Government 1A Week 12 Restitution vs Jail Sentencing

Prompt: “Is restitution to victims better for society than jail sentences for criminals? Explain.”

This question can be tricky, since crimes and scenarios differ from case to case. For example it would be much harder to compensate the victim of a rape or murder than it would the victim of a theft. Financial compensation would heal the wounds of a stolen flat screen, but the emotional and psychological damage caused by a more severe crime is more difficult to atone for.

One thing most everyone can agree on is the judicial system (at least America’s system) can use more than a little rethinking. Criminals charged and sentenced to punishment will be sent to prison, or in the worst cases sentenced to lethal injection. When they are sent to prison the idea is to rehabilitate and reform the inmates moral thinking, but in most cases this doesn’t happen. Being surrounded by inmates, many of them very dangerous, often does the opposite of rehabilitation. Instead of figuring out a decent moral code they can apply to the outside world most inmates concerns have to do more with surviving prison life. Between riots, drug smuggling, prison rapes and a violent criminal hierarchy inmates have a lot more to worry about than the compensation of their victims. In fact you could argue that the victim, as well as the general public, is spending their funds in order to compensate the criminal. Millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on prisons yearly, this creates an understandable outrage from the victim as well as a division between civilians and law enforcement.

In a historical sense this system still doesn’t work. Prisons were used as holding cells, temporary criminal confinement used until trial and punishment. The prisons themselves were in no way the punishment, instead torture and execution was used. This not only served as a viable method to put fear into the heads of would be criminals, but also as a grim form of entertainment for any 16th century sophisticate looking to watch a mans neck snap. But i’m getting off track. In the modern day we’ve gained a better moral compass, or at least better entertainment. For execution of prisoners is usually looked down upon, even outlawed in a number of states. This brings us back to the question of how the victim of the crime is being compensated. If the criminal wont be physically or financially mutilated, and the taxpayer/victim is forced to pay for the inmates jail time instead, than wheres the sense of justice?

In short there usually isn’t any. In some cases old age or violent riots will be the end of the inmate, and perhaps the victim will feel some sense of restitution once their wrongdoer is dead. But death doesn’t do much to better the community, the victims personal life, or the lives of the inmates friends and family. That’s why the question of victim compensation can be so slippery, it raises so many more questions who’s answers vary dramatically from case to case. So for now, until we evolve our countries systems, the only way to really create justice is to deal with criminals case by case. Even that can lead to injustices though, as eyewitnesses can make mistakes, detectives can be wrong, and half the time we end up punishing an innocent. In conclusion our judicial system needs to put some serious mental work into answering questions such as: Is death really justice? Does paying off a victim truly compensate that victims anguish? And most importantly: What can we do to create prisons that truly rehabilitate a criminal?

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