Crime conversation questions
Causes of crime
- Which developed countries do you think have the most crime?
- Which developing countries do you think have the most crime?
- Why do you think these countries have more crime?
- How is the crime rate in your country?
- Why do people become criminals? What are the causes of crime? Are some people born bad or do they become criminals as a consequence of the environment?
- Is the cinema and television responsible in any way for crime? If so, in what way?
- If people's genes, environment and television are the cause of people's criminality - is the person to blame? They are not responsible for any of these factors, so why do we punish them?
- Why do we put people in jail?
- Is it to deter people from committing crimes? Does it, in fact deter people? Do countries with strict sentencing policies and the death penalty have less crime?
- Is it to reform people? Does it reform them or make them worse? Do people come out of jail better people?
- Is it to keep dangerous people away from society? How can you tell when a person is "safe" to release? Does that mean that many people should never be released from jail?
- Is jail simply a method of obtaining revenge? Is it because criminals "deserve" punishment? Is revenge a good basis for a social institution?
- What other reasons are there for putting people in jail?
- People with certain pathologies, such as psychopaths, apparently cannot be reformed. What can society do in such cases?
- Imagine two young men who commit an act of vandalism. One of them gets caught and goes to jail, but the other is not identified and goes to university. There is a high probability that the one who goes to jail will become a lifelong criminal while there is an equally high probability that the one who goes to university will have a successful life. What does this suggest about the present system? How could one improve it?
- What is a "life sentence"? Should it literally mean "life"?
- What about “good conduct”? Should people be allowed out early if they behave themselves?
- Are criminals looked after too well while they are in jail?
- Should we try to make life as uncomfortable as possible for people in jail? To make jail more unpleasant should criminals be obliged to carry out “hard labour”?
- Are you in favour of capital punishment? What are the arguments for and against?
- Under what circumstances should we send teenagers to jail? What effect do you think it would have on them?
Alternatives to prison
- Is capital punishment an acceptable punishment for particularly horrible crimes? Why/why not?
- Prison is not the only option for delinquents. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each of the following alternatives:
- A fine - individual has to pay a sum of money. It may be a fixed amount, an amount decided by the court, a percentage of a person's wealth, or a percentage of their income.
- Community service - work in the community for a period of time cleaning streets, painting public buildings, gardening etc.
- Detention at home with an electronic ankle bracelet - person is allowed to go to work but must spend every evening and weekend in their house.
- A suspended sentence - individual is sentenced but the sentence is not enforced unless the criminal commits another offence during the period of the suspended sentence.
- The following are not practised in most civilised western countries but are included for comparison/completeness:
- Public flogging - individual is publicly beaten.
- Cutting off hands - apparently popular in some societies.
- Capital punishment - the death penalty.
You, the jury
- Consider the following crimes. What punishment would you apply in each case? (It is understood that, in reality, one would need a lot more information about each case.)
- Drunk driving.
- Drunk driving resulting in manslaughter (involuntary homicide). Should the punishment be different in these two cases? The actual action of the driver was the same - only the result was different.
- Theft of food to feed a family.
- Theft of a fur coat from a department store.
- Armed robbery of 500,000 dollars from a bank.
- Financial trickery to obtain 100,000,000 dollars from individual investors.
- A judge receiving bribes to send teenagers to jail.
- Drunken abuse of a wife by a husband.
- Premeditated murder by an individual of somebody they hate.
- Premeditated murder of an abusive, drunken husband by a wife.