New ways to curb crime

by Adiba Fannana

ex09Silvester works in a gas station near La Brea in Los Angeles where most of the residents are predominantly African-american. As it is a common misconception that the ‘Black’ community people is more aggressive, this gas station is regularly patrolled by several units of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Most often, the petrol officer in charge sends officers in plain clothes to check whether anyone is breaking the law.
One particular summer morning in May started very badly for Silvester as he sold a cigarette to a teenager (selling cigarette or alcohol to consumers under 18 years of age is illegal in USA). That teenager in fact was a police-aide.Silvester was arrested and what was unique was his punishment! He was ordered to acquire admission in a middle school and learn about morals, values, rules and laws of a state and how to obey them as well, even though he was 35 years old.
Now, let us get back to our own country. Bangladesh is such a country where even after passing 68 years of independence from British colonialism, we are still following the Penal Code 1860 to punish the law violators. There is no significant change on this that can reshape a criminal mind.
To make sentencing policies fruitful, policy makers should focus on the cause as well as the gravity of any particular crime so that a criminal can realise: He has made a mistake and needs to learn from his misdeed.
To get such results, we can bring a little bit change in our sentencing policies like: We can punish the white collar criminals by distributing their money to the social needs or needy families around us instead of providing them with the opportunity to turn black money white.  We can punish a ‘Hit and run’ criminal by letting him serve in a hospital under close observation for a fixed tenure to learn the values of lives.
We can punish a dowry-seeker by letting them earn a fixed amount of money within a fixed tenure by working as a construction labour to realise hardship of earning instead of begging for dowry. We can punish a rapist and a murderer by sending them to a psychiatrist because these criminals are not mentally normal at all.
We can punish a juvenile offender by providing them with a perfect place to live, provide healthy diet and proper education to their family and them as well. We can try to punish a stalker by providing them religious knowledge on respecting women by their own religious preacher to open the eye of religious ignorance. We can punish law violators like spreading dirt in a public place by letting them work in municipality office to clean roads and highways for a specific tenure to learn the value of keeping our city neat and clean.
We can make a teenager obedient towards social values by providing counselling to them as well as their parents on the ways to be a human, instead of being a ‘girl’ or ‘boy’. Moreover, like Hawaii, we can implement the Swift, Certain, and Fair (SCF) approach to community supervision which reduces re-offending, arrest and incarceration by delivering reliable sanctions to high-risk probationers.
Using community supervision is much more cost effective than a prison sentence or jail term, allowing for offenders to work and care for their families and pay taxes. Community-based supervision has the greatest impact on reducing crime, reducing re-offending, and incarceration.
‘Punishment’ should not be the word to keep in practice in our sentencing policy. Because, no one is a born criminal and we should keep in mind that ‘prevention is better then cure’.
We can prevent criminal activities by remodelling their minds through effective sentences and not by ages-old penal systems.
There may be challenges to policy-makers who will want to initiate such new policies. But after 10 to 15 years, we will be able to see a better society. The whole world is changing; criminals are changing their crime pattern too. Law is not a matter to be afraid off; in fact it should be the way to give a criminal a new life.
The author is a freshman in the Masters of Public Administration department of California State University

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