Thursday, December 22, 2005

Crime And Punishment, European Style

European governments' softness on criminals and indifference to victims reflects weaknesses in their democratic mechanisms, while the successful US criminal justice system reflects its democratic strength.

From a utilitarian perspective, societies execute or incarcerate felons to prevent them re-offending - if they're never going to repeat the crime, why waste resources on them?

So how often do felons re-offend? Here are recent numbers for the UK

More than 60 per cent of young male thugs and muggers are convicted of another offense within two years of ending their sentence. Three quarters of young male burglars and thieves also re-offend, according to the Home Office figures placed unannounced on its departmental website.

A massive 90 per cent of offenders on the drug treatment and testing order, designed to tackle the link between drug use and prolific offending, go on to commit more crimes. The programme costs the Government £53 million annually. There is also a high dropout rate by offenders given the orders, which were introduced across England and Wales five years ago.

These numbers understate the problem, since not all criminal are caught, and not all those caught are convicted. If we assume a (high) capture+conviction rate of 50%, then all crimes with a re-conviction rate over 50% must have a recidivism rate of 100%!

The criminal justice system in the UK is imposed by its elite and is poorly regarded by Brits - every opinion poll since the abolition of capital punishment has shown that vast majority want to bring it back. European criminal justice systems are similar to the Brit one - no capital punishment, light sentences, and high crime rates.

Here are Interpol 2001 crime statistics (rate per 100,000):

4161 - US

7736 - Germany

6941 - France

9927 - England and Wales

Thus the US has a substantially lower crime rate than the major European countries!

All of which supports the US practice of executing heinous murderers and incarcerating repeat offenders for decades. In contrast, Europeans are victimized by criminals because their criminal justice systems don't take felons out of circulation.

So, not unusually, the US has made much better policy choices than European nations. That's because the US is a genuine democracy whereas European nations are modified monarchies in which elites wield the absolute power previously held by monarchs. Since members of elites live in safe areas and have good security, they don't see crime as important.

All of which explains why a surprisingly large number of Brits I've talked to recently are planning to move to the US.