Whenever punishment of criminals is discussed, voices make themselves heard who oppose hard treatment of crime. Some of the arguments typically used are countered below:
Hard punishment, such as death penalty, does not prevent crime as it does not deter, does not keep others from committing crimes.
A sufficiently hard punishment does prevent crime as it prevents the punished from committing subsequent crimes. And since the majority of crime is committed by repeaters, and a typical repeater commits dozens to not rarely hundreds of crimes throughout one's career, an effective treatment of repeaters early on in their career will necessarily prevent the bulk of all crime. This is a logical and mathematical necessity, which has also been proven in practice wherever and whenever local authorities have temporarily tightened their policy regarding repeaters.
Furthermore, if the punishment involves death penalty or eugenic measures like sterilization, it also prevents the possible crimes of the punished's thus prevented offspring.
With hard treatment of crime - "repression", as some call it - everyone will have to go through life paralyzed with fear, for any misstep may cause them to be punished severely.
On the contrary, people will be able to relax and feel safe, for they know that who do bad deeds will be punished effectively, and that the probability of falling victim of crime is low and decreasing. After some time, crime will be virtually nonexistent as a result of there being few to no criminals in society. It must be stressed that only those who commit crimes are punished, never those who behave ethically, righteously. Good people will have nothing to fear. They will be the utmost opposite of paralyzed with fear. Their will be true safety, as opposed to security, which - the latter - is what one needs in a society where criminals are allowed to run free.
Hard punishment serves only as revenge.
No, it serves to prevent crime and eliminate it from society, and is a righteous form of reprisal. To confuse righteous reprisal with revenge is a grave insult to the victims of crime, as it puts the criminals above their victims. By denying the victim's right to righteous reprisal, the criminal is placed at an advantage over its victim, for the criminal has had its way with the victim already, and therefore the criminal has been allowed more, has had greater freedom of behaviour, than its victim. To call victims "revengeful" for wanting the criminal to be punished hard is a crime in itself.
Hard treatment of crime will cause criminals to commit more and more violent crimes.
The reply is twofold:
|Treatment of any particular criminal must be such that repeating is not an option altogether for that criminal.|
Some criminals can not be caught in practice, so it makes no sense to have punishments for their behaviour.
With this argument one is making it far to easy for oneself. Pragmatism must never go so far as to allow criminal behaviour just because one fails, is not able, to catch the culprits. It is an admission of weakness.
Hard punishment of criminals is too much like "Sharia" (Islamic law), so is a step back in civilization.
The main difference is that the hard treatment of crime in modern society must be aimed only at the guilty while the innocent remain unpunished, whereas under Sharia it is sometimes the innocent who are punished while the guilty go free. An example is that of raped women who are punished for adultery, typically caned or stoned to death, while the rapists go unpunished. Also, Sharia punishments are in some cases more cruel than would be needed in modern society, where (in modern society) the concept of "diminished responsibility" can be used to rightfully reduce the severity of the reprisal aspect of punishment.
Punishment will not remove crime from society, as the cause of crime lies in poverty and other bad social circumstances. Where there is poverty, there is crime. If you remove poverty, you remove crime.
This is the well-known logical error of "correlation means causality", here used to falsely enforce the Marxist doctrine which says that humans are born equal and differences between them result from social environment. But that A. and B. go together does not at all imply that A. is the cause of B.; other possibilities are that B. is the cause of A., or that there is a common cause or correlate behind both. So, that poverty and crime go together does not imply that the one causes the other.
It is now known that much of human behaviour depends on inborn characteristics rather than on social environment, and that for instance crime has mainly to do with lack of impulse control, inability to delay gratification, aggressiveness, inclination to violence and other antisocial behaviour, and mostly below-average intelligence. That nevertheless there is a correlation with social environment ("poverty") is a result of the facts that 1) those characteristics have a component of heredity, and 2) some of those same characteristics cause one to remain or become poor and stuck in the lowest social classes. So poverty does not cause crime, but has a cause in common with crime.
Important to understand in this respect is the phenomenon of "social mobility" in modern Western societies, which means that those of high ability are able and allowed to rise to higher social classes during their lives. One is not stuck in the class wherein one was born, as was the case in the past. The flip side of "social mobility" however is that those of lower ability (such as most criminals) will descend to or remain stuck in the lowest classes and lead a life of poverty. Therefore, especially in modern society with its very high degree of social mobility, the correlation of crime with poverty is doomed to rise, thus giving fuel to the Marxist fallacy of "poverty is the cause of crime".
It is bad enough that the victim has suffered through the crime; if the criminal is subsequently punished, that only adds to the suffering, and one more life is wasted.
On the contrary, an effective punishment reduces the amount of suffering in society in three ways:
In addition, the criminal is guilty so its suffering deserved and therefore not counting toward the total amount of suffering in society. And in the case of death penalty, the death of one that deserves to die does not count as a wasted life. Also, to imply that a criminal's life is worth saving, that it would be a loss the kill the criminal, places that criminal at an advantage over its victim whose life has not been saved, and is therefore the ultimate insult to the victim.