A blupete Essay

Criminal Justice, Part 1 to blupete's Essay
"On The Theory of Punishment"

The first question, is, what is a crime? It is an act injurious to another person, or group of persons. Not all injurious acts are crimes. It is a crime only when the offense is of such a grave character that its occurrence would likely cause, in the "average citizen," a horror or an extreme repugnance or disgust. But more than that I suggest -- a crime is an act, which while it might be injurious to a particular person (though not necessarily2), is injurious to the body politic.3 As a practical matter, though while there are presumably constitutional limits, a crime is any act which the legislative assembly has defined as being a crime.4 Further, as a practical distinction, a person who has allegedly committed a crime is pursued and prosecuted by the state. A crime is to be compared to an act injurious to another person and which has not been defined as a crime; such as, breaching a legal contract or acting carelessly, though unintentionally, so as to cause damages to another (negligence); in which case the offending person may be pursued in a court of law at the discretion of the injured party, that is to say, a civil suit versus a criminal prosecution.

It is to be remembered that under our system of government, each of us has surrendered up to the state our natural right to revenge ourselves or our families for wrongs done. Punishment, because of our "social contract," might only be meted out by the state and only then after a formal proceeding conducted with due regard to constitutional safeguards. We have become especially sensitive to the state and its processes in respect to punishing a citizen. This sensitivity is traceable back to the times of the Star Chamber.5 The fact of the matter is that the criminal law, in years past and yet today in parts of the world, has been used as an efficient engine for the purposes of political and religious prosecution. I quote Roscoe Pound:

"It is an inherent difficulty in the administration of punitive justice that criminal law has a much closer connection with politics than has the law of civil relations. There is no great danger of oppression through civil litigation. There is constant fear of oppression through the criminal law. Not only is one class suspicious of attempts by another to force its ideas upon the community under penalty of prosecution, but the power of a majority to visit with punishment practices which a strong minority consider in no way objectionable is liable to abuse and, whether rightly or wrongly used, puts a strain upon criminal law and administration."6

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Peter Landry

2011 (2019)