What is the role of the criminal justice system? Deterrence? Rehabilitation? Revenge?
If maximizing pubic safety is the ultimate goal, rehabilitation is the most desirable result. Realistically, though, it isn’t always possible. Many career criminals are sociopaths, and not amenable to rehabilitation. Where rehabilitation isn’t feasible, deterrence may still be effective. Most sociopaths are rational; they just have no empathy or conscience.
To be an effective deterrent, the consequences of a crime must far outweigh the benefits, and the odds of incurring the consequences must be high. Today, that isn’t always the case, due to insufficient law enforcement and criminal justice resources.
If a criminal is not amenable to rehabilitation or deterrence, they must be permanently removed from society to prevent further opportunities for them to prey on others. That means either execution or permanent incarceration.
I support the death penalty only for murderers or sadistic serial sex offenders. The death penaly is important for the very reason that it deters people from killing their victims when they commit other serious crimes. Once they’ve crossed the line that makes them eligible for execution, they have nothing more to lose and a great deal to gain by eliminating the only person who can testify against them.
Maintaining criminals in prison is expensive, but we could both offset the expense and promote rehabilitation by requiring all prisoners who are capable of working to work. I see no reason why those who have already been convicted of preying on society should live at the taxpayers’ expense while contributing nothing in return.
Working an eight hour day is a good habit to get into for anybody who’s expected to become a productive member of society after they’re released. Prisoners who are rehabilitatable should be given jobs where they can develop a marketable skill, if possible. For those who should never be released, it would at least help defray the cost of keeping them incarcerated. Prisoners who refuse to work should have their priveleges cut and their rations reduced to subsistence level.
Some people might contend that such treatment would be inhumane. I cannot agree. Citizens who don’t commit crimes have to work to earn their living. Why should criminals be exempt?