Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The City of God against the pagans

This semester i am taking a bunch of sociology classes and the more I've been reading about criminal justice and the like, the more I have been wondering where God fits in "secular" society. As Christians living in a non theistic state, how do our convictions and presumptions fit into the law of our country? Specifically, I've been wrestling with the idea of grace and how we can (or if we can) apply that to criminals. I'm reminded of one of the closing scenes in Magnolia, where Officer Jim Kurring is driving and giving a sort of syliloquy about his job and the events of the last 24 hours and he says,
"Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven. And sometimes they need to go to jail... That's the hard part of the job. That's the hard part of waking up every morning."
As simple as that line sounds, it was quite profound in the context of the movie (which I absolutely recommend to anyone who hasn't seen it. If you have go see it again and buy two copies for your friends). I agree with this line 100% but it is certainly something you wouldn't hear from most law enforcement officials or anyone involved the legal system. Forgiveness is not mentioned much or even at all to my knowledge when it comes to law enforcement. The law of the land these days is punishment and revenge. Blood cries out for blood. I will probably post about this some more later, but for the moment I am interested in what you guys think. Today we discussed 3 methods of policing in my crim. justice class. the first is the watchman method which is basically the idea that police presence deters and stops crime. If you have police patroling areas, place cameras everywhere, and monitor people heavily, crime will be lower. the Second method is the legalistic method. This idea is just to follow the law exactly. If you get caught going 1 mile over the speed limit, you are ticketed and fined. If you commit a crime and are given a 20 year sentence you go to jail for 20 years. It is basically a rigid system that bends for no one. The third method is the social service method where police basically are servants to the community. Crimes are dealt with through programs of counseling rather than rigid sentencing. This method does not exclude jail or prison but rather allows for alternatives. Each catagory has their strong areas and their weak ones. So what do you guys think is the best model (s)?
Dan, 8:07 AM


What about some combination of the 3? I don't know enough about details and how they would fit, but that seems to me like it would be the best solution.
Blogger Chris Bookless, at 10:12 AM  
Some thoughts on the legalistic method: According to an old Sociology textbook of mine, recidivism rates are as high as 85-90%, and four out of five prisoners have done time before. Obviously something is wrong here. Prisons are not rehabilitation centers, they are storehouses for those we deem too dangerous for society. There is no grace here. We take the spiritually and emotionally impoverished and place them in a situation that only exacerbates the condition. I'm not saying that some sort of confinement isn't necessary- if you violate the social contract, especially with violence, then you have forfeited some of your rights and the greater good demands you be removed from society. But prisons today are busting at the seams with repeat offenders and this is a testament to the fact that the current system simply does not work.
Anonymous Eric Westforth, at 8:17 AM  
Both good comments,

i would agree that no one technique will do the job. I would probably side with a method that uses all three but with the social services model acting as sort of lens by which to filter the other two.

good stats, eric. Recitivism is a major problem in America. What's worse is that people honestly think that harsher punishments will deter people from commiting crimes. I feel this is a problem because 1) punishment isn't the problem. For every 1000 crimes 20 of them end in a conviction. it doesn' matter if you add twenty years to all future sentences. if people don't think they are going to get caught (and rightly so apparently) they are still going to commit the crime. look at looting. During natural disasters, major sporting events, etc regular law abiding citizens don't think twice about turning over a car or taking a DVD player. which brings me to point 2) Deterence and harsh punishment does not teach someone that something is empirically wrong. Some may disagree with me, but i would hate to live in a world wear someone doesn't commit a rape because they don't want to suffer the legal consequences. i would prefer if the legal system focused on creating citizens who would remain civil even if there was no law (or at least no law enforcemnt).
Blogger Dan, at 2:09 PM  

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