Monday, April 6, 2009

Three Strikes Law

There's an old joke that goes
Two mathematicians are having coffee at a table outside their local cafe. While they are there they see two men walk into the empty building opposite and after a while three men leave. The mathematicians look at each other puzzled until one says "If someone else goes in it will be empty again."
Obviously there's more going on than the mathematicians want to admit, they didn't consider the possibility that there may have already been someone in the apparently empty building, or perhaps there is another entrance they can't see. Either way, the mathematicians are obviously experiencing flawed logic in their attempt to preserve their original beliefs and their proposed solution makes little sense.

The currently proposed law to send people to jail for 25 years on their third major crime suffers from the same type of flaws. Our prisons are full to the point of overflowing and the government is having to spend a lot of money on new prisons or working out how to get more people into the current ones. This law will only add to the number of people in our prisons, consuming tax payer dollars and adding noting back to society.

To me the logic flaw is so obvious I don't understand why nobody is pointing it out. Serious criminals don't happen overnight, they start out as petty criminals and get away with it. It's just human nature to always press against the boundaries, and for over a generation we have been pretty much ignoring the petty crimes. At the bottom of the heap is graffiti vandalism and general loutishness by children and teens. Even if they are caught nothing is done, so they do it again, nothing happens, and they keep going, gradually getting worse.

Soon they are in youth gangs and things just get worse. Burglaries, stand-over tactics, violence yet they are still under age and the police and youth courts effectively do nothing. When they become of age, judges start giving them minor penalties ... community service that they don't perform and fines they never pay.

Sooner or later they put someone in hospital, do an armed robbery, or kill someone. Finally something is done, but by now the criminal associates only with other criminals, are regarded as a "big man" for their criminal level and as soon as they are on the street again they go back to their life of crime.
At this point, after dozens of burglaries (hundreds of houses burgled if they are drug addicts), dozens of peoples lives ruined the Three Strikes rule would finally kick in and they will be gone. For every habitual criminal removed by this, there will be plenty of people waiting to step into their place in the criminal underworld.

Just like the mathematicians that can't understand where the third man came from, our politicians can't seem to understand that these adult criminals came from somewhere.

Wouldn't it make much more sense to stop the offending early. Take the young graffiti vandals and kids who do minor theft and give them an appropriate punishment. No I don't mean throw them in the cells with adult offenders, I mean give them a penalty that will make them think twice about doing it again; and what's more let them know that if they do it again, next time it will be worse.

Surely a lot cheaper than building more prisons.

Originally published on Qondio

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