From time to time you read about in it in the newspapers, see it on the news reports or hear about it on talk back radio, when governments say they are going to increase the maximum jail sentence for a particular crime from x years to y years.
As an example the government may decide to increase the maximum sentence for an armed robbery from 5 years to 10 years. They make this decision as one way to reduce crime as the increase in possible jail time, should act as a deterrent for anyone actually committing this particular crime.
Hmmm, interesting. So let me get this straight. If I am a crook and I am planning to rob the bank on the other side of town – because I don’t want anyone at my local bank recognising me – then I am going to think twice about robbing said bank, because I don’t want to risk going to prison for 10 years?
But yesterday when the maximum jail term was 5 years I was planning the greatest robbery of all time. Right! So essentially what I am saying is that I am prepared to go to jail for 5 years but I draw the line with going to jail for 10 years. That extra 5 years would severely affect my social life and I may never find out who the mother is on How I Met Your Mother.
Now, not being a criminal, I am just going to go out on a limb here and presume that every single person who has ever committed a major crime has done so fully expecting to get away with the crime. There would not be one crim who has ever expected to get caught. There wouldn’t be one crim who doesn’t expect to wake up tomorrow and be scot free and start planning their next crime. Nope, not one, unless they are absolute morons and if that is the case they wouldn’t know the difference between 5 years and 10 years anyway.
So it is irrelevant how long the jail term is for – criminals don’t plan on getting caught so it is irrelevant if it is 5 years or 10 years or 20 years. If you are prepared to go to jail for 5 years then you’ve got major issues anyway.
That being said of course we need jail terms as I think that most people who have ever thought about committing a crime don’t do so as they don’t want to run the risk of going away for a very long time. That risk of being caught, is of course, very real.
While I am not saying there shouldn’t be maximum sentences, I think that there should certainly be minimum sentences. You go to a business and commit an armed robbery, then BAM, 10 years. If you rape someone, whether you were drunk or not, BAM, 25 years. If you murder someone, BAM, life or the death penalty.
No parole. No extenuating circumstances. No early release. You do the minimum term.
You do the crime, you do the time.