Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Punishment & Crime

Should the Punishment Sometimes Outweigh the Crime?

There are crimes for which the punishment seems to be unusually severe. Or at least I think the punishment should seem overly severe to many people. The example I am going to give is that of pulling a false fire alarm in an apartment building. It sounds like it could be a harmless enough prank - a nuisance, something that might disturb people's dinner or TV watching - or perhaps which might wake them from a peaceful night's sleep or other nightly pursuit.

So if caught you think perhaps they shouldn't get too severe a sentence or punishment - enough to make them think twice about doing it again for sure, but not something that would put them out a great deal financially or put them behind bars. But consider this - how easy is it to catch such a prankster and what is the true danger they are causing to society? It is not easy to catch one of these false alarm pullers because unless you actually are there to see them pull the alarm it is hard to prove they did it. They won't pull it if they think there is a chance of getting caught for one thing, and even then, they could claim to have smelled smoke.

Of course then there is the endangerment. I am not talking about the chance of a person tripping or falling in the staircase - for you aren't supposed to use the elevators in a fire - nor the danger of vacant suites being burgled, though there is that danger - but with each successive false alarm fewer and fewer people will take the alarm seriously. Each time the fire department has to muster out to the apartment there could be some legitimate fire that they could be delayed in getting to.

How does one put a value on that sort of endangerment?

So I feel that even though a severe punishment might seem out of proportion to the prank of pulling a fire alarm in a false alarm, it must serve as a deterrent to others. It must also be widely known that there is risk of such a penalty and not a slap on the wrist because it is hard to catch the prankster.

True it would be harsh on the person caught. But if they know in advance of the price they might have to pay, then is it so harsh? What if someone dies in a fire because they ignored an alarm until the smoke detectors started screaming as well.

I think there are other crimes like this. But shouldn't such crimes be known and the punishements be known? Right now, they are starting to try to make drinking and driving known as such - dangerous driving and racing as well - but I think that many seem to be getting their wrists slapped and so people are not treating these crimes as seriously as perhaps they should.

~ Darrell

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