Tag Archive: law

Crime and Lenience, Part 2

*Well, I warned you that I’ve been less than faithful at keeping up blogs in the past.  Here I go again; a clean slate, indeed.

I looked through my last post, Crime and Lenience, Part 1, and I’m not too happy with it; I don’t think I really said what I wanted to, and certainly I didn’t say what I did in the best way I could have.  But oh well.

I’ve been wasting time over the last few months thinking about how to follow it up, and along the way, a couple of related topics popped up.  The last firing squad execution ever to be held in the U.S. (I believe that claim is accurate; look it up, and correct me if I’m wrong) was performed in Utah.  My own state, Washington, performed their own execution (a lethal injection), a very rare occurrence here.

These stories caused me to rethink my own views a bit.  Do I support the death penalty?  Would I be willing to fire the shot?

I still don’t feel that punishment is the most effective means of deterring crime, but it is somewhat effective–effective at getting people to obey the letter of the law, anyway.  After all, I may not be watching the road, but I’m certainly obeying the speed limit.  But as Kiran pointed out, punishment is not only a means of deterrence but also a means of satisfying our desire for justice.

Yet justice can’t really be done.  After all, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” as Gandhi said.  And killing a murderer, especially one who has killed multiple times, does nothing to heal the victims’ families.  If justice is about balancing the scales, one bad person’s death doesn’t equal one good person’s death.  The scales are still unbalanced.

But I still feel that the murderer deserves it.  For all that I’m for grace in most things (I love People of the Second Chance, by the way), there are some times that society cannot afford to give it.  I don’t know where that line is, but I know it exists, and if our society determined that someone had crossed it (which currently only happens in the most extreme cases), I could fire the shot.  And, sadly, I can’t think of a better system than we have set up in this country to determine when someone has crossed it. . . at least, not before the Second Coming.

Which brings me to the point I really wanted to hit: God is both merciful and just.  And God’s mercy and justice are both perfect.  God doesn’t make bad calls.  He gives the right verdict every time, and He can’t be bribed.  When the Lord returns, there will be no more debate; our incorruptible King will dispense both mercy and justice according to His will, and we will know that His ruling is perfect.

In conclusion, then, I’m hoping that I won’t have to worry about this question much longer.


Crime and Lenience, Part 1

I’ve been thinking lately that punishment is not an effective way to prevent crime.  This may sound a little wacky, but just think about it for a minute.  Punishment only happens because crime happens.  So it doesn’t stop the crime from happening.  At best, it stops the punished from committing that crime again.  At worst, it encourages people to find ways to commit the crime and avoid punishment.  Besides which, people get so hung up on following the law to avoid the punishment that they forget  the purpose of the law.

What got me on this topic?  Well, last year my wife got a speeding ticket.  She was going 27 mph in a school zone (speed limit 20).  The ticket was on the order of $200.  The result?  I’m so worried about getting a ticket driving through that school zone that I’m constantly watching my speedometer to make sure I’m under 20.  So what’s wrong with that?


If I’m looking at the speedometer, my eyes aren’t watching the crosswalks in the road.  I’m not watching the road at all besides making sure I’m in my lane.  I’m so caught up following the letter of the law that I’m completely ignoring the spirit of the law.

The sad thing is that I can’t think of a more effective system.

I’ll write another post in a few days about my thoughts on how this relates to faith, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.  Do you see similar circumstances in your life?  How do we balance the letter versus the spirit of the law?  Can you think of a system that would more effectively prevent crime?