Monday, May 23, 2011

A New Principle

Should we try adopting the principle that no punishment for a crime should cause more social harm than the crime itself?

That should chop down the number of women slung into prison for minor, nonviolent crimes that cause them to lose home and children.  And that's just to begin...


  1. Why not just abolish criminal law altogether, and have civil law take on all cases.

    In murder for example, the next of kin or executors of the deceased, would have the right to receive compensation in kind. And if the defaulter can't provide, the plaintiff can solicit the right of revenge.

  2. In a word Ben, yes. The statistics concerning prisoner's children who follow in their parents' footsteps is sickening. How does society expect these children to become stable, well-adjusted young people, separated from their mothers? It is about punishment, and it needs to be about breaking this tragic cycle.

  3. Uh huh. Not a lot to say to this other than "yes". It's such a no brainer I don't understand why it isn't already law.

  4. There are some issues with this. Firstly, how do you value the harm done either by the crime or by the prison time?

    Those who drive recklessly kill about 5 times as many people (collectively) than those who set out deliberately to kill. So if we directly balance social harm we should take the number of sentences that would be awarded to that number of murderers and divide them up amongst those caught breaking road law. However, this then enters the zone of blameworthiness. How much extra harm is done because a killing is deliberate rather than accidental? Do we completely ignore the motives of the offender and take a completely objective view of their crime?

    The second issue is one of detterence. Whilst most people don't think about consequences, there are some cold calculating bastards out there, as well as those who simply have such little regard for other people that all they care about is the consequence to them. For a threat to be at all effective, it has to be worse than the action it is trying to stop. "you steal my 50p chocolate and I will slap you" might be proportionate, but would have no affect on a some people. "You steal my 50p chocolate bar and I will take £1 of your chocolate" would prevent them.

  5. Is Jimmy giro a battyman?


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