Super-Prison Coming

It looks like the government is going to close a bunch of smaller, obsolete prisons and build a super-prison.  This is going to take a lot of money and a lot of time.

In the Old Testament, when God established a penal system, there was no incarceration.

In a God-ordained penal system, property crimes were punished with either two-fold or four-fold restitution, far more beneficial to the victim and reducing re-offending.  Thieves weren’t locked behind bars where they could learn worse criminal attitudes and techniques from other criminals with more “expertise.”

A super prison is horrible for those who commit property crimes, often turning them into worse criminals.  If we dealt with property crime strictly, from a person’s very first offence, and broke the cycle early with significant consequences, we’d need fewer prisons, not more.  In the Bible, no one asked if it was a first offence and said they’d let you off lightly this time since you’d never done it before.  Depending on the crime, it was either two-fold or four-fold restitution for first-time offenders, too.

God’s penal system didn’t put fathers in prison for property crimes, leaving a mother to try to find some way to keep the kids from evil influences, influences that so often push the kids into crime, too.

Of course, there are serious crimes for which two-fold or four-fold restitution can’t be made, and for those crimes, God established retribution.  If you put out someone’s eye, your eye would be put out.  Tough?  Yes, but it’s pretty tough for the victim whose eye was put out, too, isn’t it?  And harsh punishment IS a deterrent.  You’d only have to see one person lose his eye judicially before you would determine not to go around hitting people in the face.  No one wants to see that kind of retributive justice — but is what we’re doing better?

Isn’t the need to build a super prison an admission of
a failed justice system

Beyond retribution, there are extreme cases, cases where even retribution is impossible, like the man convicted in Lancaster in November.  Surely THAT kind of offender needs to be behind bars, right?

When a man rapes a four-year-old, we should not spend money for a prison to house him.  We should not have to pay to protect him from other inmates.

He should not need his sentence reviewed by “experts” five years from now, and we should not have to pay “experts” to determine if such a man should be free in a few years.  We should not pay to give him a new identity when he is turned loose, so the public doesn’t kill him. We should not pay benefits to house and feed him (people are often on the dole after prison because they are unable or unwilling to gain and hold a job).

We should not have to pay for police to “monitor” him once he is out.  We should not have to hope they catch him before the act, if he decides to “re-offend” (destroy another child’s life).

His victim and her family should not face the rest of her life wondering when he will be free, wondering if she might someday come face to face with him in a shop or on the street, or if she might hear in the news that he’s attacked another child.

We torture victims by our cowardice
in failing to carry justice through fully.

We’re too sophisticated for the death penalty in this country, so we lock people away like animals for a few years, instead, and then let them out — and spend millions “monitoring” them.  We say instead that we believe in rehabilitation rather than punishment.

You don’t have to monitor someone who is rehabilitated.
No one believes in prison rehabilitation,
or they wouldn’t monitor released offenders.

Did God know what he was talking about when He instituted the death penalty?  If Roy Whiting received the death penalty after his first horrible crime, Sarah Payne would not have suffered his perversions, and died.  If Thomas Smith was not freed (and then “monitored”) after sexually assaulting a ten-year-old girl, Diane and Holly Fallon would be alive today.  If Stuart Leggate was punished for his three previous convictions for child sex offences, nine years later Mark Cummings might be learning to drive.

You can never give back what you take when you sexually assault anyone, child or adult.  There’s no restitution, no retribution which suffices.  Murder, rape, child molestation, these are the kinds of crimes for which God said there should be capital punishment.

We should never have to hear another police superintendent say, as was said after Leggate’s conviction for his vile torture and killing of eight-year-old Mark:

Fundamentally, we cannot watch these people 24 hours-a-day and I think the circumstances showed that basically it was an opportunity exploited within a very few minutes.

That’s the difficulty – whilst there are sex offenders in the community there will always be that element of risk.

We’ve chosen that “element of risk” for women and children.  We don’t have to have it — we’ve chosen it.

We’re wasting a lot of money, building a super prison and claiming to monitor offenders.  We pay higher insurance premiums than if we had a real system for dealing with property crime.  But that’s just money — the real cost of a failed justice system is in lives:

  • Dead and abused children.
  • Older people living in fear as virtual prisoners in their own homes.
  • Grieving and scarred families.
  • Hardened criminals spinning towards destruction.

We could learn from the Bible.  Or we can keep on as we are, build a super prison, and call it compassionate.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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9 Responses to Super-Prison Coming

  1. Well said, Brother Gleason.

    Certainly, I am aware of the Biblical penalties for these crimes as instituted by the Lord our God in the Law of Moses for the nation of Israel. However, I had not considered some of the depth in the consequential points that you have presented above.

    Thank you for thinking and for sharing.

    Pastor Scott Markle

  2. Forest Pager says:

    Agree 100% – and so much more so in the States

  3. Jon Gleason says:

    Thank you, gentlemen. Of all the societal ills around us, the failure of the justice system perhaps grieves me most. Things like alcohol and drug abuse and immorality are sinful personal decisions. They do have grievous consequences, at times, for other people, but usually the greatest consequences fall on the evildoer.

    But this is governmental malpractice driven by sinful attitudes, and it is wreaking terrible havoc in the lives of future and past victims, who often have no part in the wrongdoing. And we are failing the perpetrators as well. Some could, perhaps, be turned from their evil ways if dealt with according to Biblical principles.

  4. ukfred says:

    If ever the cliche, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions needed to be illustrated, this post would be a fine candidate for the illustration.

  5. Your argument is poor because you use hard cases; child rapists, muderers and whatnot. Super prisons will house a greatly disproportionate number of men whose evil or otherwise you will be less inclined to judge.

    I hate the idea of incarceration as much as anyone. Especially because the mass of men so incarcerated are not so indisputably evil as to deserve it.

    The “”element of risk” for women and children” argument is too easy to use and misplaced here.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Thank you for the comment. I don’t know you, but it appears you’ve given this some thought. I agree that “super prisons will house a greatly disproportionate number” of people who are not the worst offenders. Those people shouldn’t be in prison at all.

      1. Property crimes — two-fold restitution. Better than incarceration, for victims, for offenders, reduces victims’ sense of injustice (since it is double restitution), conveys directly that crime doesn’t pay. Would quickly reduce re-offending.

      2. Crimes of violence — equal retribution. Better than incarceration, for many of the same reasons that restitution is better for property crimes.

      Apply those two, and prisons would be virtually empty, and victims / society would not be worse for it. Actually, in most cases perpetrators would also be better off.

      3. “Hard cases” where equal retribution is impossible (sexual assaults, murder, etc). That’s what is left. These have to be addressed, I’m not sure why you think I shouldn’t have. I know “hard cases make bad law.” But that’s what we have — hard cases have given us prisons (and then we throw non-hard cases in, too). So we now build a super prison, because hard cases have made bad law. If we dealt with hard cases the way hard cases should be dealt with, we’d have fewer hard cases.

      Some people argue capital punishment is not a deterrent. If Peter Tobin received the death penalty for knifepoint rape of two teenagers, Angela Kluk would be alive. At least one rape-murder would have been deterred. I’ve cited others above.

      There are more than 300 registered sex offenders in the community in Fife. There are only 1000 police officers. Are they really monitoring them? There is nothing stopping most from re-offending, if they choose to do so. Everyone knows that. “Element of risk” belongs in this discussion. The whole point of a justice system is to protect the innocent. If one approach includes risks to the innocent while another removes known sources of risk, of course risk should be part of the discussion.

      The guilt of Angela Kluk’s death is shared by a society that let a known violent rapist out. We put her and other women and girls at risk. You can’t say that it is misplaced to address it.

      What we’re doing isn’t working, and building another prison won’t change that.

  6. No. I respect your reply to what I said but I do not buy it. I think the catch-all title “sex offender” is a key to what is going wrong. Conflating all sex offences with hard risk individuals is what the media loves and I would like to think better of a Christian blog and caring for people.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer made a similar point to yours in his letters from prison about the Old Testament never depriving anyone of his freedom. I think it is significant that in his analysis (which was only a paragraph) he didn’t deal with the sex offender case because I think the sex offender hysteria is a phenomenon of our times.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Fair enough. I said “sexual assaults, murder” — but then used the term “sex offenders,” and not everything under that label is sexual assault. You raise a solid point there.

      I’ll stand by what I said on sexual assault. The criminal takes something that can’t be restored, there’s no restitution. The damage is permanent, often devastating for the rest of the victim’s life, even in “less serious” cases. Some victims never marry. Their ability to be intimate in marriage may be marred. No one knows how deep the damage is or will be later, no one knows how many flashbacks there will be or their effect. Some commit suicide. Some become anorexic, or turn to drugs. Nobody (including society) owes the person who does this kind of damage anything except a fair trial.

      Sex offender hysteria IS a major problem in society. I agree. It is partly media-driven — it sells. But there’s also the real problem that government has lost the public because people don’t believe in the justice system. Hysteria comes when people see that the institution that is supposed to keep them safe isn’t doing it. Peter Tobin, Stuart Leggate, the fact that these men were free to do what they did, and the hysteria that ensued, is not on the media or on bloggers, but on the justice system.

      Note: under the Old Testament Law, a capital offense required 2-3 witnesses, the witnesses had to cast the first stone, and perjury in a capital case was itself a capital offense. There were some significant safeguards against false convictions..No one wants to see the wrong person convicted. I’m all for very, very rigourous safeguards on that point.

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