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December 22, 2019 / Congau

Humane Expulsion

Punishment is inhumane. How awful it is to lock up a person for years and take away chunks of his life no matter what he has done. Society may not have a choice but to punish in this way since other forms of penalty, like corporal maltreatment, seem even more terrible, but we shouldn’t think for a moment that there could be any real justice in a prison sentence.

A better form of punishment would be one that had a deterring effect without being cruel itself. Demanding a fine works in this way, but it’s only effective for relatively small crimes.

Sometimes there are other possibilities, though. When the delinquent is a foreigner it’s possible to expel him from the country. That is often an undesirable proceeding, but it can hardly be called cruel. After all, how terrible can it be to return to one’s native country?

Still, some legal experts reject this measure since it violates the principle of equal punishment for equal crimes. Only foreigners can be punished in this way, while native criminals presumably get an unfair advantage.

Although this is obviously correct, the objection betrays a common but essentially flawed conception of crime, punishment and justice. It is thought that the transgressor is given what is deserved when punished, or at least that sanctions should be distributed equally according to what has been earned. One often ignores that the object of a penal system is to prevent crime.

Instead of regretting that one type of punishment is not available to everyone, one should be content that effective and non-cruel sanctions sometimes exist. If the threat of expulsion is an effective crime prevention, it should be used, especially since it is one of few penal methods that are not inhumane. Justice is not to treat everyone equally bad.

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