By Tage Rai
Originally published June 18, 2015
Here is an excerpt:
It would be easier to live in a world where perpetrators believe that violence is wrong and engage in it anyway. That is not the world we live in. While our refusal to acknowledge this basic fact may have helped to orient our own moral compass, it has also stood in the way of interventions that might actually reduce harm. Let’s put aside the philosophical questions that arise once we accept that there is moral disagreement about violence. How does the message that violence is morally motivated aid our efforts to reduce it?
For years, we have been trying to reduce crime by enacting mass incarceration, by placing restrictions on the mentally ill, and by teaching potential perpetrators how to exercise more self-control. On the face of it, these all sound like plausible strategies. But all of them miss their target.
One of the most robust findings in criminology is that increasing the severity of punishment has little deterrent effect. People simply aren’t as sensitive to the potential costs of crime as the rational-choice model predicts they should be, and so efforts to reduce it by cracking down have failed to justify the immense fiscal and social costs of mass incarceration. Meanwhile, because most violent crimes are committed by psychologically healthy individuals, legislation that focuses on the mentally ill – for example, by stopping them from buying guns – would lead to only a small reduction.
The entire article is here.