Do Criminals Ever Pay Their Complete Debt to Society?

With a third Trump Supreme Court nominee, leftist ‘peaceful protesters’ are kicking up their heels. Given the gargantuan number of crimes that have occurred in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Kenosha, Chicago, Milwaukee, Miami, New York, Atlanta, Louisville, and scores of other cities, maybe the criminals, rioters, looters, ‘peaceful protesters,’ Marxists, and outright thugs find strength in numbers.

As long as they commit a series of crimes en masse, then perhaps the police, state troopers, National Guard, FBI, Department of Justice, and all other agencies and organizations involved in maintaining law and order will not be able to keep up. Maybe they will not be able to identify all of the perpetrators, round them up, charge them accordingly, build an effective case, and prosecute them.

Identified and Processed

Whether or not this is true remains to be seen. With the widespread availability of cell phones, surveillance cameras, and other video footage, days, weeks, and months after individuals commit crimes they are being sought, arrested, and advised to retain an attorney.

So, to the criminals, beware, you only think you’re getting away with crime. Once you are identified and processed, you are in the system for all time. Your record will follow you everywhere, throughout your life.  

A nagging issue, nevertheless, remains. When someone commits a crime, even if he or she serves time for the transgression, whether the crime is murder or as simple as vandalism, has the debt to society truly been paid? A notion prevails in society that serving time in jail or prison, or even paying fines and penalties somehow repays society. Is this the case, or even close to being so? 

The True Costs of Crime

Let’s consider the crime of school yard vandalism and not murder or something heinous. In one town near Raleigh, North Carolina, four students vandalized the outside brick walls of the then newly constructed high school. These students wrote racially-charged messages intended to hurt other students. The perpetrators were quickly apprehended and sentenced.

Jail time, community service, and paying to have the brickwork cleaned seem to satisfy most people’s sense of fairness. What are the true costs, however, of such a crime? In the case of the four young men who chose to vandalize the school building, we have the emotional pain of those to whom the messages were directed. 

If I were a student who had gone to this school, and one day I arrived to be greeted by a large message in spray paint that said I was not wanted there, would jail time, a few hours of community service, or removal of such paint restore me to my previous state? In the next few days, or weeks, or months, am I likely to forget about the message conveyed? Am I likely to view my school with different eyes?

Even if the messages were harmless, such as a school slogan, what about the cost of the law officers, school officials, town officials, town magistrates, and court officials? What about the judge involved in bringing the case to court, achieving judicial resolution, and carrying out the sentence? Is their time collectively, including their per-hour costs, overtime, oil and gas for any vehicles, equipment, supplies, insurance benefits, and a host of real dollar costs, repaid by criminals? 

Consider the costs the local jurisdiction pays in terms of constructing and maintaining facilities; cleaning linens; cooking meals; paying utility bills, including hot water, lights, and electricity to house such perpetrators during their jail time. How, and when, is that repaid? You guessed it – through tax dollars. Are such out-of-pocket costs to society ever paid by the perpetrators themselves?

Truth in Debt to Society

Consider the resulting costs to society when someone commits a robbery, armed robbery, grand larceny, fraud, assault, rape, or murder. For these and other crimes against individuals, organizations, governments, and other social institutions, are the comprehensive and true costs to the victims of the crime and society at large ever paid by those who commit such acts in the first place?

Now consider the enormous costs, on many dimensions, that the rioters, looters, ‘peaceful protesters,’ Marxists, and outright thugs bestow upon society. The grand total is staggering.

If criminals were charged with the full cost of their actions – call it “truth in debt to society,” including all of their processing, court, and incarceration costs – added to the penalty they’re assessed by the judge, then the justice system would be more sensitive to taxpayers, and at the least provide a heartier form of justice to victims and the criminals. 

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