Yet Another Reason I’m Glad to be an American

The headline reads “’Let Burglars Off With Caution’, Police Told”. It refers to new guidelines for the police in Great Britain that have just been handed down.

Burglars will be allowed to escape without punishment under new instructions sent to all police forces. Police have been told they can let them off the threat of a court appearance and instead allow them to go with a caution.
The same leniency will be shown to criminals responsible for more than 60 other different offences, ranging from arson through vandalism to sex with underage girls.

It’s important to note that these new rules are only iron clad when dealing with new criminals and are up to the officer’s discretion after that. A perp can walk if it is a first offense, while a repeat offender can go home only if he can sweet talk the officer who caught him. But it is also important to note that the Home Office has actually stated that a fair number of serious crimes should be dealt with in this way.

What blows my mind is that a few of the crimes that will get you a Get Out of Jail Free card are violent in nature. The author mentions threatening to kill, common assault, threatening behavior, and even crimes which result in “actual bodily harm”.

It would seem that this move is in response to both social pressure and overcrowding. Lack of space in British prisons have resulted in some criminals being released early, and sex offenders that had been sentenced to life were allowed to go free in a few isolated incidents.

The social pressure is coming from ministers and senior judges that have been urging the courts to send fewer people to jail. It seems that the very idea of prison is now considered to be uncivilized in Britain.

Speaking as someone who actually had something to do with putting a few bad guys in jail, I’d have to say that this is absolutely insane. Official government policy is to not punish new criminals? Yeah, that will let them know that there are consequences for bad behavior!

Those of us interested in self defense have noted how the authorities in Britain are obsessed with banning weapons (and stuff that just kind of looks like a weapon) while doing nothing to reduce violent crime. Some pundits have stated that it is a sign of a society in crises, talk that I have always dismissed as being alarmist.

Now I’m not so sure.

10 thoughts on “Yet Another Reason I’m Glad to be an American”

  1. I think two things are going on here:

    (1) Social competition between elites is dominating decision making. Elites are making decisions based on how “enlightened” it makes them look to their peers instead of how effective such decisions are in preventing crime. As long as the elites are insulated from the consequences of their decisions, such considerations will dominate their decision making.

    (2) Dehumanizing criminals: While many think of themselves as compassionate what they are really doing is dehumanizing criminals by refusing to see them as individual entities capable of making choices and instead viewing them as things pushed around by external forces. In this view, punishing criminals does no good because individual criminals don’t really have the innate human capacity to choose their behaviors in response to punishments.

    The model of criminal behavior in (2) combined with (1) leads to a criminal justice system which views itself unable to deal with crime on a practical day-to-day basis and which must instead wait helplessly until a completely just social order is established.

  2. From the linked story:

    The increases in violence were counter-balanced by falls in property crime, such as thefts from cars, and fraud.

    This is a near iron-clad indicator that people have lost confidence in the justice system. The actual rates of violent crimes against people and non-violent property crimes rise and fall in synch since it is often the same people committing both sets of crimes. What is happening is that victims no longer bother to report minor property crimes because they no longer have any expectation that doing so is worth the hassle. Violent crimes are almost always recorded, usually because the victim is either dead (it’s hard to hide a body) or requires medical care.

    America saw this same divergence between the reporting of violent and non-violent crimes during the breakdown of law and order during the 70’s and early 80’s. Fortunately, the American system lets the people actually give the boot elites who can’t accomplish their stated goals. Those who saw crime as intractable problem driven by broad social and economic forces got voted out of office and were replaced by those with a more empirical and pragmatic approach to stopping crime. Now places like New York are among the safest cities in the world instead of the most dangerous.

  3. It also indicates a society completely lacking a sympathetic imagination of any breadth or depth: the victims are statistics, the criminal stands before them in all his pathetic & individualized humanity. Well, yes, that criminal, too, has a spark of the divine – but society’s job is protecting that spark in the vulnerable, not bowing before it in the victimizer. (This kind of crap has kept people like Jesse Jackson speaking for those who rape & rob and in general bully his own people. Ranting against the “system” that he sees as “white” doesn’t acknowledge the plight of victims, disproportionately African-American.)

  4. I’m glad to be an American too, but I’m having a little trouble maitaining my usual American exceptionalism in this instance.

    One of the juries I served on sent a 19-year-old on a lengthy all-expenses-paid trip to Huntsville for holding a Tec-9 on women and children. He was available to commit armed robbery in south Dallas because he’d gotten probation for rape three years earlier. Yeah, we do things real different over here. Especially in Texas.

    (NB: Never buy your fellow jurors doughnuts. They’ll elect you foreman.)

  5. I was going to comment more expansively, (who’d a thunk it) but Shannon’s comment was so very on the money I don’t really have any need.

    We often forget how significant peer group pressure to exemplify the latest “wisdom” really is, but the reason so many subsets of the culture seem so completely out of touch with ordinary people and their real-life concerns is that the subset exists entirely within itself.

    Academics publish for other academics, journalists write for the approval of other journalists, tranzis care more for the good opinion of other tranzis than any effective outcome, and, most significantly for an allegedly representative system, political types become captives of their insider group of political activists, and lose contact with the wishes and needs of the general public.

  6. Shannon and others have made excellent points, as did James in his post, so I offer only this observation: It’s worth having a wide perspective, even with longtime allies.

    For all that is in common in traditions and policy with Britain (or to ultra-narrow, the alliance on Iraq), there’s things like the treatment of crime, self-defense, and guns that the Brits practice that boggle our minds. And we shouldn’t give them a pass on it; if we feel its wrong policy, let’s not just shrug it off as “cultural differences.”

    Or barring that, we shouldn’t adopt similar practices here.

    I’m not offering much of a solution for my big words, unfortunately. Just a thought from someone up way too late.

  7. This is the kind of thing that caused me to tell people that while I give Tony Blair full credit for being tough-minded enough to face that we have to fight the islamists now, or it’ll be ten times worse later, in about every other way he’s the kind of socialist nanny-state politician I detest. Specifically, for being behind things like this.

    Read a book a while back called “Life At The Bottom” by a British doctor dealing with those at the low end of the social scale. The dehumanization of them by the government and their social ‘betters’ was staggering to read of. One incident he noted was a high-ranking liberal politician at a dinner who accused him of making up the incidents he wrote of; for after all, the ‘right’ people were in charge and doing the ‘right’ things, so they couldn’t possibly be true, could they? Things couldn’t possibly be going wrong for just those reasons, so he simply refused to see that there was a problem.

  8. Isn’t the problem simple? Uphold the rights of the victims! Shoot the murderers, rapists, don’t give them a chance to reoffend. Or at the very least – put them in a cheap concrete prison cell for the rest of their fucking lives. People who wish to commit crimes and fuck up the lives of innocent people – HAVE LOST ALL THEIR RIGHTS TO HUMANITY. How can we keep on letting these monsters back into society so that they keep on reoffending. A bad apple spoils the whole barrel. Eventually, the whole of society goes rotten.

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