Why are psychopaths punished disproportionately for the crimes they commit? Yesterday, I saw this post circulating around tumblr. It depicts a series of pictures of pit bulls and describes the heroic actions that each of the pit bulls are responsible for. At the end of the series of pictures, there is a single statement that says “punish the deed, not the breed.” This got me, of course, to thinking about the faults of many judicial systems that give disproportionate sentences to the antisocial. Should not the crime be punished solely in a vacuum? Why are previous patterns or existing diagnoses considered for the sole purpose of inflicting as much retribution as possible onto the convicted? Retribution is not justice.
I know that my views on crime and punishment are not shared by many. I like to use a simple shopping analogy to explain my point. When I go to the store, I expect to pay the price listed on a piece of merchandise and no more. The price does not change at the register based on my ability or inability to pay. In this sense, a contract between business and consumer has been agreed upon: items that are priced as X dollars will cost no more than X dollars. Using this analogy, I believe that crimes should have a price tag on them. If I choose to commit crime Z then my sentence should not exceed Y, the number of years that the crime requires for proper rehabilitation and potential deterrence. Under this proposed contract, I could commit the same crime repeatedly if I am willing to pay the appropriate cost each time. While codes such as Hammurabi’s may be considered barbaric, the beauty is that the price of the crime was known well in advance. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Should I, as a psychopath, choose to commit crime, I should receive the same sentence as the equivalent crime by a neurotypical and I should know the price to pay in advance.
Simply inflicting punishment for the sake of punishment is not justice; it is retribution. Rather than increasing punishment for the sake of honoring the accepted stigma of the antisocial condition, the punishment should fit the crime and no more. All should be treated equally in this sense and should anyone choose to commit crime, they should know up front what the price to pay actually is.