Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Posts tagged ‘punishment’

Imprisoning rich criminals is mindless populism…

… says rich journalist/politician-felon Chris Huhne in the Guardian.

Just in case you haven’t been following this, Andy Coulson masterminded a criminal conspiracy to eavesdrop on private conversations and bribe public officials. His minions basically vandalised a police investigation into the murder of a 13-year-old. Now, his culpability as director of the operation has been difficult to establish in court, so unlike those minions he has been convicted only on a single relatively minor charge. He has been sentenced to just 18 months in prison, of which he will likely only serve one quarter.

But Huhne thinks the fact that the sentence is so short proves that he shouldn’t go to prison at all. He compares current penal practice to “the 1723 Black Act, which introduced 50 new hanging offences, including one for “hiding in a forest while disguised”.” He seems to think that the only proper purpose of prison is to restrain violent criminals. The rest is just playing to the tabloid-aroused bloodlust of the crowd. It’s one thing to lock up the evil people — BBC star pedophile Rolf Harris is his favoured example — but normal upstanding rich people like Coulson (and, by implication, Huhne himself) are much more useful on the outside. Merely being labelled criminals is enough suffering for their tender egos, unlike the hardened chavs who need to be sent to prison for looting a bottle of water, or receiving a single pair of looted underpants from a friend.

It’s depressing to be reminded of how primitive the thinking often is of people at the highest levels of government. (more…)

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