Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 10. August 6, 1958
Crime and US
Crime and US
—In your last issue Mr. Hendrikse wrote what he claimed was a reply to my article "Crime and You." Mr. Hendrikse apparently did not read my article since he claimed that I said that there were (sic) "three reasons why people committed crimes." I did not say this at all, and in fact said the opposite. Since this little fact destroys all of Mr. Hendrikse's arguments ipso facto, I suggest that Mr. Hendrikse sit down and actually read what I wrote. It might do him some good.
—Having read with interest the article which appeared in your issue of May 28th entitled "Crime and You", I am prompted to put forward a few thoughts of my own on this very topical topic. Let it be understood at the outset that I am not attempting to deal with the "whys and wherefores" of crime: the broken homes, the twisted egos or any of the other factors so often put forward by expert sociologist and inexpert politician.
The theme of the above-mentioned article, with which I wholeheartedly concur, is that the work of the Law is to protect the community from crime. If its methods tend to reform the individual criminal, then so much the better, but reform of an individual is incidental only to its function of protecting the community as a whole. In one particularly intriguing phrase, "P.D." stated that "Law is not based upon morality but upon expediency". This generalisation is so sweeping that one cannot really quarrel with it. Even assuming it to be a true statement of the position, we find that the gap between Law and Morality is seldom noticeable and in saying that "this policy is horrible and morally indefensible" the writer is going much too far.
Like many other writers on this subject, "D.P." touches on, and then quickly passes over the deterrent effect of punishment. It is an acknowledged fact that many of the penalties prescribed by our modern statutes have little, if any, deterrent effect upon the offender. This may or may not be due to the prevailing trend toward reformation rather than prevention. Be that as it may, there is one particular class of offender and one special type of offence that I feel could be substantially reduced by a punishment designed solely to deter. The problem that I have in mind is that of juvenile delinquency. Our newspapers have been inundated by somewhat frenzied appeals to "kill the punks", as D.P. picturesquely described it. But this is only typical of the wrong approach to any deterrent. The true approach should surely aim at making the young tough, the bodgie or the vandal an utter fool and a laughing-stock—not of "society", whatever that may mean, but of his friends and among those of a similar disposition. This theory is not so new or revolutionary that it needs much thought—it merely states the obvious—but how seldom do we hear it advocated today. And the very method by which it was once put into execution, as a cure for the medieval vandal and mischief-maker, has become a symbol of antiquity. I refer, of course, to the old English institution of stocks. Pillories will serve our purpose equally well.
I pause for laughter.
Then stop and think about the proposition for a few minutest A small cluster of stoutly-constructed pillories, in beech or varnished totara, might not be so aesthetically unpleasing when set up in a neat semi-circle at the grassy end of the Town Hall. But there would be plenty of other suitable places. And after eight hours of crouching, exposed to the public view, in as ridiculous a posture as any criminologist or psychologist could wish, no seat-slasher or bag-snatcher would dare risk a further dose of civic ridicule. That much I confidentially wager. His prestige in the eyes of his friends would be permanently shattered, whereas ten strokes of the "cat" might well make him a minor hero in the gang for some months to follow. The physical scars of corporal punishment are medal ribbons but the lash of ridicule will leave a mark that is much harder to eradicate.
Horace J. Harbin.