Thoughts on Crime and Morality

These are writings I've done concerning crime and its punishment.

Under what circumstances (if any) might the decriminalization or legalization of drugs be beneficial to society?

I think that legalization, or at a minimum decriminalization, of “soft” drugs such as marijuana can deter interest in “hard” drugs such as cocaine. California, Holland, and the UK all have relaxed marijuana laws while focusing attention on more difficult street drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine. However you can not simply legalize all drugs, some of them like PCP or speed are very dangerous to society.

The reality is that no matter what, people who want an altered state of mind are going to find that state of mind with or without drugs being legal. The ability to get marijuana in my home city is not hindered by the fact that it is illegal. If (for example of course) marijuana was decriminalized to the point that personal usage was accepted, the Government could focus more attention toward stemming the tide of drugs such as methamphetamine which have been proven to cause violent crime. Pot heads don’t tend to rob or steal to get weed; methamphetamine and heroin junkies will steal from their own mothers to get a fix of the powder.

Do you consider alcohol a drug and should greater control be placed on the sale of alcohol?

This is an interesting question—alcohol has great historical significance for mankind. Absolutely alcohol can be considered a drug; I’d classify anything that can be ingested causing an altered state of perception a drug. That being said, I don’t think that alcohol in moderation is no more harmful to one than any other form of recreation.

Alcohol and society are intertwined. Alcohol is the “acceptable” form of “getting wasted.” Aside from those who abstain due to religious or health reasons, nearly everyone in society consumes alcohol now and then. Due to the huge numbers of people who use alcohol, alcoholism is a real issue in our society. Alcoholics don’t realize how impaired they can get on this legal intoxicant and can cause serious issues. As is the case for ALL intoxicants, greater control isn’t the answer—smarter control is.

Do TV and films glorify drug usage and encourage youth to enter the drug trade? Should all images of drugs and alcohol on TV be banned?

Yes, no, and absolutely not. TV and films definitely make drug use look attractive in some cases. Personally, when I watch a show like Half Baked and see the actors smoking expensive high-grade marijuana, I’d love to join them. On the flip side of that, TV and films also depict the real-life horrors of drug use in movies such as Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream (both about heroin junkies). Honestly the last movie which made me actually have nightmares was Requiem—it made me physically ill to see the disgusting downward slide in to heroin abuse portrayed by Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans.

I don’t however think that TV and films encourage youth to enter the “drug trade” any more than their current peers. When I became aware of drugs (specifically marijuana) shortly after graduating high school, it was my friends who introduced me not TV or movies. Sure I had seen images of people getting high on celluloid; I’d just never thought, “Hey that looks like something I NEED to do RIGHT NOW…” As for banning images of drugs and alcohol on television and in film, I think this is a completely bad idea. Refusing to educate or show realistic depictions of drugs simply piques the interest of a would-be user.

Is prostitution really a crime? Should a man or woman have the right to sell sexual favors is they so choose?

No, I don’t think that prostitution is a crime against society. Much like my personal attitude about decriminalization of “soft” drugs, I think that prostitution is a crime that the government leans heavily upon for monetary compensation. Simply put, I think in many cases the local law enforcement issues citations and fines to people arrested for prostitution or marijuana possession as a way to buffer the city’s coffers. The notion of “prostitution stings” is completely ludicrous and in my opinion are classic examples of entrapment.

I think yes, a person should be able to sell sexual services if they so choose. I know that standpoint doesn’t seem moral, but in reality people will engage in these kinds of activities if they are legal or not. Again, making prostitution illegal does not stem the demand for it. By making intelligent decisions on how to deal with prostitution a municipality can avoid having to waste man-hours on sexual stings.

Do you believe there should be greater controls placed on distribution of sexually explicit material on the Internet? Would you approve of the online sale of computer generated kiddy porn?

This again is a tricky set of questions; I don’t personally think that the Internet should be restrained. That being said, I don’t use the Internet for anything of a dubiously perverse nature and wish (read: want) to expect that others would adhere to at least a minimal semblance of normalcy on the Internet as well. One solution to corralling sexually explicit material is to require that ALL sexually related pornography websites utilize a certain top level domain, like .xxx. This way any blocking system can simply block all .xxx addresses and poof, the distribution of sexually explicit material is contained (somewhat).

I object to ALL forms of child pornography. Computer generated or not, child exploitation is DISGUSTING and WRONG. Pedophilia MUST be contained and combated where possible. Don’t get me wrong, if you need rubber, latex, scat, bestiality, or whatever other “indecent” acts to get you excited sexually, more power to you; what’s indecent to some maybe common to another. However, if you need child or kiddy porn to get you excited, you HAVE A PROBLEM and NEED TO SEEK TREATMENT.

What statement is more accurate: (a) Sexually aggressive men are drawn to pornography because it reinforces their pre-existing hostile orientation to sexuality; or (b) Reading or watching pornography can make men become sexually aggressive.

I think statement A is more accurate. In reading about crime during this course, the criminals with a porn fetish developed their need for pornography as an outlet for their frustrations. In the case of the woman who was made a sexual slave and forced to live under a bed in a box, the criminal’s taste for violent sado-masochistic pornography grew stronger as he became more and more intertwined with his crime.

I do not think that reading or watching pornography can make normally adjusted people turn sexually aggressive by the act of indulging alone. I personally watch pornographic movies with my wife and do not feel more aggressive sexually as a side effect. The key to all enjoying indulgences in life, be it marijuana, alcohol, or pornography is moderation. I can surely see how a weak minded or individual with low self-esteem could be caught up in any of these vices and made and addict—I simply don’t believe everyone who indulges in pleasures of the flesh will become an aggressor who will commit crime to continue his or her pleasures.

Are there objective standards of morality? Does the existing criminal code reflect contemporary national moral standards? Or are laws banning sexual behaviors and substance abuse the product of a relatively few “moral entrepreneurs” who seek to control other peoples behaviors?

Wow, this is a great question and my answer varies slightly when taking in to consideration the two items mentioned. Let me start with sexual behavior—I think that the current laws regarding sexual behavior are fairly adequate albeit a bit antiquated. The restriction of sexually oriented businesses to certain parts of cities is a good example of fair and reasonable laws which help to increase the moral standing of the community as a whole. The current trend of allowing sexually explicit material on the Internet is also a good example of free speech triumphing, however it could be toned down or segregated to a standard TLD (.xxx) which would make it easier for individuals to avoid that type of content should one choose to do so. While the criminal code may not exactly reflect the national moral standards, I think it is impossible to govern sexual interactions on a national level. Each community must decide what is morally acceptable to the MAJORITY, not just the lawmakers and implement policy to reflect those decisions.

Ok, now let me address substance abuse. I think that the government is way off in trying to eliminate substance abuse and the current laws ARE definitely the result of a “few” trying to control “the masses.” Lets look at marijuana again—the laws restricting it (it’s a PLANT for goodness sake) are historically inaccurate and target minorities. In fact, most drug laws were enacted in the early part of the 20th Century as a response by the white, Anglo-Saxon government to the influx of migrant and immigrant workers. Restrictions on marijuana were designed to stem use by Mexican field workers; Restrictions on opium were designed to rid communities of dependant Chinese; and Restrictions on cocaine for fear that African Americans had super human strength while under its influence actually led to US police forces to increase the caliber of their weaponry.

Drug policy in the US is woefully unkempt and ineffective. It is absolutely the attempt of the government to keep the population hooked on “legal” items like tobacco and alcohol (both industries which pay LARGE lobbying fees toward the government). Simply put, I think the government needs to spend more time (and money) fighting heroine, cocaine, methamphetamine and child pornography and less time issuing citations to marijuana smokers and men who want to employ a lady of the night or rent an adult movie.

I believe that the most effective policies are those that educate people. Education from a prevention standpoint through education of the consequences for crimes committed is valuable as a deterrent. The more that people are educated, the easier it is for them to make intelligent decisions. Programs like D.A.R.E. (anti-drugs) and G.R.E.A.T. (anti-gangs and gang violence are a good starting point for teaching people about the potential hazards of these illicit transpirings.

I also believe that more intelligently applied restorative justice programs are needed in our society. For small crimes, the restorative justice model of retribution directly involves the victim and conspirator of the crime to engage and work out an amicable solution to the issues at hand. Pocatello, Idaho has a “Drug Court” program which involves the criminal and the community through a comprehensive recap of the crime and examination of what led the individual to need intervention by the police. By walking a user step by step through the justice system and instilling a sense of empathy for the victim can help petty criminals see the other side of their actions and possibly deter that criminal from future crime. In addition to this, for the topic of drug use, decriminalization of “soft” drugs like marijuana can ease the burden on law enforcement and the prison system that comes from blanket targeting and jailing small time drug users. I think that drug use is a societal ill, not really a crime—on the other hand manufacturing or distributing drugs is a crime and those are the people law enforcement should focus on.

On a flipside to my last paragraph, I think that some crimes demand harsher, mandatory punishments. I think that forcible rape (statutory in some cases may be considered, though a nine-teen year old having consensual sex with a sixteen year-old isn’t really a crime in my opinion) and pre-meditated murder are both crimes with demand immediate retribution. I think that chemical castration or sterilization of rapists and other violent sex offenders should be mandatory and the death penalty should be an instant answer if a criminal is found to have committed a homicide which was planned with no remorse. I think that making mandatory punishments for certain crimes might make some would-be criminals think twice about committing them—and in addition it would reduce the amount of criminals who’ve committed crimes of that nature and are clogging our prison system and sucking up the tax payer’s money.

Crime


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