Crime and punishment are two issues man, as a society, has always had to deal with, and each society has its way of dealing with it. Societies that can afford it, throw money that the problem by hiring more cops and judges, buying squad cars, radios and weapons. Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, did a good job at bringing down the crime rate in that city by spending lots of money.
Costa Rica talks the language of a civilized nation, mentions non-violence communication as the way to conduct human relations, blames the society for producing criminals, the “pobrecitos” of the criminal world for its lack of social fairness, and economic opportunities, but acts ineffectively in solving the crime problem, thwarted, in part, by a lack of money and imagination, having a justice system, where swift and fair justice is a joke, corrupt judges and cops are constantly revealed, and a legislature incapable of passing laws that contain a high degree of common sense.
An example of that is the new “caught red-handed “ court, where in some cases within 24 hours the criminal is caught, judged, sentenced and led off to jail. Hallelujah! One less criminal on the street, but…that creates another problem: overcrowded jails. No one thought about the effects of a speedy trial, meaning no decent place to put the recently convicted, so now the country is faced with human rights violations of prisoners. Build more prisons you reply. Can’t do that; there is no money, not even to build sorely needed classrooms in public schools.
Giving the prison system out in concession to a foreign company, where no major investment by the country is required, would mean it is no longer run by Ticos. If you don’t think that is not a factor, think about the opposition to Riteve, the Spanish company, which has made vehicles in the country safer and cleaner running, the new toll road to the Pacific coast, given in concession, also to a Spanish company, which has cut off more than an hour from the trip on the old road, and, heaven forbid, the port of Limón, the most expensive port in all the Caribbean being given in concession to a foreign company to get the shipping costs down in benefit of the whole country.
Furthermore, where to build a modern prison is another problem: no one wants buildings in their neighborhood that houses criminals, violent and otherwise, so the people protest and carry placards –“Not in our town.” The government, always afraid of public protests, backs down on its plans to build the prison in______ (you fill in the blank), and back to Square One on finding a location.
In spite of the lack of common sense or political will shown by the government, the country can not give up in its efforts to lower the crime rate — we owe it to ourselves, if nothing else — so I offer a cheap and effective means to lower the crime rate, while Costa Rica gets its act together on the way to becoming a civilized country that can adequately deal with crime, and mete out appropriate punishment.
It begins with a simple premise. It is known with absolute clarity that when the odds are in favor of you getting caught, being prosecuted and punished for a crime you are thinking about committing, that you are less likely to commit that crime. It is called a deterrent, and to some degree the “caught red-handed” court acts as a deterrent, where it operates, which is not in all of the country, thus a lower crime rate for petty offenses in those towns where it does. Secondly, get the media to join in a campaign against corrupt cops and judges by investigating cases and publishing names and photos of these corrupt ones. The media is ultimately the value setter for the people. The Church says it is, but that is no longer the case today.
Demand of the legislature, legislation that make sense, publishing names of diputados that vote in favor of stupid or ill-conceived laws or blocking of good laws. Anonymity is the best friend idiot and corrupt officials have. The media has to let the public know who these people are.
Finally, I would propose the use of corporal punishment; it is cheap and effective. Public flogging or caning would do wonders for reducing petty crimes. Cutting off a finger or a hand for repeat offenders would certainly reduce recidivism. After the punishment, there is no need to feed or to house these criminals; the debt to society is paid…think of the money saved.
Muslim countries apply corporal punishment, and the crime rate is very low in these countries. I can hear your reaction to this kind of punishment: the Muslims use it because they are barbaric, inhumane, and with no notion of human rights, especially for women, and we in Costa Rica are a civilized people; we do things differently. Yes to all of the above, but that is not reducing the crime rate in Costa Rica. In fact the violent crime rate is going up, so does not that suggest doing something different than what has been done? I think it does. Why not corporal punishment?
Robert Nahrgang S.