modern-day debtor's prison. It's a poor way to handle the situation of men not having the money to support their children.

I'd like to take the children's agencies out of the enforcement business entirely. By mutual agreement, parties in a support situation should be able to handle their own affairs. If he doesn't pay, then bring in the courts - civil, not domestic.

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