Current penalties for violent crimes are too lenient. In the case of any violent crime committed that could have been met with deadly force during its commission, victims of these crimes ought to have the option of applying that deadly force to the guilty defendant as an option after trial. In other words, for the crimes of rape, home invasion, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and car-jacking, to name a few, after a trial in which the defendant is found guilty, the victims should have the lone decision-making authority to impose the penalty of death. In states where the death penalty is unavailable, then life without parole would be an option, exclusively decided upon by the victim.
A large part of the problem in our current system of incarceration is the fact that the conditions under which inmates serve their sentences are not uncomfortable enough to serve as a deterrent. Additionally, any actions aimed at rehabilitation, mental health help and education are either non-existent in some cases, or poorly managed in others.
When a criminal is facing the prospect of going to prison, that ought to invoke in him fear and terror sufficient to be of nightmare proportions. For starters, no gyms, no weight-training, no television. Meals are designed to be minimally sufficient to maintain basic levels of health and nourishment, no more. Every inmate begins their sentence assuming the most intense depravations and the minimal existence. Working opportunities, good behavior, availing ones self to mental health counseling, education, self-improvement, skill-set-development, all of these opportunities come to inmates only after they demonstrate humility, contrition and compliance. Until this happens, those non-compliant inmates receive the barest of minimums and enjoy only human rights and not civil ones. It is the greatest of insults that prisons cost taxpayers anything. Prisoner work needs to pay for prisons not the law abiding.
As long as criminals are not deterred from a stint in prison because doing the time is not as miserable as it could be, there is no incentive to stay out. Once prison is known to be a nightmare experience, this alone will act as a deterrent. For those caught up in the system, we either keep them locked up if they refuse to comply and improve, and we take those who do cooperate and actually make inroads in rehabilitation as they earn-back those things free people take for granted.
Criminals may make stupid mistakes and take stupid chances, but they do not lack of the instinct for self-preservation. When today a car-jacking or a home invasion criminal gets released without bail, what message are we sending? If those same criminals understand that if they get caught, their victims could take their lives or send them to prison for the rest of their lives, you can bet that criminal decision-making will change.
Some years ago a national campaign against crime used the then-popular catch-phrase, “Take a Bit Outta Crime. How about we start taking a bite out of the criminals?