A Christian friend, is fond of the phrase “name and shame”. It means holding people personally and publicly to account for their sins, crimes or bad behaviour in the hope they will change their ways.
The key point is that change is the desired outcome. Punishment is secondary.
Currently in NZ it is pretty hard to apply this principle to criminal offenders, because often we don’t even know who they are, or what they’ve done. The false notion that “once you’ve done your time, you’ve paid for your crime” is too prevalent’ especially within the justice system.
Rehabilitating criminal offenders is a life long process that cannot be left to the state alone. As it is now, an offence or offences are committed, the offender is tried, jailed and often released in an unsuspecting community. Ex convicts are given anonymity by the state and communities are expected to fend for themselves.
Schools cannot guard against paedophiles, businesses are at the mercy of fraudsters and flatters don’t know if their flat mate is a psychopath, because it is almost impossible to find out who you’re dealing with.
What should happen? As past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour, criminal offenders should lose their “right” to privacy for life.
Every convicted criminal should have his or her details, photograph and criminal history entered in a computer database. This should accessible by all taxpayers. If you are a business, you should be able to check the record of any potential employee.
Any scout troop should be able to check out any potential scout master. Any school should be able to search the record of any teacher.
If the state, which we fund, wants to take on the responsibility of administering justice, it must make freely available to all tax payers, the records of that justice system.
The results of this would be less fraud, theft, rape, murder and fewer innocent people suffering at the hands of criminals.
It would give power back to individuals and communities to protect themselves from all levels of criminal offending. It would allow us to better protect our kids from paedophiles, our businesses from fraudsters and our homes from burglars. It would enable us to “name and shame” wife beaters, drunk drivers, petty thugs, graffiti vandals, shoplifters and the like.
It would also confront more wrong doers with more of the consequences of their actions. It would make conviction mean something. More people would try to avoid convictions, because unlike tattoos, they would with you for life. Some people are incorrigible, but most people will lead better lives if they know their community knows about their criminal behaviour.
Forgiveness, redemption and rehabilitation are mere fancy words unless people have the means to realistically evaluate those they are dealing with.
Information about convicted persons does not belong to the state. It belongs to those who pay for the gathering of it.