Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three strikes ignores retribution

In an opinion piece in the Dominion-Post today, lawyer Richard Ekins points out the most serious problem in the government's "three strikes" regime: that it ignores actual retribution:

After two warnings, doesn't an offender deserve the maximum? No, because not all crimes are the same. What an offender deserves, what retribution demands he receive, is a punishment that fits the crime - the graver the wrong the more severe the punishment should be. An offender deserves more punishment if, for example, he abuses the victim's trust, if his crime was premeditated, if he was especially cruel to the victim, and if he tried to coerce the victim into remaining silent. An offender's crime is also worse, and deserves more punishment, if he has previously committed similar offences.

However, an offender deserves less punishment if, for example, he was a minor party in the offending, if he turned himself in or made a guilty plea, if he is remorseful and apologises to the victim, or if he testifies against other offenders.

The basic problem with the three strikes law is that it ignores almost everything that is relevant to assessing what an offender deserves.

(Emphasis added)

Ekins has a couple of examples which clearly demonstrate that the rote application of non-parole periods and maximum sentences result in sentences out of all proportion with the severity of the offence or the culpability of the offender. And this is simply unjust. The basis of retribution is that is must be proportionate - if someone wrongs me, I am entitled to have that wrong remedied, no more, and no less. The same applies to society. "An eye for an eye" is barbaric, but it does at least capture that principle. Three strikes ignores it. The result isn't retribution, but revenge.

That is exactly what the advocates of this policy want - revenge, not retribution, the infliction of disproportionate suffering in a futile attempt to make them feel better. That is simply vicious, sadistic, and morally repulsive - just like them.