Re: news...

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Fri Apr 14 2000 - 08:53:22 MDT

On Thu, Apr 13, 2000 at 01:11:47PM -0400, Michael S. Lorrey wrote:
> > Ahem: I _strongly_ suggest you go and read up on the history of The Bloody
> > Code (the English legal system enforced during the 18th century). It has
> > some ominous warnings for those who believe in mandatory sentencing and
> > draconian punishment.
> So if we get rid of all gun control laws, people will stop using guns in crimes?????

You're deliberately misrepresenting my statements (which in any event are
not a comment on gun control, in either direction) about the unwisdom of
imposing mandatory draconian punishments.

Either that, or you didn't bother to pause and consider whether or not
what you were reading meant what you thought it meant, or something else.

I repeat (in a nutshell): imposing harsher punishments doesn't necessarily
reduce crime levels; it may actually impede the process of achieving a
conviction. In general, crime rates go down when the perceived probability
of conviction is high -- regardless of how serious the punishment is --
because people only commit crimes *when they don't expect to get caught*.

It's no good legislating to hang people for stealing a loaf of bread if
you can't arrest anybody for the offense; bread thefts will continue
because the perceived risk of arrest is zero. On the other hand, if the
punishment is a fine of about twice the value of a loaf of bread, _but_
there's a 95% arrest and conviction rate, only a total idiot would even
consider stealing a loaf.

(Unfortunately the US legislative system seems currently to have a bias
in favour of draconian punishment over reliable arrest and conviction.)

-- Charlie

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