Do we rehabilitate criminals or just punish them?


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Do we rehabilitate criminals or just punish them? By Zan Azlee

So it seems that capital punishment has been a trending topic online the past few days and it is no surprise why – the executions of drug smugglers in Indonesia.

They were eight individuals from Australia, Brazil, Ghana, Nigeria and Indonesia. But the ones who got the most media attention were Australians, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

The two were convicted and sentenced to death in 2006 after being caught as ringleaders of a group of Australian smugglers known as the Bali Nine.

The fact of the matter, or at least what was reported, is that after a decade being in prison, the two convicts had shown remorse and turned a new leaf.

Apparently, Chan was ordained a minister in February while Sukumaran spent his time in prison teaching fellow inmates art and English. They were rehabilitated.

And that’s the problem I have with capital punishment. It leaves no room for the rehabilitation of those found guilty of crimes. Isn’t a life worth saving in any circumstances?

I believe that every human being makes mistakes, some bigger than others. And as human beings, we have a right to learn from our mistakes in order to be better.

Sure, we have laws and punishment for crimes, whether petty or serious. Nobody is saying that guilty criminals go unpunished. But putting someone to death for a crime is just wrong.

As society has developed and matured, we understand human behaviour much better and numerous studies have been made to show that criminals can be rehabilitated.

Sure, many people also have the opinion that when you have strict punishments like the death sentence, it could act as a deterrent to crime because people would be scared.

However, statistics in Malaysia and Indonesia (where there is capital punishment) shows that the number of people caught for the related offences have never really gone down.

Instead, Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway, where people are rehabilitated rather than punished, have some of the lowest crime rates in the world.

And come to think of it, what about the risk of mistakes happening in the judiciary process? Many a times, people have had their convictions overturned through new evidence and the such.

But once you have been killed, how do you overturn death? I doubt it would be sufficient to just declare a post-humous declaration of innocence. What’s the point, right?

Crime will happen because of many factors no matter what the legal consequences are. Criminals are willing to risk it because of much bigger environmental, psychological and societal factors.

And that is where we need to emphasise on and study, to look at closer at these factors that causes crime if we want to fight and eliminate it.

That is why I am also against punishments under hudud which involve dismemberments of limbs and what not. And yes, I am against stoning to death too.

It’s true what the saying goes – an eye for an eye would eventually leave the whole world blind. Or would limbless be more accurate?

[This article originally appeared on The Malaysian Insider]

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