In the oldest written legal code “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is the general rule regarding punishment for crimes committed. The punishment should match the crime. Today, our criminal justice system contains this same basic principle: the severity of the crime generally matches the severity of the punishment in terms of number of years served, fines imposed or community service hours required. It’s time to throw out the Hammarabi Code and modernize. An updated legal code should be based on the question “whose committing the crime?” The United States prison system is in need of dramatic overhaul because our prisons are overcrowded and inhumane. In determining how to deal with a criminal, the criminal justice system should, when possible, examine the root cause of the crime and determine whether it is due to 1) substance abuse, 2) mental illness or disability, or 3) natural instinct. Because of the great impact the media has on people, there should an agency that reviews, and limits programs/movies that induce criminal activity. By basing our criminal system on such categorizing and controlling the media, we will better be able to rehabilitate those who are substance abusers, medically treat those who are mentally ill or disabled, and imprison those who are naturally criminally inclined.
Some prisons should be set up as rehabilitation centers and use proven techniques to give prisoners the best chance they have of overcoming addiction and becoming productive members of society. Statistics show that 70% of incarcerated criminals are substance abusers. By simply imprisoning those with a drug or alcohol problem, we are not fixing the problem. Prisons can be dangerous and only provide a further education in the criminal life. Often times diet; education, and fitness play an important role in freeing one from addiction. Today, the United States has some drug courts that are offering chances of rehabilitation. The court system should be overhauled so that every court is able to give those criminals that are capable of rehabilitation a chance of freeing themselves from addiction. Because the number of substance abusers in prisons is so high, rehabilitating this population would greatly reduce the prison population and reduce costs and crime. Drug related arrests that are due to trafficking and not related to addiction should be handled sternly. Anything in the media that would glamorize addiction should be outlawed and those programs that encourage rehabilitation should be encouraged. (6) Offering free drug and alcohol treatment to people before they commit crimes would reduce prison rehabilitation and crime in general.
Those criminals that are mentally ill or disabled should be treated differently than other offenders. People with such deficiencies need to be separated out and placed in hospital like facilities that are organized by mental health professionals. Proper medication, diet and psychological help should be given to these criminals so that they are subdued. If possible, they should be educated on how to deal with there mental illness. Mental health professionals together with criminal justice experts, not mandatory sentencing, should determine how long this criminal population should be held. This group of people should be constantly monitored because of their instability.
Criminals that are categorized as instinctual born killers need intense supervision and long incarcerations. In the movie “Natural Born Killers” by Oliver Stone, a couple goes on a killing rampage over a three-week course road trip. After its premiere, there were multiple murders that the movie was blamed for inspiring. (9) This movie illustrates how dangerous this group of people is and the power of the media. One of the primary questions this movie raises is why do we as a society allow a movie that is so disturbing and likely to induce heinous crimes to be shown. Although we have freedom of speech in this country, we do not have the freedom to make a movie that will most likely induce murder. (10) A system needs to be developed that will limit these types of media programs. Research as to how this group can be controlled and handled is also needed. Life long sentencing in high security facilities may be is required for this group. There is not much information available on the cause of this condition. (11) If early detection is possible, then teachers and other professionals should be on the lookout for this personality type. This is probably the only group of people that society may not be able to help and needs to be locked up under tight security.
If we want to live in a safer society and give people a chance to straighten out their lives, we need to do away with mandatory sentencing Hammarabi style and look more at who is committing the crime. How a criminal is dealt with needs to be based on research and crime prevention needs to be society’s major priority. It is time to ask ourselves what kind of society we are if we publicly show movies like “Natural Born Killers”. Our prisons should be an effort to rehabilitate those that we can and imprison those that are dangerous to society. Prison food and exercise facilities need to relate to the latest research. These types of reforms will save us money and reduce our prison population.