Sunday, December 14, 2008

Should criminals convicted of non-violent crimes face jail terms?

My answer is no. Prisons are over flowing with prisoners and the cost of housing them is increasing with more and more prisons being built. Prisons should be for hardened criminals who murder, rape, rob with guns and weapons and sell drugs. These criminals are a danger or a menace to society and should be jailed. Crimes that people advocate to "lock them up and throw away the key."

However, for a person who comitted a non-violent crime, should not be sent them to prison. First of all, what is a non-violent crime? It could be a misdemeanour or a felony all of which could be white collar crime, fraud, drugs using, entering and stealing, shoplifting, stealing cars, misappropriation of information or funds.

What's the aim of the punishment? Punishment should have the goal of re-educating and rehabilitating these criminals to become better citizens and pay restitution for their crimes.

Incarcerating these criminals who are not a risk to society, not only waste public money, they also expose them to harden criminals who might beat them up or sodomise them. They may become a hardened criminal themselves.

Instead they should do community services hours.

If A defrauded B a certain amount to money, he should perhaps do the hours of work for B to pay for the fraud plus an extra which the court deemed right.

Where it is inappropriate to pay restitution to his victim, the court could sentence him to clean a public area or collect garbage. This kind of punishment should not be easy so that there is some degree of unpleasantness. This is so to teach the criminal not to repeat his crime.

For lesser criminals, they can be electronically monitored at home, or for an even lesser criminal, they could serve out their punishment in the form of voluntary work, like helping out the sick and the aged. In this way, it is a win-win situation. The criminal does some useful jobs, people are helped and the prisons are not over populated and it costs society less money than if he was put in prison.

Woman who stole baby's identity to be deported
3:30PM Friday December 14, 2007

An American woman who claimed more than $30,000 in welfare benefits under the name of a dead New Zealand girl will be deported on Sunda y.

Judge Bruce Davidson said Laurelyn Smith's actions had been like "opening a coffin" for the dead child's parents.

He sentenced Smith, 45, in Wellington District Court to two months and one week in prison and ordered her to pay $11,000 in reparation. She had earlier pleaded guilty to charges of impersonation and forgery.

She had already paid just over $11,000 in reparations.

An immigration officer told the court plans had been made for Smith to fly out on Sunday morning and, if sentenced to anything less than imprisonment, she would have been taken into custody by immigration services after today's sentencing.

Judge Davidson said although he had planned to sentence Smith to home detention, he would instead sentence her to a prison sentence that would allow her to be released today. That sentence took into account the time she had already spent in custody.

Smith entered New Zealand in June 1993 with an illegally obtained British passport.

She acquired the birth certificate of a New Zealand infant, who had died soon after birth in 1962 , and used the certificate to get an Inland Revenue number and set up a bank account.

Under the child's name she applied for an unemployment benefit and up to June 1 this year had received $30,408 in benefits .

When considering a possible sentence, Judge Davidson said he took into account the devastating effect Smith's actions had had on the parents of the dead child whose identity she had assumed.

Reading from a victim impact statement, Judge Davidson said the incident had meant the now elderly couple had felt they were reliving the saddest time of their lives.

"It's like opening a coffin again," he read.

The judge said although Smith had not previously been in New Zealand courts, it appeared she had previously appeared in the United States for fraud-related charges.

Smith will be held in custody by immigration services in Wellington for 72 hours until she leaves the country on Sunday.

She indicated through her lawyer that she would seek special permission to return to New Zealand to be with her husband.


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