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Casey Christofaris

Owner, CS3 Inc

TEDCRED 10+

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Tough on crime? Or is it tough on Criminal?

So most politicians at least here in America always campaign on the idea of being tough on crime. However I believe they mean the opposite and really are talking about tough on criminals. Psychologically, I don't think there is anyone in the science world that would argue that positive reinforcement works better than negative reinforcement. ¿Yet our current criminal system uses negative reinforcement? This seems very counter intuitive to our current "proven" way to limit or mitigate our overgrowing criminal population. Now there are plenty examples of other country's and how they use positive reinforcement in criminal intervention.

But thats not what I am here to talk about.

Lets talk about what it would really mean to be tough on crime. First it is the politicians of the world that actually truly create crime! Yes you heard me right that is technically their job right? When they create laws they are actually creating criminals. Lets take an old Ohio law that I am not even sure is on the books but I know for a fact as a kid is was, it was once illegal to fish for whales while driving across a bridge. http://www.dumblaws.com/laws/united-states/ohio I am sure some where at some point in time someone actually had to do this, it would seem silly if this was a preemptive law. In a nutshell I am saying that you can't be a criminal if no law is broken. And that a politician's job is to create criminals. Let's take it to an utopian/peaceful society. Lets get rid of all crime!! Yeaaa!! However realistically could the invisible hand of the market replace all the lost Jobs?

Lawyers 1,143,358 in 2007
Politicians http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_politicians_are_there_in_the_US ( all gone for the most part)
Judges 1774
Cops, prison workers, probation officers, case workers, weapon makers and dealers and I am sure many many more.
So how if we created a crime free utopia would we ever be able to replace these job? We don't need that many McDonalds workers do we?

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      Jun 10 2013: Ok so how long has man been career criminals? And what do we need to stop it from happen? I would suggest truth, but who knows I don't think people in general like the truth. To hard to swallow or live with. I agree with the mental health problems and testing but I think truth would work better there as well. We have had a vail over eyes for to long. Do you think a serious conversation could ever be had about why there is so much mental disorders. We have been taking mind altering drugs for a very long time just to cope with reality. From antidepressants to beer. All in an effort to somehow escape the reality of that which is in front of us.
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          Jun 11 2013: That is true that there is no one size fits all answer. But If you look at egyptian times they only had 42 laws to not break in order to get into heaven. Wonder what it would be like if we couldn't break mans laws to not get to heaven

          In fact if....if I believed in the egyptian gods I would not make it to heaven. That is true that the criminal is responsible for their actions, but once again without a law no crime was committed. In the christian bible rape is allowed.
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          Jun 11 2013: I agree to a point, but there is part of me that says if we remove police officers and the likes it would be society that would police more instead of look the other way. Thats are problem we create a system where acting bad is ok and since you are doing it I am going to do it.

          Most likely we need a balance of these 2 ideas, which is how life works through balance not force.
          http://www.ted.com/talks/philip_zimbardo_on_the_psychology_of_evil.html

          This ted talk shows point blank why our political system is so corrupt. Our banking system is so corrupt. And why we can't even find a priest who is an honest man.... Edited Although I do find hope in the new pope and I am not even catholic... Of course I realize no one is perfect
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          Jun 11 2013: It's a thats not my job mentality. But truly is your job
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    Jun 9 2013: Hi Casey It is said

    Hate the crime and not the criminal.

    Eliminate the crime and not the criminal.

    But...

    Crime by the state is legalised to prevent illegal activities of its poulace.
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    Jun 8 2013: "tough on the criminal" is something along the lines of what Freud argued. He argued that the "super-ego" (or society) may be too demanding on what that person desires (the "id") which would drive that person to become a deviant in the eyes of the law. However, as psychologists like Stephen Pinker have pointed out, a society with a central government (and politicians) do have a reduced crime rate. So I do think a government is beneficial towards stopping crime (and violence).
    Yet we are "tough on the criminal" as various studies like the "Stanford Prison Experiment" for multiple reasons, one of them being the fact we usually dehumanize criminals (to a certain extent), which enabled us to be "tough" on them (due to us perceiving it as justice).
    I do (personally) believe there are better methods of reducing crime, by increasing the deterrents (by making more laws). Such as changing the situation or system slightly to make it promote altruism and empathy more than it does, and improving certain conditions.
    There are many methods.
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    Jun 8 2013: Interesting question. I recently saw the Ken Burns documentary "The Central Park Five." "The Central Park Jogger case involved the assault and rape of Trisha Meili, a female jogger in New York City's Central Park, on April 19, 1989. Five juvenile males—four black and one Hispanic—were tried and convicted for the crime and served their sentences fully. The convictions were vacated in 2002 when Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and murderer serving a life sentence for other crimes, confessed to committing the crime alone and DNA evidence confirmed his involvement in the rape."
    The details of the story can be found here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Park_Jogger_case

    My take on this case is that fear of crime, many times fueled by endless media accounts, places pressure of the police to make a arrest and for the DA to get convictions even though the evidence is contradictory.
    These were jury trial and one is left to wonder how a jury could have around at a guilty verdict base on the evidence alone. But innocent youths went to prison, because of the "system." And that system starts with the public.

    An article called "Imaginary Fiends" appeared in the Boston Globe in 2009 but the same story resurfaced again in the LA Times last month. "Crime is Low" but the public still thinks its high.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-guns-crime-20130508,0,3502050.story
    http://www.publicengines.com/blog/2009/05/26/the-myth-of-rising-crime-citizen-perception-vs-statistical-evidence/
    Almost the next day, a politician says in the newspaper, ""This is the biggest issue — it threatens the lives of Californians," he told The Times. "This notion of families being afraid to go out on the street, being afraid of parking garages, families who are just afraid."

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ff-maldonado-20130509,0,6611032.story

    We're "afraid," and that is what drives our need to punish, and create more laws, with mandatory sentences.
    We are the problem here.
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      Jun 10 2013: How do we get rid of that fear.... I personally think it is truth that people are afraid of
  • Jun 7 2013: Justice shouldn't be based on punishment or "negative reinforcement" as you call it. That is not true justice, true justice must serve two goals: 1) to rehabilitate (or reeducate if you will) the criminal and then restore it to society as a "decent citizen", and 2) compensate the victim, when ever possible and as much as possible. Punishment should only be applied for people who shows no signs of regret or doesn't do any progress in the rehabilitation process, how tough? it should depend on the degree of "evilness" of the criminal. It is not easy to implement true justice, however societies we call "primitive" have done it successfully for centuries.

    Politicians are reasonable people in most cases, so the problem is not having them creating new laws, the real problem is that such laws have no expiration date and that they seem to think making new laws is their only job and don't realize abolish obsolete laws is also a fundamental part of their job, that's why "dumb laws" happen, and why you can become a criminal in the most ridiculous and unexpected ways.

    Now, to answer your question, the right approach is: Tough on crime, because that translates in fighting the causes of crime not the consequences. Tough on criminal is dumb because it translates in fighting the consequences without caring for the causes.

    Finally I don't think we will ever see a crime free society, but if such an Utopian society existed may be those currently working for the law enforcement system wouldn't need to even work, who knows.
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      Jun 10 2013: I agree. The problem with this great idea of a Utopian society is who's idea would you use? For me it would more about balance. I like guns. I like blowing stuff up. It actually is a great stress reliever. For me Utopia would be not doing harm to others on purpose. And not harming others unless they want to be harmed. Seems simple right?
      • Jun 11 2013: Well, sometimes the simplest things on the surface are the most complex on the inside, but that only means more work.
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    Jun 9 2013: Casey, I was raised in a orphanage after being taken off the streets and served in the military and the law enforcement community .... thus seeing and being active on both sides. I don't have answers ... and do not think anyone does or it would be resolved.

    Criminals inflict their needs/desires on the weaker .... culture / society define what is acceptable and what is not. That may not mean it is right ... but acceptable. It is the duty of the "enforcers" (police and judges) to comply with the norms of the culture. Some times we get it right and sometimes we blow it.

    Politicians have two agendas ... 1. Getting elected .... 2. Getting re-elected. They will do and say anything which enhances the odds of #1 and #2 occuring. The only thing they are acountable to is the vote ... for them there are only limited consequences ... the worst being not achieving either #1 or #2. They have become above the law ... they have legislated themselves into a elite position ... laws are for the peons .... us.

    Being called a politician should be an insult ... you are right we have few if any statesmen and also lack dipolomats. Politics has become a career and is no longer a calling for service to the country. By salary and perks politics is the highest from of condoned curruption ... the home to the elite.

    Felons, as a rule, have a history. They are not there because they missed Sunday school. They are remove from society for the good of the people for reasons that the culture has determined.

    I was not a part of programs ... I was a front line grunt who had to do combat .. because of decisions made by those who sat in airconditioning and wanted to inflict their will on others.

    By defination felons are sentenced as punishment ... not for punishment. So the culture is saying it is the individual actions .. thus both the crime and the criminal are being addressed.

    Do you really want to remove all laws???? Holy cow batman.

    Bob.