Crime and sentence

© June 1999 Paul Cooijmans

In certain "civilized" societies, treatment of crime has become less strict than it was in the past. We are approaching the point - and some countries are indeed past that point - at which who purposely hurt innocent get away with several hours of light work - "community service" - and even receive support and protection that beyond doubt had better been given to their victims.

Sword and scales - Drawing by Paul Cooijmans

"An eye for an eye", some say, was the better system. But are they right? No, they are not. For that friendly maxim implies the culprit must suffer to the same extent as his victim. However, the victim is innocent when suffering, while the culprit is guilty; Hence, if both suffer to the same amount, the culprit is still at an advantage, as he deserved to suffer, and no justice is done.

Obviously, the culprit must suffer more than his victim. How much? Seven times? Seventy? Depends on the crime. The greater the crime, the greater the enlargement factor. Mathematically spoken, the penalty must be proportional to the square or higher power of the crime.

And then there is the matter of responsibility; It is no use to punish who possess no awareness and intelligence with respect to the trouble they cause. In such cases it suffices to compensate the victims and remove the culprit from society to prevent future crimes. Responsibility (r) is a crime's coefficient from 0 to 1, the latter being its principal value. As for diminished responsibility , it must be understood this can never apply to crimes committed under the influence of voluntarily taken drugs of any kind; r = 1 in those cases. On the other hand, if one is forced into an apparently criminal act, r = 0. It follows that the penalty (p) to any crime (c) is given by the formula:

p = r × c2

On top of this penalty it is self-evident the culprit must compensate the victim or victims - if still alive - for the suffering, and only the individual victim can determine the height of the compensation. The culprit can in no case escape this, and will if needed sell his own body organs, including vital ones. It must not be forgotten that who commits a crime disclaims his human rights.

Finally, society must be protected from future crimes by a given culprit by removing the latter (if still alive).

Compensation and removal from society are self-obvious additions to the penalty and can in no case replace it. For if the only consequence of theft is to return the stolen property (compensation), no risk is run by stealing as that property did not belong to the thief in the first place. Compensation therefore is not punishment.

And if the only consequence of crime is to be forced to never commit a crime again (removal), no risk is run by criminality as crime was not allowed in the first place. Removal from society therefore is not punishment. Relevant in this respect is that the most-heard complaint regarding "death penalty" as administered in certain American states is that the culprit does not suffer in proportion to his victim.

Punishment is anything that causes a culprit to suffer, apart from compensation, removal and the regular discomforts of life. In practice this means to cause the culprit physical and mental pain; To satisfy the victim's sense of justice, the latter must be invited to witness and, if desired, execute the punishment.

This does not mean a return to medieval practice (even apart from the fact in those days the punished were often innocent); The responsibility coefficient ensures that no one suffers more than is fair. And as it is now becoming ever clearer crime largely results from a culprit's genetic inclination to violence, aggression, and other unethical behaviour, excessive torture will hardly be needed because of diminished responsibility. Compensation and removal from society suffice there, while, as science proceeds, methods of prenatal D.N.A. scanning will become available to prevent the births of individuals with "crime genes".

On the other hand, categories remain where diminished responsibility can never apply, like pain caused for social conformation, especially in the name of an unproven concept. Also, crimes committed for personal gain of any kind, including lying, cheating and fraud, must result in high r values.

In general, social pressure, problematic youth, poverty, drug abuse and other environmental factors to which almost anyone is exposed are no excuse for low r values.

Valid reasons for diminished responsibility are force, genetic inclination to criminal behaviour and very low mental ability.

To the often heard remark, "Punishment does not make the culprit a better person", the reply is, "The important thing is to make his victims better". To the remark, "Punishment may cause the culprit to become mad at the world and commit more crimes", the reply is, "He must not be allowed to commit more crimes; Giving a lighter penalty out of fear for more crimes would be to give in to terror". To "If you hurt a culprit for punishment you behave like a criminal yourself", the reply is, "No, because the culprit was acting against an innocent, while who punishes acts against a guilty".

Many, if not most crimes are committed by who committed crimes before. This implies the bulk of crime can be prevented by isolating culprits after their first crime. Three strikes and you are out? Make it one, or two perhaps, for the sake of all good and honest people.

In short, the sentence to any crime must consist of:

  1. Reprisal in proportion to the square of the crime, weighted by the culprit's responsibility, carried out (if desired) by the victim(s);
  2. Compensation of the victim(s) (surviving relatives are victims too) by the culprit, the height of which is determined by the victim(s);
  3. Prevention of future crimes by removing the culprit from society.

Each of the three elements must be present, and one cannot replace another. In effect, this means a unification of punitive and civil right. The sentence must be determined by a judge with absolute sense of justice, with the aid of charts that assign numerical values to all forms of crime and punishment. Oh, and lawyers must be outlawed.