To find the happy medium between justice and judicial systems has been as elusive as the Scarlet pimpernel.
This is not limited to our country.
In many Middle Eastern countries the philosophy practised is that of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. However, they chop off a hand or leg of an offender if he steals. This actually exists.
Look at Iraq. On June 4, 1994, the RCC passed Decree 59, which prescribed amputation of the right hand at the wrist for offenders convicted of the theft of items valued in excess of 5,000 Iraqi dinars, and amputation of the left foot on conviction of a second offence.
So, is this justice? I don’t think so. Why? Because the punishment is far greater than the crime.
This has prevented the United States of America and other countries from entering into extradition agreements with countries that have laws like this. Largely because extradition is a two-way street and they may be forced to send one of their citizens to a country like Iraq to have their hand cut off for stealing a goat.
Most people on our side of the world believe that the legally prescribed punishment is too mild for the crime, and not specifically relative to the offence. They would like to see killers killed, thieves stripped of their possession, rapists sodomised and castrated, and those who cause pain whipped.
I get it. And despite I not believing in the principle of capital punishment, I believe killers should be killed. Sounds like an oxymoron?
Well, it’s not. I believe they deserve death; I just don’t believe any system is efficient enough to take on that responsibility.
I honestly wish that a perfect, infallible system existed to determine the guilt or innocence of a man accused of murder so that they could all be executed. But it doesn’t.
Do I support the hand chopping off bit? Nope. Not for stealing. But certainly if the criminal himself cut off someone’s hand.
I would also support castration or penectomies for rapists. However, there are some issues with chopping off body parts.
Firstly, like executions, you are going down a road that you can’t reverse. Is any system perfect enough to do that? No. I don’t think there is.
Okay, so many readers had written to me recently when I mentioned this issue of not really knowing for sure. They said, “What if there is no doubt?” For example, when the crime is on video or the offender confesses.
Well, I saw Superman flying on my television recently and I am sure he didn’t really ‘fly’. Videos can be manipulated.
As it relates to confessions, I would give a false confession to save any of my children from being executed. I imagine you may also do the same.
The real reason though that we have moved away from hurting and killing convicted people in most countries in the Western Hemisphere is because of one word â€” civilisation. Yes, it’s true. Only 20 countries have capital punishment on their books and in most cases it’s either limited to military circumstances or no longer imposed.
So our penal system uses ‘time’ as the system of punishment. ‘Incarceration’ is the actual term, but it still is simply taking ‘time’ away from the limited allocation given by nature to spend in a facility of the State’s choosing.
In times gone by prisons were designed to keep you in a state of silence so you could penitently consider your crime, hence the noun penitentiary, which is derived from penitent.
They have morphed into rehabilitation centres now, which is an alteration from the glorified warehouses they were, or have they?
Maybe it’s just a name change.
The social scientist in me agrees with the concept of rehabilitation, but the cop in me wishes to see more punishment to these vessels of evil that have destroyed our country and stolen our peace of mind.
The question is, which one of ‘me’ is correct?
Is it more practical, useful and correct to beat the hell out of a convicted man every week, and allow the relatives of the convict to push a foot too?
The simple answer is this: It would be fair to the family of dead victims and the victims of violence to deliver upon the offender the same thing that was committed by him.
Is it practical? No, it’s not. Apart from the possibility of judicial errors, we are still a part of the Americas and we have to operate within the standards of our region or stand alone. It’s not easy being Cuba.
Do we expect the men we are going to beat up to return to society? Are we going to beat the women too?
How are we going to fill the positions in our correctional services if torture is part of their job description?
Do we really want to hire men who are comfortable with torturing people they don’t even know?
These are the practical considerations that require answers if you are to get the ‘justice’ you deserve.
The Americans, after flirting with the revolving door penal system for a few years, reverted to long sentences to fight the crack wars, and they won.
So if we are planning to keep convicts forever you can consider the justice of violence, but not if they will be imposed on our society after you pull out their teeth and cut off their genitals.
If I have learnt one thing from being a police officer, it is that you have to follow the prescribed law when you are performing your duties. It’s not what you like, it’s what is written.
So could I, or many of my colleagues, actually take someone into custody knowing that they are going to be tortured? I’m not sure I could.
You see, the penal system is a reflection of society. We are not the same people that we were 50 years ago. Trust me. We may have mendicants among us who rape and kill, but the vast majority of us are not truly violent people.
This changes when our family is hurt. I understand that totally, but penal employees are not the family of the victims.
We as a society will be the ones who will have to descend into behaviour we have long rejected if we are to give you the justice you desire.
Are you ready for that journey? Do you want your sons to go and learn that skill set?
Think about it.