Is punishment a deterrent?

Stumbling and Mumbling and Vino talk about whether punishment is a deterrent. If a rational calculus is being used, as Chris Dillow of Stumbling and Mumbling does at one point, you also have to assess the expected benefit of the crime. This shows that a lot of crimes are irrational as there isn't any expected benefit.

I think it would also show, for a lot of low-level crime that falls under the respect agenda, that you can balance that calculus away from crimes in ways other than being unpleasant to people. In extremis, stronger and custodial action might be appropriate, but we do have to move away, rather quickly, from the current system to one that makes sure people leave prison off drugs, literate and plumbed into the healthcare system and other parts of the welfare state where needed. That does mean spending more on prison officers. Ideally, you want to stop the problem before it happens - education and so on - but the problem is already here.

On another note, I dislike the terms 'right' and 'left', but the right of the Tory party are, I think it's fair to say, the most disciplinarian, law-and-order types around but also seem to be the ones complaining about speed cameras. Hmm... we like the law to be enforced except when it applies to us. This may be stereotyping on my part, but I'd love to have a look and see.



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