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New Ideas in Criminal Justice

These new ideas will undoubtedly bother some readers. It isn't my intent to offend, but it seems inevitable due to people's very different ideas about the criminal justice system. We all have different ideas on what exactly we want to accomplish with the police, courts and prisons. My own ideas have had me labeled a "right-winger, a "bleeding heart liberal" and worse. Well, here they are anyhow.

Get Rid of the Exclusionary Rule

First of all, I think we all understand why we exclude evidence obtained illegally. It is crucial to a free society that we protect all people's rights, even those accused of a crime. However, consider the following scenario: A murder is committed, the killer has the gun, with the victims blood on it, and photos of the victim, and more evidence, all in his apartment. All of it is seized by police who decide to ignore the need for a search warrant, and so it cannot be used as evidence.

Does it seem strange to anyone else that the truth can't be the truth just because of how it was obtained? I say any evidence that is evidence should always be allowed in court. What about the rights of people who are subjected to illegal searches? Well they had their rights violated, and the violators should be punished, not the public. Put police officers in jail, and we will be better protected against violations, while still able to legally acknowledge the truth.

Here's a scenario that sometimes happens now. Police bust in a suspect's door and find good evidence. One waits with the criminal while another officer gets a warrant, making it all seem legal. A desire to get criminals off the streets doesn't give them the right to commit crimes, but under the current system, if the plan is discovered, they probably get suspensions, and the criminal goes free. They need to go to jail! That will stop police abuses. Meanwhile, why should the truth be ignored in the case of the criminal?

Stop Fining Corporations!

It is just wrong to punitively fine a corporation millions of dollars when they illegally dump toxic waste or otherwise break the law! I'm sure you are wondering why I would say this, but if you read the bit on the exclusionary rule above, you might figure it out. You see, I want to stop crime.

Who gets hurt when a large corporation is fined for breaking the law? For starters, the stockholders - the innocent retirees that have money invested with the company and had no idea they were breaking the law. Oh, and then the employees, if the financial situation of the company is damaged by the fines. And who doesn't get hurt? Oh, just the criminals.

You see, all crimes are committed by PEOPLE, not companies. If a company dumps poisons into the environment, a PERSON made the decision to do that. Want to stop corporate crime? Put the individuals who are involved in the crime in PRISON. The current system leaves company officers making cost/benefit calculations that lead to crimes which often pay more in profits than the occasional fines add up to. Put criminals in prison!

That isn't such a radical idea, is it? And by the way, which do you think is more likely to deter a corporate officer from committing a crime, a fine that is paid by the company, and doesn't even affect his salary, or ten years in jail? Fining companies for the actual costs involved a crime is appropriate, but "punitive" fines are ridiculous unless they are levied against the individual criminals.

Who Cares About Punishment?

This one will really offend some of you, but I don't care if we punish criminals. Okay, I probably have used the word punishment in describing what should happen to criminals, but only in the sense that I want those who do bad things to be the ones we go after. "Go after," though just means to get the right person (the criminal) so we can all be safer. It is safety that is my primary concern.

Now, I don't mind if criminals are punished - if it works! My mind is open to the argument, but the bottom line for me is that I want peoples rights respected, and I want people to be safe. If there is someday a way to re-program a criminals brain so he won't hurt people again, I don't care if he gets just one day of "punishment" (or none). That said, if punishment works, I'm all for it. So what is my point?

I want a science of criminal justice that is based on the best protection of individual rights. I once saw a story of a man that threw his two-year old against the wall. My first thought was that he needs to be locked up. I want all people to be safe. Then it was discovered that he had a grapefruit-sized tumor pressing against the area of the brain that regulates rage. He had always been a quiet peaceful guy until the weeks leading up to the incident, and was again back to his former personality once the tumor was removed. He was set free, by the way, and it doesn't bother me a bit.

What works to stop crime or change the behavior of criminals? I don't know, but lets find out, and do those things. I will happily offend people's sensibilities if we can more effectively protect people.

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Criminal Justice