Sunday, June 29, 2008

Crime and punishment

Henry Wallis: "The Stone Breaker" (1857)

(I've brightened Wallis' painting above, but the foreground in the original is very dark, making a contrast with the gleaming, unreachable beauty of the twilit sky and its reflection on the lake.)

In a country with proper justice, nobody would dare intimidate a witness.

In such a country, wrongdoers are afraid of the law. They'd know that such a crime would certainly be prosecuted and that they'd end up doing at least 15 years breaking rocks.

... says Peter Hitchens in today's Sunday Grumbler.

"Pitee renneth sone in gentil herte," said Chaucer, sometimes ironically. The worthy compassion shown to unfortunates by the Victorians has, gone too far, some argue.

But there are now different reasons to pity. Prisons do not punish the wrongdoer in the old-fashioned ways, but the incarcerated man is no longer protected against bullying, beating, buggery and theft. In how many movies do we hear the police threaten a criminal with what his fellows will do to him in prison? Judge Mental does not put on his black cap and say, "You will be taken from here to a place of detention where you will have your arm forced up your back and..."

Then there's life outside, for the neglected underclass. "Theodore Dalrymple", a doctor who has dealt with many prisoners in Birmingham (UK), used to note in the Spectator magazine that prisoners' health improved considerably in prison, because of no (or reduced) access to drugs. Read the good doctor here on how the liberal approach to mind-altering substances is pretty much a sentence of death (prolonged and degrading). Here's an extract on alcohol:

I once worked as a doctor on a British government aid project to Africa. We were building a road through remote African bush. The contract stipulated that the construction company could import, free of all taxes, alcoholic drinks from the United Kingdom...

Of course, the necessity to go to work somewhat limited the workers’ consumption of alcohol. Nevertheless, drunkenness among them far outstripped anything I have ever seen, before or since. I discovered that, when alcohol is effectively free of charge, a fifth of British construction workers will regularly go to bed so drunk that they are incontinent both of urine and feces. I remember one man who very rarely got as far as his bed at night: he fell asleep in the lavatory, where he was usually found the next morning. Half the men shook in the mornings and resorted to the hair of the dog to steady their hands before they drove their bulldozers and other heavy machines (which they frequently wrecked, at enormous expense to the British taxpayer); hangovers were universal. The men were either drunk or hung over for months on end.

Our soft-handedness on crime and drugs, is really an extreme hard-heartedness.


Lord James Bigglesworth said...

used to note in the Spectator magazine that prisoners' health improved considerably in prison, because of no (or reduced) access to drugs

Still better out than in, Sackers.


Which is as it should be; but prisoners should not be each others' punishment, and the outside world should not be Gin Lane.