What are some potential disadvantages of being more "tough on crime"?

  • If the punishments for crime are severe enough, the nastiest criminals have a greater incentive to murder their victims, to prevent them from ever reporting the crime.
  • If the punishments for crime are severe enough, even innocent people may be tempted to do unethical things such as bribing witnesses, to avoid the possibility of being convicted.
  • The death penalty – and this is an undeniable fact – has resulted in the execution of completely innocent people.
  • Studies show that a stay in prison, without rehabilitation programs, is one of the least effective ways of preventing a person from committing crime again, and even with rehabilitation it's not necessarily very helpful, because prison can be a school for crime – and even, somewhat surprisingly, a drug-takers paradise! There is an argument that we need to rely less on prison and more on community-based punishments, and we need to emphasise more on rehabilitation, and treatment for drug addicts, so that they don't need to steal or prostitute themselves to feed their habits.
  • If police officers always carry guns and are very aggressive and quick to react aggressively, this may scare some criminals – but it may also have a corrosive effect on community relations, especially if the majority of police officers are white and the community is mainly non-white. In Britain most police officers do not carry guns, and we don't seem to have such a big problem with abuse of tasers by police officers as America has, either.
  • There are ways to be "tough on crime" that are just totally unacceptable. Having a huge secret police and cameras in every home would probably be very effective at reducing crime – but at what cost? Freedom and human rights are important.
  • Being "tough on crime" in the ways usually proposed, fails to tackle one of the key drivers of crime – illegal drugs. How long is the war on drugs going to continue before politicians realise that it's unwinnable?

3 Replies to “What are some potential disadvantages of being more "tough on crime"?”

  1. There are some interesting comments.
    I have some in your face types of experiences where the whole notion of being tought on crime is a rhetorical sentence that is a catch phrase for politicians and those in the public forum.
    First of all, should we not as a nation get tough on corruption?
    Perhpas, only then,as a nation, we could then get tough on crime?
    As already mentioned, if we dealt effectively with poverty, racism and actually dealt with the drug issue in the streets, maybe we could get tough on crime?
    It's a cause and effect situation to my eyes.
    Concerning the drug issue, for example, there are millions, if not billions of dollars made from drugs. It has been known that more often than not, payoffs in some way end up in the hands of those that govern us, police us or protect us.
    Get tough on crime?
    Seriously, is this a trick question?

  2. It creates distrust of the State.

    Now, I realise that America was founded on distrust of the State, but in general, there are advantages to society in having the majority of the population hold an (informed) belief that government / law-enforcement are working for the general benefit.

    The problem comes when you look at what 'tough on crime' means:

    A citizen speeds. They get a ticket, because the 'tough on crime' policy in the community means that we don't let people go anymore. They end up resenting police officers.

    A student is a 'weekend drug user'. They do the research, and realise that pot is a lot less harmful than, say, tobacco, or alcohol. They get busted, and this impacts their chances of getting a well-paid job after their education finishes.

    We have to ask – is 'tough on crime' working?

    In the sense of, are people feeling safer? Is crime down? Are criminals being rehabilitated effectively? I fear we know the answer.

  3. The biggest problem with being "tough on crime" is that it's simplistic, adolescent, ego-pumping rhetoric that does not address the problems of crime at their source.

    Among those sources being:

    • Poverty and the lack of hope
    • Social stratification and caste
    • Racism
    • Rehabilitation
    • Cultural moral bankruptcy in the whole of society
    • Decreasing of job opportunities
    • Decreasing quality of job opportunities
    • Legal/social/moral double standards for "regular" people and the elite
    • Increasing lack of faith in the justness of society
    • Increasing cynicism of the social, corporate and government elite
    • Increasing lack of restraint and regard for social impact of socially and psychologically destructive "entertainment" in pursuit of advertising eyeballs in the media
    • Rehabilitation of those convicted
    • Normalization into society of those convicted
    • Disenfranchisement of those convicted even after release is partial life sentence

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