On Criminality

I have been pondering on the whole issue of criminality and our social responses, especially since the case of Dr Haneef whom, it seems has become a target of the Australian Federal Police because of the actions of his cousins. It also concerns me that we tend to dwell a lot on whether a person is psychologically responsible for their harmful actions, and therefore should not be punished. 

Which had me thinking about the relationship between harming others and punishment.

From the website ‘Philosphical Pathways” I found a review of the idea of criminality with this conclusion, “So it is not a matter of morality, conditioning, cures, diseases, private or public treason, nonconformity, or arbitrary power or willfulness. Criminal justice defines (in each society) what ‘will happen to them if they do not behave’ (Devlin in Burr, 314) and by behave we mean not doing harm or injustice to others.”

Well, I can live with that.

But what does it mean about the relationship of the individual to society. If we look at society as a contract between the body politic and the individual, what are we offering the individual? A number of things come to mind: equal opportunity to participate in the  social life and economy of the society, the right to any personal activities or activities contracted with other (adults), the right to raise children of our own issue, the right to participate in government. This then is the reward.

Criminal justice, therefore, applies a threat. So, if we act in a way that causes harm to others, we will be deprived of the rewards of society. We shall not be able to participate in society or government, we will be disallowed even to act on a personal wish. Ergo, we will be sent to a prison. And for every type of harm, the time we spend in the prison will be limited, but even to our dying breath.

It does also mean that we (society) contract with each individual that we won’t act to deprive them, unless they have harmed another.

However the anti-terrorist and anti-organised crime movement would suggest that prevention of a very harmful crime, or serial crimes, call for the deprivation of those rewards of some people who, by association, may be involved or know information about a future act. As I cower from the thought of being blown up by a bomb or shot by a gangster, I think, “oh, yes, deprive them.” Until the next thought kicks in, “deprive them so you can terrorise them, beat them, torture them, ruin their lives”. And I realise my reaction for what it i, ‘cowardise’. And cowardise not only for my own skin, but the skin of my family as well.

And further, I wonder, about real prevention of the harmful act?

And of the harm, how do we restore or resolve the injury done?


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