A few times recently I’ve noticed that people have very different views on how criminals should be treated based on age, the crime committed, and various other factors. The truth is, different people respond differently to the same events – this is evident from children growing up. In the same style of household, one child may grow up to be particularly loud and one may grow up to be particularly quiet, and we attribute both to being the same cause (an overly loud parent, for example). Some people grow up close to busy roads or rail lines or emergency services buildings, or with constant noise in the house. The result may be a child who can never fall asleep without noise, or a child who enjoys falling asleep to silence because they never got the opportunity. Likewise, a person may need 10 years in prison for stealing to achieve the same reformation as a murderer realizing their wrong-doing (and subsequent reformation) after just 2. I think as law-abiding citizens it is all too easy for us to sit back and say “this is how it should work” or “this is how long a person should be imprisoned for their actions,” when really we have little to no knowledge of the situation.
This is what I think. I think there should be a strike system based on the crime committed, and once that limit is reached, no more chances (a minimum of one, and a maximum based on the severity of the crime and the history of the criminal). The result of striking out would be life in prison. Period. Additionally, if a fine has been paid and the individual re-offends then a prison sentence should be mandatory.
I also think that while there should be minimum punishments for crimes, unless a prisoner can prove their reformation at the end of this time to a jury of peers (like those that sent him (or her) there to begin with), they should remain pending further reformation and subsequent court hearings. Psychological analysis could also be a useful tool in determining appropriate time periods and other punishments with regard to reformation.
As a Christian, it is a hard line to walk in terms of lining up my beliefs on forgiveness and reformation with maintaining justice both for those who believe as I do and for those that don’t, as well as allowing people to feel safe from the average criminal. This is why I believe in offering a chance to criminals who can prove to a jury of peers that they have reformed and are ready to go back to life-as-normal with checks and balances in place to help keep them on the straight and narrow path of a law-abiding citizen.
I am aware, however, that this will probably never happen. Why? It’s too expensive. It would undoubtedly see an increase in prisoners over a short period of time costing the tax-payer millions. It would also cost in terms of psychologists for evaluations and so on. It will also generate outcries from the families of criminals who believe (right or wrong) that the individual is innocent. And it means change. And no-one likes change. Especially those who took the idea that a mass murderer could see daylight after just a few years and ran with it. Or that a thief could be imprisoned for 30 years (despite the likelihood of re-offending being low or high on release, respectively). Or that they could face prison time for speeding twice.
(Disclaimer: This is a not-well-thought-out idea. Feel free to add your comments and agree or disagree.)