Re: news...

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Sat Apr 15 2000 - 14:36:06 MDT

Charlie Stross wrote:
> 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.)

Arrests are pretty good in many areas. The big hole is in the
prosecution. Defendants are allowed to bollux up the process with
objections and appeals that prosecutors are highly encoruaged by penny
pinching politicians to plea bargain all cases but those that can be
used to the maximum benefit of the careers of the politicians or the
prosecutors. Trails cost money. Therefore, prosecutors plea bargain away
most cases to lesser charges, and the perp is back on the street in no
time. Additinally, because the mandatory sentencing is uneven, with
regard to drug crimes versus violent crimes, violent criminals are
released to make room for drug criminals.

Another contributor is the whole minority thing, as it impacts the
arrest rate. Many minorities, because of real or perceived
discrimination by police, tend to be highly uncooperative with police
when police are investigating crimes. Even when the crime is against one
of their own, if they know the perp is also one of their own they won't
cooperate with investigators. As a result, this does retard the arrest
rate where it does occur (and curiously its indicative of high crime
existing in minority areas). Your argument has some merit, but the
broken state of our court system, and the high level of diversity in our
culture are the major causes, IMHO.

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