Crime and Punishment

by Frank Roger


Take 1

“Initially we welcomed the privatisation of the Justice Department, as most people did,” said Alexander Mitrovic, spokesman of recently formed lobbyists Lawyers for Justice, yesterday in a TV interview. “We all realised that our legal system was working too sluggishly and inefficiently, and we took it for granted that its privatisation would mend those problems. Now of course the whole system is coming in for more and more criticism, and we hope we can still get justice back on the right track before it is too late.”

Scathing remarks that Lawyers for Justice was mainly composed of unemployed judges and lawyers who desperately want their jobs back more than anything else, were quickly discarded by Mitrovic.

“A lot more is at stake here than our jobs,” he stated firmly. “Without a normally functioning legal system, the very foundations of our society are shaken. This is not about us trying to find work; this is about re-establishing law and order. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the profit-driven nature of private corporations is not compatible with the concept of justice as we know it.“

The major media corporations, who took over the justice department and “restyled” it so it would suit their investment policies, categorically defended their decisions. In a recent interview with Newsweek, NBC President Nathan Barbieri declared:

“We didn’t abolish our legal system. We modernised it, made it more efficient, quicker and especially more democratic. I fail to see the point of Mr. Mitrovic and his followers — besides their obvious regrets about their aborted careers. So trials are no longer held in courts but on live TV, and judgements are no longer the responsibility of judges and lawyers, but are based on phone-in votes cast by the public in massive numbers, after due presentation of each criminal case. I would say we did a good job we can rightly be proud of. We proved that law and order can be a profitable business.

“It is a fact that the decision to privatise the justice department had been reached as the legal system had become unwieldy, inefficient, and unable to cope with rising crime rates and the criminal gangs’ use of new technologies and their rapidly growing power. Critics noted, however, that the Mafia and similar shady organisations have started “hiring” the services of TV viewers to vote for acquittal in “their” cases, thus influencing the final judgement.

“We know that trial programmes are extremely popular and that consequently advertising rates are very high,” Mitrovic continued. “As a matter of fact, that is part of the problem. And the solution is deprivatisation: give justice back to the judges and lawyers. To hell with the ratings, the income from commercials, the profits of the telephone companies and all the rest. What we need is justice.”

And he concluded with: “Crime shouldn’t pay,” echoing a well-known NBC TV jingle, “Crime pays... and it pays us.”

Take 2

There has been a wave of protest against the new anti-theft technology put on the market a few weeks ago. Initially the remote control unit that allowed the owner of a stolen cell phone, laptop computer or other piece of high-tech equipment to have the lost item blow up in the hands of the offender, had been a runaway success and sold in vast numbers. It was generally believed that it would cause the crime rate to drop significantly.

However, civil rights activists claimed that this practice led citizens to take the law into their own hands and pass judgements that were utterly barbaric and unworthy of a civilised society.

Posters were widely distributed in most great cities, showing a young boy with amputated arms and the words Did he deserve this fate? Soon many of the posters were adorned with stickers adding the words If he hadn’t stolen, this wouldn’t have been his fate.

Various consumer groups countered that the police and the entire legal system were growing increasingly powerless against gangs of criminals and thieves, who knew very well how to stay out of courts and prisons. Consequently, it was only logical that law-abiding citizens chose to defend themselves and deal with the crime problem as they saw fit, as no one else seemed willing or able to.

Still all parties had to admit that too many unfortunate accidents occurred, in which items were blown up while they were in the hands of innocent people, or where equally innocent bystanders were hurt as a device exploded while they were near.

In two reported cases young criminals surreptitiously stole the anti-theft remote control rather than the phone or computer, and had that item blow up in the hands of the unsuspecting owner.

Giuseppe Coulson, a representative of BlowJob, the biggest of the anti-theft technology producers, explained: “We only wanted to deter criminals from resorting to violence and theft. Although our products appear to have the desired effect, unfortunately there are serious drawbacks. There have been accidents and ethical questions to the extent that we decided to discontinue offering our current line of anti-theft products.

“When all the problems will have been sorted out, we may offer a new line of adapted and improved products. Until then, I’m afraid that thieves and robbers can keep taking what’s not theirs, unhindered by the police, who just can’t cope with the size of the problem, and not held back by ethical questions for which they appear to have limited interest.”

An anonymous businessman from Philadelphia, who has already lost two laptops and six cell phones in a few months, said in a TV interview: “I’m appalled that the system seems to be protecting the rights of the criminals only. What about the rest of us? Should we simply watch as our property, paid with hard-earned money, is being carried off by happily smiling thieves? What’s so ethical about that?”

The government promised to deal with this matter as soon as possible. “We’re confident,” an official spokesman declared, “that an anti-theft technology will be developed that is compatible with all legal and ethical requirements.”

In the meantime, the quickly rising crime rate seems to indicate that the thieves are confidently doing their “business as usual”.

Take 3

A well prepared and flawlessly executed act of sabotage resulted in major problems at Sao Paulo’s infamous “Cryogenic Prisons” where over six thousand inmates were thawed out. They started wreaking havoc in their cryocells. It clearly demonstrates the fact that the supposedly highly efficient “new concept of prison organisation” is not quite the miracle solution it was cracked up to be.

The Brazilian Minister of Justice, Pedro Ribeiro da Silva, firmly defended the government’s policy on crime prevention, however. At a recent press conference he declared:

“Our Cryogenic Prisons may not be perfect, but I still believe they’re the best and most efficient way to keep criminals from harming law-abiding citizens and society in general. They’re stored in cryogenic chambers for the duration of their sentence, which is safer and cheaper than the old method.

‘Frozen prisoners cannot start riots, escape, misbehave or cause any kind of problem. They serve their sentence at a minimal cost, considering the number of criminals detained and the price of the old system, and are thawed and released afterwards.

“Our prisons can now take a lot more occupants than before; for obvious reasons more people can be fit into cryogenic cells than in traditional ones. As our crime rate is still rising, I think this is a crucial factor.”

The criticism that a certain percentage of cryogenically preserved prisoners fail to survive the thawing process, or at best suffer serious injuries upon their release, was discarded by the Minister:

“Yes, I admit we lose a number of people in the thawing process, but you seem to forget that in the old days many more prisoners were killed or maimed in all sorts of violent actions. As I said, the new system isn’t perfect, but it’s still superior to the traditional prison system.”

When asked how the authorities intended to control the current crisis, Ribeiro da Silva replied:

“The prematurely thawed prisoners will be returned to their cryogenic chambers until they’ve served their entire sentence. And the saboteurs will be found and brought before the court. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day soon they find themselves in the same cold storage facilities they have now managed to disrupt.”

The Minister chose not to comment on the often voiced criticism that by freezing criminals they were granted a sort of immortality, and would develop into a new social caste, working at their “careers” in between periods of cryogenic detention, and released into a society where their contemporaries were old people and in which they would be increasingly isolated from their roots.

As Jorge Tavares, a spokesman of a communist movement said: “This new generation of criminals will never be able to adapt to a society whose evolution they missed for one or more stretches of time. They will stick together, as other criminals will be the only people left from ‘their world’, and continue their activities every time they’re thawed.

“Maybe they’ll be the only ones privileged to witness a long period of human society’s history. Do they really deserve this? Shouldn’t the government think of these ethical questions before resorting to “efficient and cheap” solutions to admittedly grave problems? Will they ever realise this is not about the “efficient storage” of criminals, allowing reduced expenses for security and other key items, but about human beings who will one day have to take up their lives in our society?”


Copyright © 2007 by Frank Roger

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