Saturday, December 05, 2009

Crime Punishment - Compassion Treatment

The trial in the Italian courts following the tragic murder in Perugia of the British exchange student Meredith Kercher and the verdicts and sentencing announced yesterday, bring to the fore how uninspired, uncivilised and primitive even, man's official treatment of his fellow man and woman remains quite apart from individuals' personal treatment of their neighbours. The State should lead its citizens in answering fundamental questions that arise from our all sharing this planet with our fellows and not necessarily simply follow individuals' basic if not base, feelings.

Undoubtedly Meredith was killed in the prime of her life and her relatives and friends will be grieving profoundly for her loss, for the whole of the remainder of their lives. Amanda knox was sentenced to serve 26 years in jail. Irrespective of the issue of 'guilt' at least that sentence is not as primitive as that of answering killing with death, still practised in some American and Arabian states.

Relevant extracts from the Independent newspaper today read:

Knox, distraught and sobbing, was led out of the courtroom by a prison guard on each arm as her family watched, stunned. Her sister Deanna's cries echoed in the courtroom, where two of the women jurors and a number of family friends also wept.

The Kercher family, accompanied by the attaché to the British embassy in Rome and aided by an interpreter, also comforted one another and wiped their eyes. John Kercher, Meredith's father, hugged prosecutor Giuliano Mignini... Arline Kercher looked directly at Sollecito and Knox as they were led in and out of the courtroom. The police officers who investigated Kercher's death also shook hands with family members after the announcement. The Kerchers will be holding a press conference today to make an official comment.

These illustrate 'the eye for an eye' Old Testament approach still generally followed by legal systems just as in anarcichal states, the world over. Surely we can and must do better than that? Even those who do not espouse Christian values - and Italy is the historic second cradle of Christianity - must see the wisdom of looking beyond the starkness of the effects of actions which in this case included the horrible death, to the reasons for them and the state of mind health and circumstances of all those said to be involved? What good is going to be done by locking up a girl for all that time even assuming guilt? Where are the sentencing reports? What is her mental state? Rehabilitation issues?

The victims relatives' grief and their reported concerns for retribution are really understandable but should such subjective even so profound emotions and feelings determine the outcomes of criminal sentencing?

More dispassionate decision taking as regards sentencing especially, should be made when the hue and cry of the verdict has abated. Is the jury system really still adequate for C21? I think not.

I would like to see sentencing reports include input from theologians and others, weighing the factors such as deterence, retribution and punishment, with those of the benefits to society and individuals of attempts at forgiveness reconciliation health and healing.

1 comment:

  1. I think your exposition is eminently clear and fair, Jerry. The whole point of the law is to take the passion out of what would otherwise become trial by lynch mob.
    I was sobered to read that 60% of the world's population live in countries where the death penalty is still applied, their numbers including the USA, China, Japan, Singapore, India and Indonesia.


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