More Crime and Less Punishment



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More Crime and Less Punishment

  • by Richard Moran

About the author

  • Richard Moran is a criminologist and a leading expert on the insanity defense, capital punishment, and the history of the electric chair. His book The Executioner's Current (Knopf, 2002) is the story of how the electric chair developed out of an effort by one nineteenth-century electric company to discredit the other.
  • "Moran is a wonderful storyteller," said Alan Dershowitz in comments on the book that he wrote for Random House. "The history of the electric chair—with rich A-C, D-C electric moguls trying to destroy each other's business—makes a fascinating tale of greed, opportunism and hypocrisy. Thomas Edison's attempt to make George Westinghouse into America's Dr. Guillotine is worth reading by everyone who cares about business ethics, the death penalty and justice."

Purpose of the Essay

  • The essay does not attempt to deal with all the various aspects of the crime problem. Rather, it is restricted to something it can manage effectively in about 1, 000words. It provides statistical information and analyzes the present situation to show that punishment does not deter crime (probably in reply to observations that harsh punishments should be enforced to reduce crime).

Language and Style

  • The style is slightly formal, as is the case in serious essays. We find quite a number of long sentences with complicated structure, such as the second and third in paragraph4, the last in paragraph5 and that in paragraph8. We find few contractions are used as we find in formal essays.

Structure of the text

  • Part I (para.1-3)
  • Part II (para. 4-9)
  • Part III (para. 10)
  • Introduction of the central idea: punishment does not reduce crime.
  • Why punishment doesn't deter crime.
  • Conclusion: getting tough with criminals is not the answer to the crime problem.

Detailed discussion of the text

    • If you are looking for an explanation of why we don’t get tough with criminals, you need only look at the numbers.
  • If you are trying to find out why we don’t deal with criminals severely, you can just look at the numbers – there are too many of them for the society to punish
  • get tough with: to become harsh, severe, unyielding with sb., e.g.
  • The government has decided to get tough with car smugglers.
  • The school asked the police to get tough with the neighborhood bullies who were constantly shaking the children sown.

Detailed discussion of the text

    • This amounts to more than 41million crimes, many more than we are able to punish.
  • This means that each year more than 41 million crimes are committed, which is far more than the police can handle

Detailed discussion of the text

    • The best estimates suggest that 36 million to 40 million people (16 to 18 percent of the U.S. population) have arrest records for nontraffic offenses.
  • According to the most favorable judgment, 36 million to 40 million people, amounting to 16 to 18 percent of the U.S. population, have at some time been arrested for acts of wrongdoing, not including those of breaking traffic rules and regulations.

Detailed discussion of the text

  • In this country, there are already 2.4 million people who are receiving punishment in one form or another; 412,000 of them are serving their prison terms/kept in prison.
    • This is why the certainty and severity of punishment must go down when the crime rate goes up.
  • This is why at the present moment not all crimes are punished and the punishment for crimes is less severe than before even though the crime rate is on the increase.
    • But can we afford to cut off the hands of those who committed more than 35 million property crimes each year? Can we send them to prison? Can we esecute more than 22,000 murderers?
  • But can we cut off the hands of those who committed more than 35 million crimes of stealing, mugging or robbery each year? Can we put all of them into prison? Can we put to death the more than 22,000 murderers each year? Can we do all that without arousing cries of protests?
    • A decade of careful research has failed to provide clear and convincing evidence that he threat of punishment reduces crime.
  • Although research into the relationship between crime and punishment has been carried on for ten years, it can’t produce proof enough to show that severe punishment can reduce crime.
    • We don’t have room for any more!
  • The country does not have enough prisons for more than 412,000 criminals.
    • We think that punishment deters crime, but it just might be the other way around.
  • We think that punishment helps prevent crème, but her opposite might be true: crime prevents punishment.
    • While elite colleges and universities still have high standards of admissions, some of the most “exclusive” prisons now require about five prior serious crimes before an inmate is accepted into their correctional program.
  • There is a similarity between prisons and universities in their recruiting policy. You’ve got to be outstanding candidates to get into the best colleges and universities. Similarly, certain prisons for dangerous criminals only accept those who have committed five serious crimes before being convicted fro the present one.
  • Our present imprisoned criminal population is indeed composed of first-rate criminals. On the whole, they are much more serious law-breakers than those who were put in a prison for the dangerous criminals of the country in the thirty years between the early 1930s and early 1960s.
  • Here “elite” is used ironically.
    • … it makes little sense to blame the police, judges or correctional personnel for being soft on criminals.
  • … it isn’t reasonable to criticize the police, judges or those who are in charge of exercising punishment for being too lenient/not being tough with criminals
    • The police can’t find most criminals and those they do find are difficult and costly to convict.
  • First, the police force is unable to find most criminal. Second, it is difficult to prosecute those they have found, try them and finally get a court to declare them guilty, and it costs a lot of money to do so, too.
    • The society demands that we do everything we can against crime. The practical reality is that there is very little the police, courts or prisons can do about the crime problem.
  • What society requires is to do everything possible against crime, but in reality, what can be done about the problem on the part of the police, courts or prisons is very little.
    • The criminal justice system must then become as powerless as a parent who has charge of hundreds of teenage children and who is nonetheless expected to answer the TV message: “It’s 10 o’clock! Do you know where your children are?”
  • With criminals amounting to 16 to 18 percent of the country’s population to deal with, the criminal justice system is as helpless as a parent who has to take care of hundreds of teenage children and make sure that they are all home at 10 o’clock in the evening
    • Of the six arrested, only three are prosecuted and convicted.
  • Of the six criminals who are arrested, only three/half are officially brought to court/charged and found/declared guilty.
    • Most prisoners gain early release not because parole boards are too easy on crime, but because it is much cheaper to supervise a criminal in the community.
  • Most prisoners are released before they have served their sentence, not because the parole boards are kind in granting parole, but because it costs much more to keep a criminal in prison than to have them live under the supervision of the community.
    • And, of course, prison officials must make room for the new prisoners sent almost daily from the courts.
  • Another reason why most prisoners gain paroles easily is that new arrivals keep coming in every day, so that old inmates have to make room for the new.
    • Yet when measured against the lower crime rates this would probably produce, longer prison sentences are not worth the cost to state and local governments.
  • If criminals were kept longer in prison, crime rates would probably go down. But when we consider the money that state and local governments have to pay for this, longer prison sentences are not worthwhile.
    • Besides, those states that have tried to gain voters’ approval for bonds to build new prisons often discover that the public is unwilling to pay for prison construction.
  • Some states want to raise money to build new prisons by issuing government bonds. They have tried but failed to get voters’ approval. This shows that the public is unwilling to pay for building more prisons. This is another reason why longer prison sentences are not feasible/workable.
    • While it is not possible to know the true amount of crime committed by people released from prison in any given year, we do know the extent to which those under parole are jailed again for major crime convictions.
  • Although we can’t possibly know exactly how many crimes are committed by released prisoners in a specific year, we do know how may of those people under parole are convicted again for serious crimes and put into jail again.
    • Even if released prisoners commit an average of two crimes each, this would amount to only 15,000 crimes prevented: a drop in the bucket when measured against the 41 million crimes committed each year.
  • Even if each released prisoner commits two crimes, this would add up to a total of only 15,000 crimes. This means that only that number of crimes would be prevented if those prisoners were locked up in prison for an additional year. But each year 41 million crimes occur. Compared with 41 million, 15,000 is a very small number.
  • a drop in the bucket (AmE)/ the ocean (BrE): an amount of sth. that is too small or unimportant to make any real difference, e.g.
  • What we have raised is just a drop in the bucket. The project will need far more.
    • This works out to more than $1000,000 per crime prevented.
  • This means that it costs more than $100,000 to prevent one crime.
  • work out to: to make a total amount of sth., add up ot, e.g.
  • The total cost of the project worked out to 10 million.
    • But there is more.
  • But that’s not all we’ve got to pay for each crime prevented.
    • The first-year operating cost would be $150,000 per crime prevented, worth it if the victim were you or me, but much too expensive to be feasible as a national policy.
  • …$150,000 would be worth it if there were only one person’s life, such as yours or mine, to save, but such a policy would be much too expensive to carryout nationwide.
  • operating cost: money you have to pay to put long prison sentences into practice
  • too expensive to be feasible: too expensive to be carried out
    • Faced with the reality of the numbers, I will not be so foolish as to suggest a solution to the crime problem.
  • When I consider these figures, I won’t conclude the essay with a solution to the crime problem.
  • so + adj. + as to do sth.: to such a degree, e.g.
  • I don’t think he is so careless as to forget about this important appointment.
  • They are not so poor as not to be able to afford a good education for their only son.
    • My contribution to the public debate begins and ends with this simple observation: getting tough with criminals is not the answer.
  • This essay, one of a series discussing crime and punishment, begins and ends with the same statement: dealing with crime severely won’t solve the problem.
  • contribution: an item that forms part of a book, magazine, broadcast, discussion, etc., e.g.
  • His speech is an important contribution to the debate.
  • All contributions to the conference are expected to arrive by the end of July.
  • observation: a remark or statement, esp. one that is of the nature of comment.


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