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Friday, June 23, 2006

Off topic,

I'm wandering well off topic here to post about something that's been getting on my nerves of late.
I was spurred by reading this and this from a goverment invited academic into writing.

I deal with scores of scrotes on a regular basis and encounter an awful lot of antisocial behaviour, some directed at me, but mostly directed at others or fixtures and fittings both inside and out.
It's petty criminality but it's illustrative of a few problems.
The massively understaffed, or is that staffed under massive officiousness, UK police do their best to deflect antisocial behaviour from ruining the lives of many. (see a coppers view ad nauseum) where the ambulance service deals repeatedly with those whose situation due to heroin or alcohol has become truly dire.
We hear from research, however casually preformed, that this is being done at a massive cost, to the taxpayer. These habitual offenders appear in the courts repeatedly but to no avail.

I see from my work that the vast majority of people are sensible, law abiding, reasonable folks. They will occasionally stray into misdemeanours and ocassionally punishment from the courts is proportional forthcoming. There are however those persons whose antisocial and criminal acts are endemic.
As discussed in the New Yorker article, the distribution of offences to offenders is not that of a Normal distribution, but of a Power Law distribution with a small number of offenders with a huge number of offences to their name. The fact that they all may be trivial doesn't bear on the minds of their victims, which for these habituated, serial offenders can number into the hundreds.

I feel the sentencing in the UK should reflect the offenders and not the offences. The fact that currently if an indivual appears only for a petty offence they can only recieve petty penalties despite their history of perpetual offending needs to be challenged. Guilt of offences, beyond reasonable doubt, should still be the bench-mark for each offence taken individually but the sentencing to time inside or rehabilitation is the sentencing or rehabilitation an offender not an offence.

I know this could lead to sobbing mothers in the tabloids saying their beloved little scrote of a kid was only ever up to harmless fun and didn't deserve 5 years of porridge for shoplifting but if the persistent offenders were taken off the streets for long periods of time, those streets would be better places to be. I also know this smacks of the three strikes and your out rule which I think is a prone to being a tad extreme, but 13 strikes, 33 strikes, 300 strikes? You get my point I hope.

In alliance to this idea I've had great difficulty seeing why a guilty plea should lead to a discount in sentence. I feel its origins are sunk in the christian prodigal son idea, returned and repentant, seeking forgiveness. When you admit your guilt before trial and co-operate with the police, fine let this be taken into account. When you only plead guilty in court because it's evident you're losing and will get a discounted sentence if you do, that's just abusing the system. Another point to slip in here is the need for only minimum tariffs to be reported. If your action in prison is below the standards expected, expect an extended stay but the idea of a 12 year sentence being served in 4 is just a 4 year sentence being served by someone who can follow the simplistic rules inmates live their dialy drudge by. Related to this is the trend for releases being withheld from those who don't admit their guilt. If the sentencing was clear and not heavily discounted this would not occur, the admission by an offender or guilt should not effect their sentence length. Again it's the prodigal son idea reducing guilt to a solicitor drafted admission constructed for maximum impact on reducing a sentence.

It's an old and venerable system of justice in the UK but it is far from perfect. Those inside it from every angle know this and those in charge of it seem to be cottoning on. No one's being brave enough to come up with serious changes. Lets see how the home office react to this libery supported lady and her claims of human rights infringement


Dr Dan H. said...

There's a couple of tricks you can pull here to make life easier on the non-criminals. Firstly, make all sentences consecutive, so a lot of petty offences add up to a lot of porridge.

Secondly, add in some sort of time-discounted multiplier factor, so if the criminal did a lot of naughty things in the recent past these make his sentence longer, but if these are in the distant past the effect is minimal.

This would have to be fairly obviously fair, so for every thee months of sentence in the last five years the offender gets another month on the current sentence (whatever it is), so being a repeatedly naughty boy will land an offender with a long stretch at her majesty's pleasure.

Finally, build more prisons. There're a lot of low-grade offending scrotes in the country, and in the initial phase a hell of a lot of them are going to get locked up, some for longish stretches just to sequester them away from normal people.

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