Crime and Punishment

First, just let me say that it's wonderful to be back on. It seems I got thrown off when my ISP's server went down for the better part of a day; autodumped for excessive bouncing.

Now, on to this topic.

I was driving to Ottawa the other day, it's about 2.5 hours when I drive it and 2 hours when my friends drive it. Many of my friends speed. I'm a relatively new driver and I drive the speed limit. I spend a lot of time alone on the road, other cars roar up behind me, come so close that I tense waiting for the bump, and zip around me at the first opportunity.

Does speeding really qualify as a crime? Most people I know don't seem to think so. In fact, when people pass me I don't really feel the same way as when I read about a robbery, rape, or murder.

Part two, What is a suitable punishment for a crime? I heard of two studies. One, I heard of some time ago, showed that countries with lots of laws had lots of crime, no brainer, right? But, the high crime rate was centered on some core laws, basic laws (such as speed limits). Another study I heard of recently showed that severe punishments for crimes that people thought of as unimportant (such as speeding) resulted in a higher incidence of repeat offenders.

Personally, I'm just not in a hurry. I like driving the speed limit. And, I've been practicing doing what is *appropriate* rather than what is *convenient*.

So, here's another area. So called *white collar crime*. At my last place of employ, there were people, a fairly substantial percentage of people with the access, you borrowed software from the company and (often these were the same people) who used the company internet access for personal use (far above the average usage) including downloading porn.

Part of me is beginning to wonder about all of this. Admittedly, the net makes some aspects of my life incredibly easy, but it seems to open up new avenues of sloth and greed and other feelings that we like to try to legislate out of existance.

I don't think new rules are needed. I think fewer rules are needed. I like the 10 commandments or the 8 fold path (the 8 fold path gives practitionners some directions, it consists of
1.right understanding
2.right thinking
3.right speech
4.right conduct
5.right livelihood
6.right effort
7.right mindfulness
8.right concentration).

And then some education and support in maintaining these *laws*. I have been interested in some of the newer *punishments* such as public speaking for drunk drivers and some of the *circles* that Canadian Native groups (out West usually) have been empowered to run. In the *circles* (I can't remember the correct term), justice is meeted out in a way that heals the wounds of the parties involved, including the *perp*. One fairly well known case, a fellow (I think it was a rape case) was exiled to an island for a year. Supplies were dropped off regularly and I believe he was given some practice to do for spiritual healing. While he was gone, the community had time to heal. I'm not sure what the final outcome was.

The Tibetan medicine practice recognizes agression as an illness, and lists the symptoms. They treat this illness both spiritually and physically. One symptom of aggression is the inability to perceive others as sentient. (Tell *that* to your GP!)

I think we've lost sight of the good of the community and focused on the priviledges of the individual (I have a bit of a bugbear about rights and priviledges, in my books, anything that cannot be removed or revoked is a right, and everything else is a priviledge that we earn). This has, I think, encouraged the atmosphere in which we have a strange system where people are imprisoned with increasingly harsh conditions (primarily due to the numbers of people in prisons) but we have to be very careful because the prisoners, as individuals, have very strong rights. This may be truer in Canada and some European countries.

What good does a long prison term do, for the community, if the person is a drunk driver involved in a fatal accident and the result is simply that the person ends up with less willingness to respect the laws of the community. How do the rates of rehabilitation compare between heavy sentences and community work? What about the victims of the crime? What kind of healing do they require and does a prison term provide that healing? Generally, I think that people are not healed by this system.

This is the beginning of my thoughts, I am open to learning something here. I want to clarify my own feelings on this because I want to do something positive that contributes to the safety of my community.

© copyright, 1997, WandaJane Phillips
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