Sunday, September 23, 2012

Today, the man who murdered seventy people in Norway was deemed competent to understand what he did last year. He was given the maximum sentence of 21 years, which apparently doesn't mean that he will be released in 21 years.

Apparently in Norway a criminal serves his sentence but if it is deemed that he is a threat to society at that time, he will not be released.

I was surprised at the seemingly short sentence. This prompted me to wonder if our system orders sentences which are too long simply to satisfy our own emotions. There are certainly people that my emotions want incarcerated forever and a day but I would not be wise to pretend that our system is working. It is failing tremendously.

In the U.S. we have more prisons that any other industrialized nation and more people in them yet crime continues to grow. What are we doing wrong? Emotional responses do not work.

Perhaps our system is similar to that of illiterate and irrational parents who yell at their children and beat them only to rear children who grow up to abuse their spouses and children. Yet when we watch those that talk to and express love to their children those same children typically are kinder to everyone they encounter and become better parents and spouses.

Maybe our society is criticizing our at risk population too much instead of finding ways to develop character which law abiding and responsible. If we fill a child's ears and heart with positive affirmations they are likely to live up to those high expectations. Are we instead, setting very low expectations? If so, when they end up in jail or court there is no sense of shame or remorse because they may very well be living above the low expectations we have.

Perhaps we should take a good look at other cultures and integrate some of their solutions with our own. What we've been doing isn't working.

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