On a different tack, I find the notion that non-violent crimes are a priori lesser than violent crimes and the people who perpetrate them are somehow 'nicer' and less deserving of punishment somewhat troubling.
Why is someone who pulls a knife on someone and demands the content of their wallet more 'evil' than someone who systematically scams people out of their life savings? Is a corrupt public official who enriches himself at the expense of the tax payers he's supposed be serving less deserving of punishment than someone who robs a bank?
I would be good with getting rid of prisons entirely. If someone is violent and dangerous then they're probably insane and should be treated, not "punished".
As far as your example, I find it bizarre that you find a person threatening to kill you with a weapon in your face is on the same level as someone who empties your bank account behind the scenes. The latter is more financially devastating but the first is more terrifying to be on the receiving end of and could result in you dying or being crippled.
Further, I didn't really have in mind some guy doing a hold up. I was thinking more about murders and people who will do violence to others if not contained.
And finally, it's not about "evil" and it's not about what someone "deserves". Throwing someone in prison doesn't fix anything. It doesn't make them stop committing crimes, in fact it usually means they'll commit more when they get out. It might make some people feel better about themselves to know that someone is suffering, but I would question the mental health of that point of view as well.
I find it bizarre that you find a person threatening to kill you with a weapon in your face is on the same level as someone who empties your bank account behind the scenes.
I don't. I consider the person who scams someone out of their kid's college fund far far worse than someone who just steals their wallet. I might accept that a mugger is worse than a pickpocket, but just because a crime is non-violent doesn't automatically make it lesser than any violent crime.
Throwing someone in prison doesn't fix anything. It doesn't make them stop committing crimes
That is far too a simplistic statement. It depends very much on the crime in question, and the life situation of the person in question. For unemployed drug addicts mugging people on the street what you say is true. For successfully employed people people committing white collar crime, there is evidence that prison does in fact make them stop committing crimes. Now I'm not necessarily arguing that prison is the best solution, or even a good solution, but any argument against prison in the case of white collar crime, cannot simply rest on "doesn't fix anything" as the evidence simply does not back that up.
Also 'prison' doesn't really mean anything, there is a huge difference between prison in North Korea, America and Sweden for example, and even within those countries there are large differences. Trying to hold a discussion without making clear what prison system we're talking about is futile.
> So what should the punishment be for non-violent offenses?
Is it not the goal of prisons to rehabilitate law-breakers? It seems to me that the expectation of punishment for law-breakers comes from those members of the non-law-breaking population whom are stuck in the lower levels of Kohlberg's stages of moral development; a.k.a., the children in business attire.
There are many options. Charge them money (and ensure you can force them to pay it back, e.g. wage garnishing), public service was suggested, etc. Looking them away from their life seems incredibly excessive.
I’m totally in favor of mild punishments and I do think that imprisonment is barbaric and should be avoided if at all possible, but money as a punishment, for example, is not without problems.
It basically gets rich people of the hook. If there is a flat rate to pay, that’s the case anyway, but even if the punishment is a percentage of someone’s income, this disproportionally hits poor people. Poor people need all their money to survive – pay rent, pay heating, pay food – there is nothing extra, no money to save. Once you are making several dozen times that money, a monetary punishment hits you disproportionally milder.
It’s funny that you seem to be worried about the poor for which this type of punishment is probably absolutely devastating and not very likely to have any positive results at all. The poor are a problem, not because they might not pay, but because the punishment might be excessive and not lead to a positive outcome for them (i.e. it doesn’t prevent repeat offenses).
Preventing repeat offenses and being a deterrent seem like the only two legitimate justifications for punishment to me, and I’m not sure whether money can do that.
It depends on what we're talking about. If a person stole money then they should have to pay that back with reasonable interest. So that wouldn't be tied to how much money the person has, they're basically giving back what they took.
If it is some other crime that can't be handled by simply giving the money back you could just scale up the costs, for example. E.g. if you make $1m/yr, then the penalty is 90% of your earnings. If you make $10m/yr, it's 99%.
Just brainstorming. I don't know what the proper solution is, but looking people in a cage seems crazy to me.
If a person stole money then they should have to pay that back with reasonable interest.
What if I attempt to steal money, but fail? Do I get to walk away unpunished?
they're basically giving back what they took.
What incentive is there then to not try to steal? Best case scenario I retire on a tropical island with tens of millions in the bank. Worst case scenario I end up more or less where I started and can just try again next week.
if you make $1m/yr, then the penalty is 90% of your earnings. If you make $10m/yr, it's 99%.
What if I make $50k/yr according to the IRS, but have millions stashed away in hidden bank accounts? Do I simply pay $5000-10000 and move on to my next crime? You're basically describing a system where there is essentially no downside to white-collar crime unless you are monumentally stupid.
I cannot speak specifically for Sweden but there are definitely different kinds of prison in other European countries and within the legal system it is sort-of common knowledge which ones are for white-collar crime and which ones are for the really tough guys - and prisoners get sent to the "right place" accordingly.
Are you asking me or is this supposed to be an answer? Because TPB did certainly not DOWNLOAD "copyrighted material illegally?" and they never UPloaded it either and for many, many years they were defacto untouchable under Swedish law and were publicly ridiculing legal threats made against them because of that.
So my question was a lot more detailed and valid than you probably assumed and either way please refrain from statement-questions as these are just plain rude.