This penetrating insight into jurisprudence comes to you courtesy of Donna Jones, inmate in a psychiatric hospital…
Just kidding. Miss Jones is actually a crime commissioner who, as far as I know, doesn’t suffer from any mental disorders. It’s just that our zeitgeist gone mad can speak even through sane people.
Egged on by this metaphysical stimulus, Miss Jones spoke out against imprisoning recidivist shoplifters with drug addiction. Instead, the robbed retailers should pay for their robbers’ rehabilitation.
That means victims must be punished twice for the same crime: first by being ripped off and then by having to foot rehab bills for the thieves. Miss Jones thus enunciates an idea that has escaped legal minds for 4,000 years, ever since Hammurabi laid down his Code.
Her thinking deserves a longish quotation, for all its stylistic ineptitude:
“Often for shoplifting, even if you are a prolific offender with 200 shoplifting offences, the chances are you might get six months and, therefore, you might do 12 weeks.
“Then you’re out and actually is that really going to break your addiction, or you’re more likely to take drugs when you’re in prison anyway, and then come out and just be carrying on the way that you were before?
“Are we just incarcerating people? Are we actually stopping them from reoffending?”
This idiocy wouldn’t be worth a comment if it didn’t reflect the overall collapse of modern morality and the concomitant debauchment of the law. Supposing you are immune to such afflictions, what would be your first response to that nonsense?
I can tell you what mine would be. First, a repeat offender with 200 convictions to his name should be sentenced not to six months but to life in prison, ideally without parole. Second, if drugs are readily available in prisons (which they are), then something is fundamentally wrong with our penitentiary system.
Third and most important, rehabilitating inmates to break their addiction to drugs or, for that matter, to crime isn’t what prisons are for. Rehabilitation is a secondary purpose of incarceration, not to say a tertiary one.
Its primary purpose is to serve justice by meting out punishment commensurate with the crime. Each time this happens, society is reassured that its safety is protected by just law.
If the criminal emerges from prison a new man, so much the better. But even if he doesn’t, at least we know he was kept off the streets for a long time. Those who would have otherwise fallen victim to his shenanigans could have heaved a sigh of relief.
Corrupting the meaning of punishment is only the top layer of the problem. Lurking underneath is a much graver issue, that of the moral collapse I mentioned earlier. For the implication of Miss Jones’s legal breakthrough is that crimes against property are innocent antics – unlike, say, patting a strange woman’s rump on a bus.
Miss Jones merely acts as the mouthpiece of the zeitgeist, which is consistently blowing leftwards. For downgrading the importance of personal property is tantamount to denying the importance of personal freedom.
John Locke, whose thought midwifed the modern state, believed that the state as such was brought into existence merely to protect private property. He more or less identified the “pursuit of estate” (which his American disciples translated into “the pursuit of happiness”) as the cornerstone of liberty.
Locke isn’t necessarily my favourite thinker on such subjects. But there’s no doubt that the more insecure a person’s property, the more insecure his freedom. For any state that sees private property as an incidental is bound to deny other liberties as well.
Nothing illustrates this general observation more vividly than the lackadaisical treatment private property receives at the hands of the modern British state. Not only shoplifting but even burglary routinely go not only unpunished but unprosecuted.
A friend of mine, who has appeared as expert witness at numerous trials, has calculated that an average burglary is punished with a mere couple of weeks in prison. Someone who kisses a woman without permission will look at a stiffer sentence.
This reminds me of the Bolshevik concept of ‘socially close’ criminals, who were often treated with lenience. As the celebrated Soviet pedagogue Makarenko explained (I’m quoting from memory), “No working class criminal is so bad that he can’t be corrected. It’s only the children of aristocrats, priests and intellectuals who are incorrigible.”
The British state too must sense that thieves are in the same business the state is, redistribution of wealth. Of course, if someone tries to redistribute the state’s wealth, by cheating on taxes, he’ll have not just the book but the whole library thrown at him. But a man stealing from a private person or his shop, is essentially doing the same thing extortionate taxation does. So he only deserves a slap on the wrist, if that.
Miss Jones must have breathed in deeply and smelled that legal concept wafting in the wind. Hence her insight that a shop owner must be robbed twice, first by the criminal, then by the state. After all, they are both pulling in the same direction.
Dickens didn’t even realise he wasn’t just commenting but also prophesising when he made his Mr Bumble say that “the law is a ass”. Yet that phrase was as prophetic as it was ungrammatical.
P.S. Speaking of prophesies, St James anticipated our current agricultural problems when he wrote: “Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.”
12 thoughts on “Victims should pay criminals”
As usual, Mr Boot, you hit nails on heads. Which all makes me happy that I am steadily nearing the end of my life. Happily, I will not see where these disasters deposit us.
The State of California is halfway there. It has decreed that shoplifters taking goods worth under $950 will not be prosecuted .
So shoplifters can literally walk into a store, gather up whatever takes their fancy worth less than the magic figure and walk out with it under the noses of now near- redundant security guards.
Needless to say California is run by extremist leftists.
Replace ‘California’ with ‘most of the West’, and we’ll be in agreement.
We have for some time been paying the criminals. Low end cost to house, clothe, feed, medical one inmate in USA $30,000 per year. For many of them they live better in the joint than on the outside. Lots of friends to commiserate with too.
History seems to repeat itself in the way in which the molders of public opinion promote the radicalism of the Left. Ayn Rand left Russia in 1925 at age 20 in 1925, after she and her family experienced the depredations of Bolshevism firstand, and wrote about that in her semi-autobiographical novel, “We the Living,” completed in 1934. H.L. Mencken regarded the novel as a “really excellent piece of work” and said that it was time “to turn back the tide of Communist propaganda in this country.” At the same time he recognized that the novel’s anti-communist themes would make it objectionable to most publishers. And indeed his efforts to help her find an American publisher for the novel were in vain. Rand did get her novel published in England a few years later. Malcolm Muggeridge likewise found an English publisher for his 1934 novel, “Winter in Moscow,” a biting satire on Bolshevism and the credulity and dishonesty of the Western reporters who covered it. Maybe in that era at least, Left ideas did not have quite the stranglehold in England that they had in the U.S.
Muggeridge was was one of the few who reported on the true horror of golodomor, Stalin’s artificial famine in the early 30s. His paper, The Manchester Guardian, only published his accounts anonymously and then sacked him. That’s why he turned to writing novels. As to Rand, unfortunately she went on to write other things after that autobiographical book. I wrote a piece about her on 18 February, 2018, so I shan’t repeat myself,
Sorry, make that 11 February.
I did read your February 11, 2018 piece on Ayn Rand and commented on it at the time. I agree with much of what you said in that piece about the philosophic system that she developed, especially as she articulated it in her nonfiction writings of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Rand believed that a philosophical opposition to communism and defense of capitalism was sorely lacking in the U.S., and she set out to fill that void. She ultimately failed in that attempt, but she certainly offerred many shrewd obervations about the Soviet system and collectivist trends in the U.S. along the way. And in my view she deserves great credit as the first Russian emigre to America who realistically depicted the conditions of Russia after the Revolution in a novel. I would love to read your honest assessment of “We the Living” if you find the opportunity to read it.
I’m afraid I’m allergic to Ayn Rand. Strewn through every one of Nabokov’s pre-war novels are truly artistic references to Bolshevik Russia — there was another Russian émigré to America, but one endowed with subtlety and talent.
An interesting literary coincidence is that Ayn Rand and Nabokov’s sisters, Helene and Olga, attended the same gymnasium – Stoiunin – in St. Petersburg. Rand befriended Olga, who was close to her in age and, as Helene recalled many years later, Rand frequently visited the Nabokov home, also in St. Petersburg. See Sciabarra, Ayn Rand: the Russian Radical (2013 ed.), p. 367.
I don’t know where idiots like Miss Jones get their ideas. My upbringing tells me to give them the benefit of the doubt and to assume that they mean well, and that any negative consequences resulting from their ideas are unintentional. That seems extremely unlikely. However, I also struggle to accept the fact that they are purposely trying to destroy western civilization. Such an enterprise would require much more brain power than they can muster. I have a friend who tells me “evil is just evil”. I suppose I will never understand.
I think your friend is right. Evil is just evil. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious is immaterial. In this case, there’s a zeitgeist bandwagon rolling on, and it doesn’t take much intelligence to jump on it. This silly twit doesn’t think in the lofty terms of civilisations or cultures. She simple senses the prevalent mood, the way a dog senses its master’s anger or happiness.