Which brings me to the second thing that makes no sense to me about the (U.S.) legal system: where's the restitution for victims? A punitive prison sentence making license plates doesn't seem to pay back the victim (or the victim's family) for the deed done.
Wage garnishment or some other form of indentured servitude would be a more effective way to not only redress grievances, but save money on the prison system overall.
Not meaning to pick on you, John. You just get me thinking about these things.
Oh, don't worry about it, I'm Canadian, we feel picked on all the time ;)
Back in school we studied the idea of progress - by the end of the class we were quite divided on the whole concept of it, has there actually been any in recorded human history and so on. I don't know. Are we making any progress as a society away from things like indentured servitude (which sounds so much nicer than slavery). Like most people the older I get the less certain I become of everything. Of course, reading Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish didn't help clear things up, though I still highly recommend it.
But I'm pretty sure that there is no restitution on earth for families and loved ones of murder victims. I even think it's a bad idea to try and find some. I also don't believe there is any closure. Keep in mind I am often wrong.
I have seen cases where people have come close to something like closure by getting to know and forgiving people who have caused them great trauma.
I do agree with Eric in his comment below. There is a reason we don't let 13 year olds drive, vote or drink alcohol. There is a gray area between when we know children are children and when they're adults and, of course, we used to believe in individualism and having each case treated on its own - back before mandatory sentences which treat every person as identical.
I do like to see these kinds of things explored in crime fiction, by the way.
I stand by my restitution as a better way to redress grievances, since it better serves the individual case than a one-size-fits-all. You're right, though, about restitution for murder victims. No, the victims' families can never be made full.
But what is putting a person in a cell accomplishing? The U.S. prison system isn't working. Criminals are still criminals when they get out. We've been locking away people for centuries, and the only real changes have been to implement mandatory sentences or increase them outright. Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing and expecting a different result?
Restitution recognizes the individual, and I like that. Individualism a theme in CLEANSING EDEN, my manuscript in full consideration by an agent. The protag has to develop a sense of autonomy in light of an intimidating authority figure, a drug addiction and a putrid culture he is obligated to destroy.
Not being America, I don't like to comment on what's wrong with America, but it's true, the US is putting more people in jail than any other industrialized country (but at about the same rate as many dictatorships).
I like your theme (it's only self-promotion if you're trying to sell me something and I hope that's the case next year when the manuscript sells and the book comes out. I'll give you a hard time about BSP then ;). America is going through a period of adjustment from a wide open space with abundant, easily-available resources to a larger population with scarcity issues which requred more management. It's pretty much exactly what Europe went through at the end of colonization a hundred years ago and they fought two huge wars and went to the extremes of communism and fascism.
Let's hope America can avoid all that as it goes from a frontier mentaility to a more "fenced in," society. Some people have said this is the basic shift from thinking like an individual to thinking like a community. It's not easy.
Good for you for exploring this stuff in a thriller.
Yes, John, I agree -- writers and artists in general have always led the way for open and positive discussion of these kinds of issues. And the artistic take on these things is fascinating especially in how it is often indicative of where society is headed.
Why five years? They were teens, in a place where that means something in the criminal justice system. Or has New Zealand gone the way of America since then? Nowadays, it's not unheard of to try an American kid as young as thirteen as an adult. (I think the politicians who rewrote our juvenile justice laws ought to be charged with some felony.)
Of course murderers of any age spend less time behind bars than people usually guess. I haven't seen the stats in a decade or more but as I recall the average time spent in the gray bar hotel for murderers in the US then was just about 11 years. It's usually only a lot longer if there is notoriety involved, e.g., Sirhan Sirhan, Mark David Chapman, etc.
Here in Canada we had a pair of particularly vile criminals awhile back -- so vile that you will seldom if ever find any Canadian who will write their names. Their names make me feel -- ew, icky -- so I won't say them, but all Canadians and many Americans will know the initials KH and PB.
Well, when KH cut her Sweetheart deal, you should have heard the public outcry!!! It was galling -- flew in the face of any public human decency. I'm not one to "gather the townsfolk and grab the torches", but even I was sickened at the short amount of time (12 years) that KH spent in prison.
On the other hand, if she was able to save even one child by cutting a deal and effectively putting PB away for his entire natural life (think Charles Manson, only more vile) then it was worth it.
We can never know all of the ins and outs that go on behind the scenes. I remember being a young woman and riding the bus in Scarborough just weeks before the "scarborough rapist" killed a cheerleader in a residential neighbourhood in someone's backyard. It was late at night, and a young blond man on the bus was staring at me -- he and I were alone on the bus. I was very uncomfortable -- those were disco days and I was dressed -- well -- like the young disco queen I was. Thank God the busdriver saw my discomfort. He stopped the bus and walked to the back where I was sitting. He whispered to me to stay on the bus, not to get off.
When we reached the end of the line, my creepy fellow passenger had still not gotten off. The bus driver put the boot to him, made him get off. Then he turned around and drove me safely home.
2 weeks later the cheerleader was killed not more than a few streets from where I was going. Some reports say the "scarborough rapist" may have actually been PB when he was working alone. No one knows for sure.
But I remain grateful to that busdriver to this day...
Are you kidding me?? I love the Monk series. Have a couple copies waiting to be read on my shelf right now. Wow. It's going to be very interesting to see if knowing this about the author changes the way I react to the books.