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USA/UK contrast

 
 
kev
 
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 01:14 am
Consider these very contrasting ways of dealing with repeat offenders.

A guy in california was sentenced to 25 years to life, his crime? first offence he stole $80 (credit card offence) second offence he stole $20 and his third offence was $120 in his"life of crime" the total amount stolen was $200 and he will serve much longer in prison than Kenneth Bianchi one of the hillside stranglers who raped and murdered about a dozen women.


Last January a 27 year old man in this country stole a car and whilst trying to outrun the police he knocked down and killed a six year old girl, this was his EIGHTY NINTH conviction for the full range of car offences, his sentence 9 years, with parole he will serve 4½ years.

I have given up hope after a lifetime of seeing cases like this, that we will ever see a lawmaker get something right.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 2,500 • Replies: 27
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the prince
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 02:36 am
Either the Americans are mad or we are.
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Heliotrope
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 05:31 am
It's because they all lack perspective and fail to take account of the individual circumstances.
The justice systems rely on rules and regulations which are not applicable in the majority of circumstances. Then you also have the new laws and rules that are only in place because of some political expediency that was designed to get some official re-elected and thus serve no purpose in the justice system.

The only way to sort it out is to get rid of all the current rules and regulations and have punishments that fit the crime. There needs to be a method of putting repeat offenders away very quickly and permanently. Basically - shoot them.
Very few offenders repeat their crimes after having a bullet in the face.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 06:28 am
Well, THAT'S perspective....
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 07:09 am
Heliotrope wrote:
It's because they all lack perspective and fail to take account of the individual circumstances.

The only way to sort it out is to get rid of all the current rules and regulations and have punishments that fit the crime. There needs to be a method of putting repeat offenders away very quickly and permanently. Basically - shoot them.
Very few offenders repeat their crimes after having a bullet in the face.


This is totally comical in an entirely unintended way.

In the California case that kev referred to the guy ended up with the excessively long term just because of a law that was put in place to resolve the issue Helitrope mentions - "There needs to be a method of putting repeat offenders away very quickly and permanently."

The method in CA is called a "3 strikes and you're out" law. Instead of shooting people (cleaning courtroom floors is a bear!) they chose to lock them up for long periods of time. It seems they enacted the law on the very same perspective helitrope advocates yet "they" are referred to as lacking perspective! lol

Also kev, you don't mention which California case you are referring to but you might want to look into it further. In most of these cases the convicted usually has more than 3 actual convictions. If the case you are referring to happens to be the Andrade case he also had 3 felony robbery convictions as well as 2 Federal Drug convictions and several felony theft convictions.
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Grand Duke
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 07:58 am
If our great leader Tony had his way, there would be nothing left to contrast between us and our trans-atlantic chums. The main reason I am a Europhile is to create a European super-state to take the responsibility of being the world's most powerful entity away from the Americans.

By the way, please don't think that I'm slagging the American people - only the government!
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kev
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 08:17 am
Hi fishin,

I dont remember the mans name, Andrade doesn't ring a bell, but if it was him and if he had that many convictions I wouldn't have had a problem with the sentence he got. so obviously the t.v. prog didn't mention that, they made great to do about the fact that giving a man life for stealing 200 dollars was against the constitution of the U.S. which apparently says that no-one should receive a sentence which is disproportionate to the crime he is being convicted of.

On the same prog there was mention of another man who got the same sentence for stealing a slice of pizza from a young teenager, I dont know whether that rings a bell with you.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 09:14 am
Hey kev!

I'm not particularly thrilled with the "3 stikes you're out" concept but a lot of side issues get lost in the discussion of specific cases. Those details are often very important in the sentencing though.
Often the shows that you see are either for or against and they neglect to mention things that don't forward their agenda.

I'm not famaliar with the pizza case but I did read about one where the guy was convicted for stealing cookies and the author felt that his being sentenced was a miscarriage of justice since his previous convictions were only for burgulary. What he didn't mention was that those burgulalry convictions were for stealing firearms from a policeman and then when the cop came home and caught him in the act he pointed the gun at the cop and the cop's roommate and threatened to shoot them. They also didn't mention that the "theft of cookies" wasn't just walking by and taking them off of a plate. The guy broke into a resturant and happened to pick up the cookies while he was in there. What got him into trouble was the breaking and entering, not the cookies.

In all of these cases the issue isn't necessarily the seriousness of the last crime committed though. The rationale for the law is that these are people who are habitual criminals.
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kev
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 01:03 pm
If I have a problem with this rationale it is this, bernie the would be bank robber (I.Q. 78) robs a bank at gunpoint, gets caught and serves ten years and lets say that this is his second offence.

He then cleans up his act and stays on the right side of the law for 5 years and then one night he gets drunk and steals a car because he has 10 miles to go and it's raining, if this warrants a life sentence, then my comment would have to be that this man is not being sentenced for the crime he committed, he is being sentenced AGAIN for what he has already served his time for.

Whilst I am a big advocate of getting habitual criminals out of society, the more I think about this the more it sounds like what I was taught at school, that this treatment of prisoners could only happen in the soviet union, and not in a civilised western country.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 01:25 pm
kev wrote:
If I have a problem with this rationale it is this, bernie the would be bank robber (I.Q. 78) robs a bank at gunpoint, gets caught and serves ten years and lets say that this is his second offence.

He then cleans up his act and stays on the right side of the law for 5 years and then one night he gets drunk and steals a car because he has 10 miles to go and it's raining, if this warrants a life sentence, then my comment would have to be that this man is not being sentenced for the crime he committed, he is being sentenced AGAIN for what he has already served his time for.


Well, I agree with you to a great degree but the argument against this is that they aren't be "resentenced" for their previous crimes. In effect, the "3 strikes and you're out" law makes repeating crimes a crime in and of itself so what they are being sentenced for is the crime of being a career criminal. The 3 prior convictions are "proof" that the person is a career criminal.
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oldandknew
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 01:25 pm
there was a item on the 6pm bbc news tonite that said that 2 armed gangs, broke into 2 jewelry sops on the same street in Manchester and got away with about £400,000 worth of rolex watches, rings and so on. about $640,000 of sparklers. they were armed and smashed up both shops. I don't think anyone was hurt by the raiders. Now if caught and sentenced they would probably get 15 years. Too much or too little ?
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Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 01:41 pm
I don't know OAK, I'm not really happy with the idea of incarcerating anyone. IMO there's nothing good about the criminal justice system. I have a big problem with crimes against property being worth more time than crimes against people. It's only stuff, after all. If someone is seriously hurt or killed, then I see that as a worse crime and should have a tougher sentence or restitution.

My state also has a three-strikes-you're-out law. I think it may have come up through the initiative process, meaning someone handed out petitions and enough people signed it to get it on the ballot... then enough people voted it in (all you need is one more than half the voters). Habitual criminals seem to get more and more jaded, hence there is a greater fear associated with them. At the time the law was enacted there was talk that there would be less recidivism and eventually fewer court cases since the habitual criminal commits more crimes, something about the worst ten percent doing ninety percent of the crimes.

One truly awful thing that has come up is that someone who knows he's got two strikes against him and commits another crime has no reason to give himself up easily. There are shoot-outs, car chases and more potential for violence trying to arrest someone like that since there is so much more at stake for the criminal.
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oldandknew
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 01:54 pm
Piffka ------- I think what you say carries a lot of good sense. I wouldn't try to compare life/crime/punishment/values between the Uk & the USA cos i'm not that knowledgable about how it goes on your side of the water. It does bother me the rise in crime here and that we have overcrowded prisons
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Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 03:50 pm
I'm not too familiar with either, actually. I used to work for a law enforcement agency, writing documentation, so I learned a little bit about criminal justice. (Which is sort of an oxymoron... the criminals don't usually get justice and the crime victims don't get restitution.)

Someone told me that at the nearby women's prison, more than 90% are there on drug-related charges. What a waste. An even more terrible waste... recently the number of college-aged African-Americans men in prison grew higher than however many are going to college. Also a lot of drug-related sentencing there too, I'm sure.
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kev
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2003 11:54 pm
Fishin,

I take your point, however, before I would agree to the three strikes and you're out there would have to be some major clarification of the rules, i.e. three covictions for burglary you're out, three for robbery you're out or bank fraud or whatever.

In my scenario above berni didn't, in my view, prove himself to be a neverending threat to the community, he held down a job and stayed clean for 5 years then took a car without the owners consent whilst under the influence of alchohol just to get home. He didn't intend to deprive the owner of his property. What that says to me is that bernie is just an asshole.

It seems to me that this law was passed without being properly thought through.
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kev
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 12:12 am
Hi oak,

At this stage I don't think it's possible to say what the sentence should be because we dont know who these people are, or what their criminal past records are, they might be a gang of ruthless career criminals that can be linked to a dozen other serious crimes, in which case I'd be happy for it to be more than 15 years.
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Vivien
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 06:06 am
I think there needs to be a major re-think on sentencing.

Current laws take theft of money most seriously. Damage to people should be a higher priority. A sentence for stealing say £1,000 where no one was injured carrying a lighter sentence than where violence or threats were involved.

Restitution should also be an issue - losses should be repaid by the criminals if it takes a lifetime.

Prison shoudn't be a soft option. Prisoners should not have luxuries but simply necessities and education and work should be priorities, trying to break the cycle of crime

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Grand Duke
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 06:17 am
Prisoners should be made to do public works while they are in prison. There are plenty of roads to be swept, old people's homes to be painted, ditches to be dug etc etc. The money they earned could then be paid to their victims. Thieves & burglars should be made to repay every single penny they stole.

Does it make me sound like a Nazi if I say that unemployed people (obviously not those with medical problems or other good reasons) should be made to do similar works, and be paid at minimum wage for their efforts. It would give them something to do, improve the overall quality of life for the whole country and give them a sense of worth?
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 07:26 am
kev wrote:
Fishin,

I take your point, however, before I would agree to the three strikes and you're out there would have to be some major clarification of the rules, i.e. three covictions for burglary you're out, three for robbery you're out or bank fraud or whatever.


The laws that do exist do have specifics for what qualifies as "prior crimes" and how they are supposed to be applied.

Quote:
In my scenario above berni didn't, in my view, prove himself to be a neverending threat to the community, he held down a job and stayed clean for 5 years then took a car without the owners consent whilst under the influence of alchohol just to get home. He didn't intend to deprive the owner of his property. What that says to me is that bernie is just an asshole.


lol Come on now. Are you trying to say that it's ok for people to steal cars if they are just trying to get home? Somehow I think if someone stole your's you wouldn't be quite so accomodating. Would it be ok with you if someone raped your wife/mother/daughter because they just wanted some sex? Would it be ok if someone shot and killed you because they wanted to get to the newspaper stand behind you? How far are you willing to go to make excuses for people who break the laws?

If "bernie" had 2 prior convictions for felonies and had been out of prison for 5 years he'd likely still be on parole. Drinking is usually is a violation of standard parole conditions in itself. Then, while drunk he steals a car (crime #2) and proceeds to drive it while under the influence (crime #3) endangering the lives of anyone else out on the roads as well as his own.

He didn't intend to deprive the owner of their property? What did your fictional character think the owner was going to be driving during this time? Did he leave a note for the owener telling them where they would be able to retreive their car? Did your car thief call the owner, tell them he had their car and when it would be returned? Was Bernie the drunken car theif going to fill up the tank and park it back out in front of their house after a nice wash and wax?
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kev
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 07:56 am
Fisher,, the example that I gave was a bad one because of the difference in law in the and UK.
In the UK after 5 years out of jail he wouldn't be on parole, driving over the alcohol limit for a first offence is a fine only, taking a car isn't theft unless you intend to deprive the owner of it permanently, here it's known as "taking and driving away, basically joy riding.

So in the above example would have been o.k. here, but not in the U.S.

Take a look at my next post it sums up the position I take very well.
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