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This is the British English definition of rough justice. View American English definition of rough justice.
Change your default dictionary to American English. View the pronunciation for rough justice. Show more. Show less. These statistics reveal that we are, even in liberal Canada, punishing more people—more harshly—for fewer and less serious crimes. But these numbers only reflect administrative costs; the societal toll of our addiction to punishment is harder to calculate.
rough justice | meaning of rough justice in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English | LDOCE
When young offenders are sentenced to prison, they are removed from the workforce during some of their most productive years, leaving behind broken, impoverished families. Because jails are filled with disproportionate numbers of black inmates 37 percent of the US prison population and Aboriginals 20 percent of the Canadian prison population , incarceration ravages whole communities.
Punishment is almost always collective, with the sins of the parents visited on their children. Given this crisis, why do we keep locking people up?
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Why does any sentence short of prison seem, to many of us, to not even count as punishment? Perhaps our impulse to punish overreaches our desire to deter crime or our need for safety; it is, rather, an expression of our ancient longing for retribution.
A decade later, Jeffrey Dahmer raped, murdered, and, in some instances, cannibalized seventeen young men and boys, many of whom he lured back to his Milwaukee, Wisconsin, apartment from gay bars. In and , Russell Williams, the commander of the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ontario, sexually assaulted and murdered two women. And in the summer of , Anders Breivik bombed a government building in Oslo, killing eight people, and later gunned down sixty-nine others at a Labour Party youth camp. These extreme cases constitute a vanishing fraction of even the worst violent crimes, but they form a model of absolute, uncomplicated evil against which lesser infractions are measured: this is crime in its pure state.
We naturally view these stories through the lens of the victims, identifying with their suffering and the grief of their families and friends; we look upon the perpetrators as incomprehensible aliens.
The only satisfying outcome is swift, decisive punishment. In such instances, punishment is an attempt to erase the blight of evil, to heal a grievous social wound, and for that to happen the punishment must fit the crime. At its most basic, punishment is hard to distinguish from revenge, and the impulse for retaliation is no doubt hard-wired. Studies have shown that card players will give up benefits to themselves, such as a winning hand, to expose and penalize cheaters: punishment, in the short run, trumps even self-interest.
Psychologists who use game theory to study the evolution of co-operation have found that the threat of swift retaliation against those who engage in uncooperative behaviour is crucial to establishing stable, productive communities; we have a collective stake in the assurance that those who profit at our expense will pay a steep price. Nonetheless, retaliation has no intrinsic moral legitimacy, and since it involves hurting another person, the victim might well perceive him- or herself as harmed and retaliate in kind, creating an open-ended cycle of tit-for-tat blood feuds, waged throughout history and still common in such places as rural Albania.
For punishment to be something greater than mere retaliation, it must have a deeper grounding, and that is just what early Babylonian law and the Hebrew Bible endeavoured to teach. And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast. And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him. Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. First, it implies the existence of a specific punishment that mirrors the crime; and, more important, it insists that everyone, everywhere, be subject to the same standard.
The Hebrew Bible rejects personal or tribal justice, instead asserting retributive justice and the supremacy of the rule of law in its strictest form. Rather, it was a way of pointing out that retributive justice can devolve into vengefulness as destructive as the crime itself.
The story of punishment from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century is one of shocking brutality and bewildering arbitrariness. Regicides, parricides, ordinary murderers, homosexuals, heretics, and witches were broken on the wheel, disembowelled, ripped open with red-hot pincers, burned, and drawn and quartered; even teenage pickpockets were put to death. This shift was due in large measure to a little book by an otherwise obscure Italian jurist and philosopher named Cesare Beccaria. Therefore, the purpose and justification of punishment is not to satisfy the victim or eradicate evil, but to repair the damage caused to society and prevent future crimes—and to do so without causing further harm.
Alas, it is difficult to quantify this, and even if one could, the punishment might well fall shy of the weight assigned to the crime by the victim.
Think of the virulent outcry that accompanies the release from prison of convicted rapists and pedophiles. A rape, for instance, may well affect the victim for the rest of her life, and such traumas end up being transmitted across generations. Furthermore, it is near-impossible to assess the real deterrent value of a punishment; criminals are not in the habit of maximizing the marginal utility of their actions.
In any case, the sources of crime are complicated and myriad: childhood trauma, chronic poverty, addiction, and psychiatric conditions among them. The two major theories of punishment—retributive, and the one proposed by Beccaria and refined over the past years—suffer from similar faults: vagueness and arbitrariness.
And that is before we attempt to translate a theory of punishment into a criminal justice system for a twenty-first-century Western democracy.
The concept of punishment that operates in the criminal justice systems in Canada and the US is a hodgepodge of the retributive and the deterrent. The death penalty and multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole are clearly retributive; custodial sentences for the possession of drugs are seemingly meant to be deterrent. This is why the punishments meted out can seem random: people who are no risk to anyone end up in prison, where the deterrent effect is negligible, and where the punishment appears out of proportion with the crime.
Why should anyone do jail time for growing marijuana? Odder still, in Canada judges issue longer sentences to people who grow pot in rented apartments than to those who do so in their own homes—an apparent incentive for home ownership. The mandatory sentences popular in the US and their increasing prevalence in Canada further widens the gulf between crime and punishment.
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Meanwhile, more families are broken up and more neighbourhoods ravaged, and more inmates are released after substantial sentences without the necessary skills or resources to reintegrate into society. This undermines whatever deterrent value the punishment was intended to have in the first place.