Sunday, November 14, 2010

Modern solution to crime - punish the victim again!

In our modern society the only solution we have to crime is to punish the victim twice. First, the perpetrator of the crime harms their victim or their property. Then, to add insult to injury, the government takes more of the victim's money out of their taxes, and wastes it on the perpetrator.

Where is the justice in that system? Can anybody explain to me why we all tolerate this?

What is wrong with the following:

- Keep the laws outlining the punishment for each crime, the crime must be punished
- Create another law that says that the perpetrator must return to the victim the financial equivalent of whatever was taken from the victim: that is real justice!
- Ensure that both the punishment and reparation is paid for by the perpetrator.

This would be real justice, would it not be? Also, it will not cost the taxpayer as much, if anything, so the criminal doesn't get to rob us twice.

Now, can anybody tell me why is our justice system so unjust? Why are we being punished twice, as if the governments tells us "don't you dare to be a crime victim - that is the real crime!"


  1. 1) Punishing the *victim* twice - implies, by definition of "victim", that this person is suffering for the third time :)

    2) I absolutely agree, that reparation is an important part of rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the only thing being done on that front nowadays is cheap prison labour, which i do not think is enough, in terms of paying back to society.

    3) Having said that, i must point out, that it may prove extremely difficult to find "financial equivalent of whatever was taken from the victim". I mean, it's easy in cases of theft and/or burglary, but unfortunately those are not the only types of crimes committed in New Zealand. How about things like rape, murder, assault, etc. ? How would you establish the financial equivalent of that?

  2. Hi ATAMAH,

    Thank you for your comments. Here is my response to each of your points. Due to post limitations I will respond to each point in a separate comment.

    1) Here is a dictionary definition of a word "victim":

    • person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.
    • a person who is tricked or duped : the victim of a hoax.
    • a living creature killed as a religious sacrifice.

    "suffering" does not necessarily form the definition of a "victim"

    When people have their property taken away from them and the value of it spent to provide for pleasure or necessities to the perpetrator of the crime - how can you see this differently from when that perpetrator robs a person and uses the value of the loot to provide for their pleasure or necessity?

    To me the act of using the taxes to provide for the lifestyle of the criminal does not bare much difference to robbing the victims to feed the criminals. The only difference here is that some victims don't mind.

  3. 2) "Cheap prison labour" - is an opinion and not the truth.

    However, before I tacke this, let me note another statement - "paying back the society" - ??? This has nothing to do with society, as a crime I am talking about is only made against an individual. What do you mean by a "crime against society"? Is that a political crime? I am not dealing with that here.

    The only payback I care about is payback to the victim, not society.

    As for the labor value. Just because the person is in a prison, doesn't mean that they have been somehow removed from the economy at large. They still consume the same as anyone else, and, provided they have the right incentives and conditions in place, they can produce the same as anyone else. The only difference is that their liberty is restricted until they paid back to the victim and served out their punishment.

    How much do you pay for prison labor? I assert, that if you let the market decide how much you pay for the prison labor, it will be the same as any other labor less whatever the marginal productivity loss incurred by the employer for the security that needs to be provided to keep the prisoner imprisoned, and the lack of mobility.

    So here is a good incentive for good behavior - the less of a pain in the butt you are the more you can earn, the faster you can get out.

  4. 3) Finding financial equivalent to the victim's loss may be difficult, but not impossible.

    Yes, sometimes the crime is not straight theft or damage to someone's property. Sometime person's health gets affected, or their life is taken.

    Lets take worst case scenario - a man gets killed. Who is the victim here? I assert it is the man's family, for whom the man would have provided.

    So, how about, the murderer serves the usual XX years minimum detention (which is what these days 20 years? 10 years? 5 years... what a joke!) plus they have to compensate the family for the lifetime worth of lost earnings - that could be agreed as a finite amount of $$.

    Same goes for damage to someone's health - there are doctor's fees, loss of earnings etc...

    Rape? How about the cost of counseling, loss of income during counseling, psychological damage causing loss of career etc...

    Also, the key point is the reparation is made to the victim as well as punishment by loss of freedom for a period of time depending on the crime that was perpetrated (same as our current system)

    Difficult to estimate, but not impossible, and is certainly not any more complicated than the current legislation dictating punishment for each crime.

  5. Igor, thanks for your reply.
    If a person who was harmed or tricked or duped or injured (etc.) - if that person is then punished twice, then they have been wrong done by a total of THREE times. That is all i am saying, i think what you meant is "Modern solution to crime - punish the victim AGAIN".
    I also said i agree with you in point 2 - we can be talking about the same stuff, but using different words there :)
    As for point 3 - please let me know how you'd explain to a daughter of gunned down father why her family is getting an X amount of money and not the Z amount of money, as did family Y ? I mean, would there be set ranges per crime? Manslaughter - $x, Murder1 - $y, assault and battery - $z?

  6. Ah, thank you - yes we do talk about the same thing in your two points. I agree with you that "AGAIN" may be a more accurate term to describe what I mean.

    As for the point 3) I don't think you quite understood my logic. The reparation is not an arbitrary set value by government for specific crime. It is also not to "compensate" life or health - just the loss of income.

    The reparation is for the loss of property. So the $$ amount paid to family is an amount estimated by the victims of what the person would have earned had they've been alive and / or healthy.

    What needs to be set out in law and administered by the government is the process by which that $$ amount is arrived at and agreed to by all parties.

  7. I am glad we've sorted it out, i was surpised it took so long :)

    Igor, how can anyone estimate what a person could achieve, financially, 20 years from now, if, say, we're talking about a student?

    Again, i am leaning towards your views on this, and certainly NOT defending the current joke of a system, but there are many aspects that are subtle yet hugely important that i do not think you are accounting for.

  8. You are focusing too much on one aspect of what I am proposing, one out of three. The other two are:

    - The perpetrator still gets the same punishment for the crime as they do today, as in they do the time for the crime, and
    - The perpetrator is the one picking up the bill for both the punishment and reparation.

    You are only focusing on the aspect of reparation, which I am proposing in addition to today's imprisonment, not instead of it. That is very important to take in to account when you consider what is fair and what isn't.

    As for the reparation part, I think what you need to establish is who is the victim (or multiple victims) and what is the property that the victims lost. Sometimes, there will be minimal loss of property, even though the crime is hideous - that is just a fact of life.

    If the victim can establish the material loss, they can claim it. This kind of thing that is happening today in many jurisdictions in civil courts - people seem to be able to seek and find adequate compensation, when they are allowed to sue, they arrive at values that work for everyone...

  9. I've focused on that one aspect because i assumed we were on common ground in respect to the rest of the aspects. Now that you've further clarified things - i know we are on common ground for a fact.

    Yet i am still not convinced that what you propose (reparation wise) can be practical and anything more than a nice sounding theory.

    Many reasons why, including, but not limited to a potential inability of the perpetrator (for whatever reason) to reimburse the victim.

    I also do not see how can a criminal court case be also heard in a civil court, unless the whole system is completely overhauled...

    Aside of all that, i (and John Galt) totally agree that the current system in place is hardly doing any real justice.

  10. If what I am proposing were adopted the whole system would have to be completely overhauled. And the whole structure will have to be decided in one court.

    The ability by the perpetrator to compensate the victim is a key point - I was wandering when it will be raised. The whole point of what I am proposing is that I believe that the perpetrator CAN reimburse both the victim AND compensate the system that keeps the perpetrator incarcerated. The question is - will they choose to do that?

    If the perpetrator chooses to do whatever it takes to compensate the victim and the system, than they will get out of it sooner and fully deserve another chance and to be treated as a normal participant in the society. If they don't, than no matter what you do the perpetrator will reoffend, so perhaps it is best they stay incarcerated...

    If you take the view (as I do) that as humans we have unlimited potential for creating value, than the rest will fall into place nicely.

    I don't do nice sounding "impractical" theories. The theory can either be applied in practice, in which case the theory is correct (or you can say nice), or the theory has a flaw in it, in which case it is incorrect, or impractical.

    While I don't have the capacity or the time to re-write the whole of criminal law in this blog, so far I can not see any flaws in the theory, so to me it is as practical as they get.

  11. The incentive of a reduced sentence is an interesting concept. Good behaviour parole hearing replaced by hard work parole hearing...
    Those that refuse to work in order to compensate remain imprisoned. What of those physically unable to work, after, say, a year of honestly trying hard ? The system has to be fair to those that make a proper effort, i think. Again, this is one of many twists and turns that must be accounted for, and i agree - there are too many for this blog but just right for a Mission Bay / De fontein type discussions...

  12. How can you talk about fairness if one individual inflicts damage to another individual? The act is unfair in the first place.

    Anything short of fully reinstating the loss to the victim is unfair. However, as you pointed out, chances of full reinstatement are not always realistic. So no matter what you do the result will be unfair to some victims.

    The question is than how much can the unfairness be rectified?

    Unable to work... how do you know & differentiate if they are unable or unwilling? Honesty? Really? Proper effort - how can you judge a proper effort? What currency will you use to measure "proper"?

    The act of unfairness brings unfairness. What I am proposing is the unfairness rectification needs to be placed with the perpetrator. If they can't fully rectify, there will be some residual unfairness left with perpetrator, not the victim. The problem is under the present system both the costs of "rectification" and the residual unfairness is pushed squarely on to the victims.

    Beer sounds good :)

  13. The measuring of "proper" and "effort" is actually a lot easier than measuring "remorse". The latter, apparently, is good enough in the current system to have a sentence reduced, at times.

    But anyway, we should leave it till the beers, which not only sounds good, but tastes good too :)