Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sentence Inflation

A big news story in the UK today is about whether a sentence handed down for the abduction and sexual assault of a three year old was too lenient. My fear in cases like this is that, through outrage and indignation, we end up inflating the sentences for serious crimes up to the point where all serious crimes are treated the same. I think it would be a terrible thing if someone who has abducted a child feels that they might as well kill that child because it will make no difference to the sentence they receive.

I've always found it unlikely that people who commit serious crimes really think beforehand about the downside of being caught, especially if they are psychopathic; but once they have committed the crime and the police are after them, they must start thinking about it then, which is when the marginal cost to them of committing further crimes becomes important.

It surprises me when the police express support for the death penalty, if you've killed someone and the penalty is death then you have nothing to lose by killing loads of other people - which would mean the police coming after you and any innocent people who get in your way.

No comments: