'Increasing prison sentences not the answer to crime troubles'

Public defender claims charges bill calling for an automatic sentence of 12 years for anyone who commits a violent crime three times within 15 years was motivated by "populism."

yohanan plessner 88 (photo credit: )
yohanan plessner 88
(photo credit: )
Public defender Inbal Rubinstein on Wednesday charged that a bill calling for an automatic sentence of 12 years for anyone who commits a violent crime three times within 15 years was motivated by "populism" and that it was "immoral, unhelpful and harmful." Because of the rash of murders over the past two weeks, the media have focused attention on a bill tabled by Yohanan Plessner (Kadima) in December 2007 calling for the introduction of the "three strikes and you're out" legislation which applies in some states in the US. Plessner's bill applies not only to murder and manslaughter crimes but also sexual crimes, robberies, break-ins, car thefts and trespassing involving violence. According to the bill, "if a person is convicted of a violent crime, his sentence will not be less than 12 years in prison if he or she has already been convicted of two violent crimes in the 15 years prior to the current one." According to Rubinstein, who was interviewed on Israel Radio, "the bill is populist because it is meant to satisfy the feelings of revenge which apparently many law-abiding citizens feel these days. As if it were a magical remedy for the problem." In general, she added, the calls for stiffening punishments constituted a "political ticket" and were not sincere and genuine attempts to cope with the problem." She added that the bill was immoral because it treated human beings as objects. The bill did not seek proportional punishment but wanted to exploit the criminal, she said. Rubinstein added that the law, and other laws seeking to stiffen punishments did not lower crime rates. The "three strikes and you're out laws" are recognized as "utter failures," she said. "Comparisons between states that apply that law in the US and those that do not show that crime rates have not dropped in the states that have such laws. On the contrary, there has been a sharp drop in crime in those that do not have them," she said. Rubinstein added that putting more criminals in jail is harmful to society. For one thing, it costs NIS 100,000 to keep each prisoner in jail for one year. "If we used this money to hire more policemen, we could increase their numbers ten-fold," she continued. The money could also be invested in education, welfare and housing, all of which could help diminish crimes, she continued. She also said that when a young man goes to prison, the chances are 70 percent-80 percent that he will come out a hardened criminal. Research shows that if the same young man is given treatment, however, there is a 70% chance that he will not return to crime. Rubinstein called for putting policemen on the streets to prevent crimes from happening in the first place. "This is of critical importance," she said. Furthermore, the police must improve their criminal investigation system so that they can bring the real criminals to trial. These two factors would provide a true deterrent to crime, she said.