I do not believe we should punish people for committing crimes. It’s not a deterrent, nor does it help the victims of crime. I believe that many who desire to punish seek revenge rather than justice when clamoring for lengthy incarceration or death for the offender. I am sincere, and if you will continue to read, I hope to persuade you that I may just have a point.
What is the desired result when a person is convicted of a crime? I believe they should make reparation for the illegal deeds. If a person steals from another, he or she should have to restore as much as possible the value of that which was stolen, plus whatever may be required to make it “right.” If a person murders, they should have their life’s work be in some way giving back within their capability, that which would honor the life they took. Even if the person was only capable of manual labor, have it be productive work, not breaking rocks for the sake of breaking rocks. Amends could take many forms and could be tailored to the individual. Some would indeed have to be incarcerated for life while doing whatever amends they were capable of.
What society should look for is actual justice. Too often, we set up justice rules that make no sense. A killer sentenced to five years while a pot smoker gets ten is unreasonable. An underage boy having consensual sex with his underage girlfriend can be labeled for life as a felony sex offender, to the same degree as a grown man who raped children, while a priest just gets moved quietly to another parish.
“Justice is blind” does not mean it is stupid. The phrase refers to justice being impartial and objective, not that justice is blinded to good judgment. I believe our system is flawed primarily in how judges are trained, restricted, and bound by rules that prevent them from using a full range of judgments.
I believe we have a relatively decent system of laws and implementation. Where we fall down is having a system wherein judges are trained, not only in the law, but in dispensing justice without restriction.
By justice, I mean that which is referred to above. Not viewed as punishment, but as that which will best rectify the offense. For some, it would mean much longer incarceration than is currently called for. It will require much longer community service and, in some cases, a lifetime of work to pay back all that is due to the victim, society, police, and court system. Amends must include the cost to society as well as reparation to the victim. For those incarcerated, it would include the cost of housing them in prison.
Incarceration should only be used when dealing with those who would not, in good faith, work off their judgment outside of prison. Judges could have the option of ordering ankle bracelets if they consider the person a flight risk. Prisons would be reserved for the sociopaths and unrepentant. We probably would not be able to expect a decent return on investment from some folks, and those would undoubtedly spend the rest of their days behind bars.
When an individual has completed all restitution and is genuinely repentant, I would suggest he be restored to full citizenship rights. Completing such a program should regain their sense of personal honor, and they should be treated as someone valuable to society once more.
As John Lennon said in song: “You may think I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one.”
Sadly, sometimes it seems like I am the only one. Do any of you think like me? Anyone? Are any other dreamers out there?