Monday, February 19, 2007

Crime and punishment

Two entries about crime and punishment...

First, a form of inner-city crime prevention that, according to the evidence from the US, really does work. No draconian "getting tough on crime" or zero tolerance, or fantasies about "super predators". Nor does it treat criminals as victims. Instead, it treats them as adult human beings, people capable of making choices, but needing to break out of the toxic culture they find themselves in.

The violent inner-city gang culture truly is toxic, with a culture of machismo that forces men to welcome the brutality of prison and punishment instead of fearing it, to die rather than live, to murder for the smallest disrespect.

In High Point, law enforcement spoke honestly to communities: that enforcement was not succeeding, and they knew it; that they had never meant to do harm through relentless enforcement, but had come to realize that they had; that they would like to act differently. Communities looked inward and realized that in their anger over historic and present ills, they had not made it clear to their own young people that gang and drug activity was wrong and deeply damaging to the community. Both law enforcement and community came to understand that what they were dealing with was not so much depraved individuals as it was out-of-control peer, group, and street dynamics. So when the partnership met with High Point’s drug dealers, the community voice was clear and amazingly powerful. Scores of community members, including many immediate family, told the dealers that they were loved, needed, vital to the future of the community, would be helped: but were doing wrong, hurting themselves and others, and had to stop. Overwhelmingly, they heard, and they did. Law enforcement was uncompromising that continued criminality would bring sure consequences, but very few had to be arrested subsequently, and many are now living very different lives.

[Emphasis added.]

Secondly, a question from Mark Kleiman: when there is a humane, safe, simple form of execution, why do those in favour of capital punishment insist on inhumane, unsafe (to those administering it), complex and unreliable execution methods?

I'm very ambivalent about capital punishment. Over the years, I've come to decide that I fear the government's misuse of capital punishment more than I fear criminals, but if Kleiman is right, at least we can avoid those horrific botched executions. [Warning: may contain images and descriptions which are distressing.]

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