June 9, 2011

Wanted: good discussions about bad guys

We have a bad sense of resolving criminal issues. In books or movies, the bad guys eventually get their due. The bad guys are killed or destroyed, sent away, or dispatched to jail. Inevitably, we are left with the good guys slapping the dust off their pants and smiling. We are left with the comforting feeling that now all is well and good.

The bad news is that criminal issues in real life are much more complicated. What do we do with a bad guy in real life? Assume we even know who the bad guy is to begin with. (People are not easily classified as good or bad*.) If real life, the bad guy rarely gets killed (and if so, many years pass before a death penalty actually gets carried out). Sending them away only pushes the bad problem on to other people. Dispatching them to jail only fills the jails (and arguably builds their associations with other bad criminals in the process). Rehabilitating them… well, lets get education of youth right and figure how we will convince more people not to smoke before we even talk about changing an adult's bad habits.

We have never truly addressed this problem in a good way for society. What do we do with the bad guys? There is no all around right answer, so what is the best answer about bad guys?

First of all, we need to accept that no good answer is perfect. What ever we choose, some good guys will get caught in the net. Some bad guys will get away. Part of picking a good answer is knowing that this will happen. It is a risk that is impossible to ever completely eliminate all the bad consequences.

The answer is that we need to decide what is good and act on that decision. A critical part of the good decision is choosing what we are trying to accomplish. What is the goal of our good criminal justice? To "get even" with the bad guys? To make examples of bad guys to other potential criminals? To rehabilitate the bad guys? To remove the bad guys from society (temporarily or permanently)? Each of these has a different approach to managing the bad guys. Our current approach is a bad blend of all of the above and it does not do any of them well. Plus, we still end up with bad cons (pun intended) for each approach.

So, why not start good discussions about what we are trying to accomplish? What is a good goal? Then, we can get on to actually doing something about the bad guys.

* But the other sentences in this text are.

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