As we delve into the subject matter of the most appropriate response to crime, we need to address certain questions. What is the number one priority within society? Is it to ensure a safe and secure environment? But if that security is threatened, how should we deal with it?
Desire for punishment
It is a difficult subject to undertake, mainly because not all crimes are the same. It is clear that stealing sweets in a shop is not as severe as someone committing murder or sexual assault. But the way of dealing with such crimes, whatever they are, are dealt with in a similar manner. It essentially boils down to one question; punishment or rehabilitation? The problem is intensified by the views and feelings not only of the victim(s), but their family and friends too. It is often the case that those affected simply want retribution. Whether it be a shopkeeper who experienced petty theft or an individual who was attacked and beaten, they want the culprit(s) to be punished for what they did. The case of James Bulger illustrates this. Bulger was tortured and killed by two boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables in 1993. The desire for punishment was shown by James’ father, Ralph, who desired to “hunt down his son’s killers” as stated in the Guardian newspaper. However, this response is not always the right one.
Change through rehabilitation
So to return to the question posed above, what is the number one priority for a civilised society? It is, I believe, to ensure a safe and secure environment. But how is that best achieved? Whilst the majority feel that safety is secured by punishment, I disagree. I believe that a secure society is only achieved through the culprit learning from their mistakes, accepting what they did was wrong, and thus not doing it again. That, I state, is only really possible through rehabilitation.
The need to understand
I do not disagree that prison is important. For those who have committed the same crime more than once, and show no signs of learning, then being in prison is the most appropriate course of action. I do also believe that in the short term prison may be the best place for culprits, mainly because it removes them off the streets where they can no longer cause harm. But in the long term, I feel that those who committ crimes deserve the help needed to enable them to change. What is key in assessing the appropriate response to crime is the background of the culprit. The case concerning the professional footballer Jake Livermore demonstrates this. In April 2015, as reported in the Daily Mail, Livermore tested positive for cocaine. Now, as with most sportsmen who fail a drugs test, the appropriate response is a fine and a substantial ban. However, this never materialised, primarily due to the background to the cocaine use.It emerged that Livermore turned to drugs as he tried to cope with “the death of his new-born son”. As a result, the Football Association decided not to ban the player.
As demonstrated, it is often the case that the one who commits the crime has experienced pain or suffering of his/her own previously. They may have had a father who was abusive, they may have been bullied at school or witnessed the death of a close family member. The point is, is that there are always reasons as to why someone does something. I also do not accept the rationale that somebody commits a crime simply because they are evil. I do believe that evil acts are committed but it does not mean that they cannot change. Returning to the James Bulger case, at the trial the judge, Mr. Justice Morland stated that Venables and Thompson were guilty of an “act of unparalled evil”.