Crime and Punishment

It seems to me…

Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State’s failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community.”  ~ H. G. Wells.

The percentage of a country’s population in prison probably is one of the best indicators of the basic health of that country.  If so, the U.S. definitely is need of some health care.

For the most part, those convicted of having committed an offense are already without sufficient financial resources to provide an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families.  That said, insufficient attention has been directed to eliminating the basic causes for crime rather than strictly focusing on punishment.  Today, the general public is aware only of the total costs of the legal system; a more affective way of bring these to the public’s attention is needed as reform will not occur until the majority of the public recognizes the financial benefit of prevention rather than punishment.  It seems somewhat incongruous at a time when budgets are being slashed that conservatives constantly demand stricter punishment for criminal activity further increasing incarceration costs.

[i]The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world.  According to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) at the end of 2009, 7,225,800 people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole — about 3.1 percent of adults in the U.S. resident population, or 1 in every 32 adults.  The UK has the highest relative prison population in Europe with about 1 in 709 of its citizens imprisoned.

[ii]The U.S. also has the highest total documented prison and jail population in the world with its prison population accounting for fully a quarter of the world’s prisoners.  No other country in the world comes close to these numbers.  The far more populous China ranks second, with a prison population of approximately 1.5 million.  The number of incarcerated persons in the U.S. now exceeds the population of all but three cities in the country and is equivalent to the combined populations of Seattle, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.

Recidivism also is extremely high in the U.S. with 53 percent of arrested males and 39 percent of arrested females being re-incarcerated (2003).  While criminal recidivism is highly correlated with psychopathy, one of the main reasons why released prisoners find themselves back in jail is the difficulty for the individual to fit back into ‘normal’ life.  They have to reestablish ties with their family, return to high-risk locations, and secure formal identification; they often have a poor work history and now have a criminal record to deal with[iii].

Rehabilitation is the idea of ‘curing’ an offender of his or her criminal tendencies, of changing their habits, their outlook, and possibly even personality, so as to make them less inclined to commit crimes in the future[iv].  It seeks to prevent a person from reoffending by taking away the desire to offend.  This is very different from the idea of ‘deterrence’ (which is the idea of making him afraid to offend, though he may still desire to), and the idea of ‘incapacitation’ (which is the idea of taking away his physical power to offend, though he may still desire to but be unafraid to).  These three consequentialist, or utilitarian approaches, are in turn very different from the penological idea of ‘retribution’ which is not primarily about reducing reoffending.

The retributive idea is that punishment should be determined chiefly (possibly even only) by the seriousness of the crime itself, and not by consequentialist factors, such as whether the punishment is enough to scare (i.e., deter) the rest of society.  It is a very serious mistake to think the retributive criminal justice system ideal is about vengeance, retaliation, or payback.  Rather, it is an extremely sophisticated idea that often forms the basis of, and arguably even is, the leading indication of a developed sentencing system.  The term ‘retribution’ is unfortunate because its everyday meaning connotes ‘revenge’.

The debate between rehabilitation and retribution involves two broad questions: ideologically, which is the more satisfactory justification for punishment; and practically, which can serve as a more useful guide for sentencers and other agents in the criminal justice system?  Attempts at rehabilitation have been judged a failure.  On 18 January 1989, the abandonment of rehabilitation in corrections was confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.  In Mistretta vs. United States, the Court upheld federal “sentencing guidelines” which removed rehabilitation from serious consideration when sentencing offenders[v]: defendants were to be sentenced strictly for the crime.  By almost an 8 to 1 margin (87 percent to 11 percent), the U.S. voting public is in favor of rehabilitative services for prisoners as opposed to a punishment-only system.  Of those polled, 70 percent favored these services both during incarceration and after release from prison.

All of this brings other factors into question.  The American Rifle Association and other conservative groups promote gun ownership as the best way to deter crime.  If this is so, why does the U.S. have the highest crime rate when we also have the highest percentage of gun ownership?  There are a number of initial steps that would start to positively change public opinion regarding weapons.

We need to bring back the Brady Law.  The Brady Act required background checks to be conducted on individuals prior to a firearm purchase from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer, or importer (92 percent of background checks through the NICS are completed while the FBI is on the phone with the gun dealer).  Occasionally, a gun purchaser may have to wait for up to three business days if the NICS system fails to positively approve or deny his/her application to purchase a firearm.  If a denial is not issued within those three days, the transfer may be completed at that time.  From 1994 through 2009, over 107 million background checks were conducted[vi] with 1.9 million (1.4 percent) attempted firearm purchases blocked by the background check system.  For checks done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2009, felons accounted for 48 percent of denials and fugitives from justice accounted for 16 percent of denials.  The ban on domestic sales of assault rifles, which was allowed to expire in 2004, also needs to be reinstated.  There isn’t any legitimate justification for assault weapon ownership.

Manufacturers should be required to registers all weapons produced.  Every firearm leaves a set of unique marks not only on the bullet but also on the case enabling police to track bullets and their casings the same way investigators run fingerprint checks.  Firearm fingerprinting can be an invaluable tool to law enforcement since it can link together crimes that otherwise would be pursued as separate cases.  An automated tracing system was created (Integrated Ballistics Identification System) to implement this identification.  This would permit cradle-to-grave weapon ownership traceability of all sales of registered weapons.

At least 70 percent of the weapons used in Mexico come from the U.S. (the origin of most of the remaining weapons could not be determined).  Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico stated, “I accuse the U.S. weapons industry of (responsibility for) the deaths of thousands of people that are occurring in Mexico.  It is for profit, for the profits that it makes for the weapons industry”.  The U.S. bears substantial culpability for the drug-related violence across our border in Mexico and it is time to acknowledge our responsibility for this activity.

The NRA instead of continuing to support misuse and criminal ownership of weapons should be the provider of mandatory weapons safety classes for weapon purchasers prior to sale completion.

In the interest of full disclosure, just in case anyone might think otherwise, I personally own a number of rifles, shotguns, and handguns and have enjoyed using them my entire life.  It should be obvious to anyone that what we currently are doing is not working and that something else needs to be done.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[i] Wikipedia.  Incarceration in the United States, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States.

[ii] Spencer, Naomi.  US Prison Population At All Time High, http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/sep2007/pris-s29.shtml, 29 September 2007.

[iii] Wikipedia.  Recidivism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recidivism.

[iv] Tan, Nicholas.  Rehabilitation vs. Retribution, http://www.idebate.org/debatabase/topic_details.php?topicID=307..

[v] Miller, Jerome G.  The Debate on Rehabilitating Criminals: Is It True that Nothing Works?, Washington Post, http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/rehab.html, March 1989.

[vi] Wikipedia.  Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brady_Handgun_Violence_Prevention_Act.

About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in American Rifle Association, Assault, Brady, Bullet, Crime, Deterrence, FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Felon, Fingerprint, Firearm, Handgun, Incapacitation, Incarceration, Law, Legal, Mistretta, NRA, Prison, Punishment, Recidivism, Rehabilitation, Retribution, Rifle, Shotgun, System, Vengeance, Weapon and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Crime and Punishment

    • lewbornmann says:

      Please accept my apology for not responding to your Web page references. While my family spoke Slovak when I was young, I am not sure how similar it might have been to Polish and, regardless, has been too many years for me to still be able to understand, much less respond to what you wrote.

      Like

  1. Pingback: Civil Criticism | Lew Bornmann's Blog

  2. If some one needs to be updated with most recent technologies
    after that he must be go to see this web page and be up to date every day.

    Like

  3. I like what you guys are up too. This kind of clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the terrific works guys I’ve included you guys
    to blogroll.

    Like

  4. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your website. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility problems?
    A small number of my blog visitors have complained about my website
    not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari.
    Do you have any recommendations to help fix this problem?

    Like

  5. After going over a handful of the blog posts on your site,
    I honestly like your way of writing a blog. I added it to my bookmark website
    list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my web site too and let me know your
    opinion.

    Like

  6. This piece of writing is genuinely a pleasant one it helps new internet visitors, who
    are wishing in favor of blogging.

    Like

  7. First off I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask
    if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center
    yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there.
    I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10
    to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or
    tips? Kudos!

    Like

  8. I am curious to find out what blog system you have been working with?
    I’m having some small security problems with my latest site and I’d
    like to find something more safe. Do you have any recommendations?

    Like

  9. Hello I am so happy I found your site, I really
    found you by accident, while I was browsing on Google for something else, Regardless I am
    here now and would just like to say many thanks for a fantastic
    post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it
    all at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more,
    Please do keep up the excellent work.

    Like

  10. If you wish for to improve your experience simply keep visiting this site and be updated with the most recent
    news posted here.

    Like

  11. Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It truly helpful & it helped me out much.
    I’m hoping to present one thing back and help others like
    you aided me.

    Like

  12. Hi, this weekend is pleasant for me, since this point in time i am reading this
    impressive educational piece of writing here
    at my home.

    Like

  13. I really like it when folks get together and share ideas.
    Great site, stick with it!

    Like

  14. Hi to every one, the contents present at this web site are genuinely remarkable for people experience, well, keep
    up the nice work fellows.

    Like

  15. Hi there, after reading this remarkable piece of writing i am
    as well cheerful to share my knowledge here with colleagues.

    Like

  16. I enjoy reading an article that will make people think.

    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

    Like

  17. A person essentially lend a hand to make severely
    articles I would state. This is the first time I frequented your
    website page and to this point? I amazed with the
    analysis you made to create this actual publish extraordinary.
    Excellent task!

    Like

  18. Hi! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you
    know how to make your site mobile friendly? My weblog looks weird when viewing from my iphone 4.
    I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to resolve this issue.
    If you have any recommendations, please share. Thanks!

    Like

  19. На мой взгляд это очень интересная тема.
    Давайте с Вами пообщаемся в
    PM.

    Like

  20. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your
    efforts and I will be waiting for your further post
    thanks once again.

    Like

  21. Hi, I do believe this is a great website. I stumbledupon it 😉
    I’m going to revisit yet again since I saved as a favorite it.
    Money and freedom is the best way to change, may
    you be rich and continue to guide others.

    Like

  22. You could certainly see your skills in the work you write.
    The sector hopes for even more passionate
    writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe.

    At all times go after your heart.

    Like

  23. Wonderful goods from you, man. I have understand your
    stuff previous to and you’re just too excellent.
    I actually like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you are stating
    and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it wise.
    I cant wait to read much more from you. This is really a great web site.

    Like

  24. This article is really a good one it assists new web viewers, who are wishing for blogging.

    Like

  25. Wow, that’s what I was exploring for, what a stuff! existing here
    at this webpage, thanks admin of this web site.

    Like

  26. First off I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing.
    I’ve had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there.
    I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the
    first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?
    Appreciate it!

    Like

  27. Attractive component of content. I simply stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to say that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog
    posts. Any way I will be subscribing to your augment and
    even I achievement you get right of entry to
    persistently rapidly.

    Like

  28. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and
    now each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment.

    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Thanks a lot!

    Like

    • lewbornmann says:

      I am sorry you are experiencing trouble with your subscription but I use the WordPress application and do not have this type of permission. Contact WordPress directly. I’m sure they can help you with this problem.

      Like

  29. When someone writes an article he/she keeps the image of a user in his/her mind that
    how a user can know it. Therefore that’s why this article
    is outstdanding. Thanks!

    Like

  30. Does your site have a contact page? I’m having problems locating
    it but, I’d like to shoot you an email. I’ve got some recommendations for your
    blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way,
    great site and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.

    Like

    • lewbornmann says:

      Due to the volume of messages and e-mail I receive, I am sorry but I do not give out personal contact information. Thank you for you interest. While I’m sure your recommendations are well intended, it has been necessary to adopt this policy. Good luck.

      Like

  31. Heya! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing months
    of hard work due to no data backup. Do you have any methods to prevent hackers?

    Like

    • lewbornmann says:

      So far I have been fortunate and not experienced any problem. It is unfortunate you lost any material. I always emphasized to students in my classes to keep multiple backups. Only one back up is insufficient. Good luck.

      Like

  32. Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok.

    I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

    Like

  33. This is a topic that is close to my heart… Best wishes!
    Where are your contact details though?

    Like

  34. Wow! In the end I got a web site from where I be capable of actually get helpful facts regarding my study and knowledge.

    Like

  35. This paragraph is truly a fastidious one it assists new
    internet users, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

    Like

  36. Great blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring
    writers? I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a
    little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with
    a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..

    Any ideas? Cheers!

    Like

  37. Hello! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look
    forward to all your posts! Carry on the great work!

    Like

  38. I hardly drop responses, however i did a few searching
    and wound up here Crime and Punishment | Lew Bornmann’s Blog.
    And I actually do have some questions for you if you don’t mind.

    Could it be only me or does it seem like some
    of these remarks appear like left by brain dead folks?
    😛 And, if you are posting on other sites, I would like to keep up with
    anything fresh you have to post. Would you list of the complete
    urls of all your public pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed,
    or linkedin profile?

    Like

  39. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but
    great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
    Thanks for magnificent info I was looking for this info
    for my mission.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.