Bring Back The Lash
So one likely consequence of our elevation of the latest drop out from One Direction to the post of Prime Minister – whoops no, it’s Justin Trudeau, my mistake – is that we likely will see some revision in the coming months of the Harper government’s crime bills. Mandatory minimums for certain gun and drug crimes in particular will likely be in the cross-hairs. Now, I happen to be of a fifty-fifty mix on this particular subject. I’m generally open to the idea of legalizing or decriminalizing drugs, so I’ve never been much of a fan of mandatory minimum prison sentences for that particular crime. At the very least, I feel the law should fall hardest on gangs and other elements of organized crime who smuggle and deal narcotics, not the individual users. In contrast on gun crime, as with other violent offenses, I happen to be heartily in favour of keeping offenders in jail for as long as is humanly possible. Once you have shown the capacity and the willingness to harm other members of society I would say it is in society’s interest to keep you locked up, ideally in some cramped cell without sunlight. Regardless, it would therefore be fair to say I am not entirely ticked off at the prospect of criminal justice reform being raised.
One of the favorite pet peeves of many progressives in recent years has been the so-called “Americanization” of the Canadian criminal system, as a rash of longer prison sentences introduced over the last decade has been referred to. As it stands, I am actually partially on side with this agreement. Harshness of punishment does not, upon examination, seem to deter crime. After all, no admirable cretin breaks the law assuming they are going to get caught. Being the egotistical creatures we are, people naturally assume they are somehow smarter than all those around them and are going to commit the perfect crime. And overly long prison sentences have the unfortunate side effect of being very expensive while simultaneously sparking endless complaints from various plebeian heart-on-the-sleeve types on the sheer unpleasantness of prison life (as if it was a weekend trip to a day spa and not punishment) accompanied by insistences on sprucing up the joints which of course costs even more law-abiding citizens’ hard earned tax money to pay for. There is a reason why incarceration is a relatively new tool of widespread punishment that was rarely utilized by our forbearers.
All that being said I do support lengthy stints in prison for all forms of violent crime and treasonous activities. If you hurt someone, or rape someone, or kill someone I want you off the streets and behind bars….for a very long time…..in fact forever if possible. If you conspire against our country with the aim of causing it harm, to even the slightest extent, with either a non-state entity of terrorism or a foreign power, I want you to never feel the sunlight upon your skin again. There are people in this world that are simply evil, people who are bad and will do terrible things simply because they want to or because they have no sense of empathy for other people and incidental harm to others is a small price to pay to get what they want. For people like this the only true solution is to remove them from society so they can no longer hurt others.
However, there are also plenty of people who break the law who do not fall into these aforementioned categories. For them, I’m perfectly willing to forego the expense of a lengthy incarceration administrated by unionized public workers. This is a surprising area of overlap I experience with many of my friends on the left. Of course, we differ radically on the preferred alternative. The choice I often hear from the progressive side of the spectrum is community service. Of course, what else would be expected? It fits nicely with the left’s view of humanity, and their delusion that no one is truly a bad person but simply led to bad choices by their circumstances, and with the right lesson anyone can be shown the error of their ways so by all means have burglars read to the blind (perhaps this will hasten the day they see the light and discover the true meaning of Christmas)! This is a fundamentally flawed view. While severity of punishment might not deter crime, it is still important that it actually be a punishment which community service hardly fits the bill for. Oh, by all means use it for nuisance crimes like public intoxication or as a lesser means of discipline for juveniles, but otherwise I prefer different methods.
My preferred prescription would be a combination of financial fines with older methods such as the stocks or the lash. This would be both more economical, while also still having the benefit of being a disincentive to crime. Furthermore, it adds a degree of public humiliation to the punishment. Even people who do not value others as individuals still value the opinions they hold of them personally. An executive might hesitate from embezzling funds if he knew if could he would face the prospect of being publicly punished before both his peers and his inferiors (perhaps with the possibility of them pelting him with rotten eggs and fruit as he cooled his heels in the stocks…we could even make a tv show of the thing). What’s more, this would also eliminate the need to rob society of most convicts’ productive talents for the duration of their punishment as is the case under the current system.
I can already predict the reaction of the usual suspects to my suggestion. Oh, the wailing will go, how can you suggest such a thing? It is barbaric. But is it truly any more barbaric than the status quo we have now? Anyone even vaguely acquainted with the prison system knows its deficiencies, with regular blokes who have simply had the misfortune of having an altercation with the law being lumped in with hardened criminal degenerates. Rape, substance abuse, and falling in with gangs for no other reason than protection are all central parts of prison culture. Is this really any more civilized than a dozen lashes in the public square? Not really, but it has the benefit of being out of sight and therefore out of the public mind. As with many thorny issues, the public’s main goal is not really compassion but rather obliviousness. Do whatever, just do not make me actually own up to the ugly reality.
As is often the case, the old ways are the better ways and the ugly reality is that there is no “nice” way to punish someone. Punishment by definition is not nice. In our tribal days those who broke the tribe’s laws were not invited round to tea and given a stern lecture on the errors of their ways, instead they were often buried at the crossroads with a spear. Mercy to the guilty is often little more than cruelty to the innocent. Our current system of incarceration is not nice either, and it also happens to be costly and in some ways contributory towards recidivism. There are smarter, more cost-effective ways that could easily achieve the same goal, possibly with far better results. On that basis the math is quite clear. Let us do away with prisons, and bring back the lash!