I find this entire concept of Justice, Punishment and Societal norms very interesting and confusing. I made some attempts at trying to comprehend the entire system albeit I ended with more questions than answers. In the last of the Justice Trilogy – I attempted to understand the purpose of punishment. There were three primary objectives that emerged which are of –

  • Retribution
  • Deterrence
  • Reformation

As was suggested in that article retribution, though obtained vicariously, was easiest to achieve provided there is a speedy disposal of a sub judice case. It is in the objective of deterrence and reformation that punishment has had limited to no impact. I think the primary reason for this is that, the society that we live in, there is little to no incentive to behave the right way and one is not a criminal unless one is caught! Beyond a point even fear of God fails to act as a deterrent.
In the society that we live in where power and money are worshiped there is no incentive for one to behave correct. Also we cannot and should not aim for a 1:1 Civil to Police ratio, hence every crime committed will neither be reported nor be punished. Without any hard statistics at hand I would like to think that off all the people who commit crimes of any nature (traffic rule violation, drunken driving, financial, burglary, corruption, sexual harassment, tax evasion etc.) only a small percentage are reported against. Even among the ones that are reported against, lengthy legal procedure doesn’t ensure punishment. Also off those that are reported against, I think,only a minuscule are declared as convict. Under such circumstances there is an immense incentive to do the wrong thing. Another big factor is that the person who earns power and money by questionable means doesn’t ever suffer any form of social exclusion unless convicted; rather he is always worshiped as an intelligent man and as somebody who has figured out to manipulate the system to ones benefit. Plenty aspire to be this person hence there is no question of social exclusion at all. I would like to believe that any amount of strict laws or stronger punishments would never be sufficient to curb or deter crime
Under such circumstances a person who wants to do the right thing becomes the victim. Sometimes the victimization could be extreme and lead to social exclusion or ridicule as well. I would like to propose that to curb crime and reduce corruption, public policy makers must find ways and methods to incentivize and inspire  the right behavior. It is here that the existing policies have failed. I would also like to suggest that the responsibility to inspire the right behavior is not only of the public policy makers but of all of us as well. I don’t think any major change in civic sense to corrupt practices would be seen unless collectively we all incentivize and inspire the right behavior. There are plenty of opportunities that arise in day to day situations, it is only about recognizing them and not letting the moment pass.

If we notice how the corporate world functions, it is to a large extent dependent upon this incentive scheme. Wrong doers are not always punished but the right doers are definitely rewarded so that more and more people aspire to do the right thing and be benefited in all possible ways. Let me also indicate that incentives don’t essentially have to be monetary in nature. Just to give a simple example – we detest corrupt policemen or cringe at a traffic constable not managing the traffic well – but how many times have we given a complement for someone who was doing the right thing or even given a simple nod of appreciation? Under the lack of any public appreciation – what incentive does a policeman have to remain on the right path? While it may not apply to all situations – it is still worth a try and more thought.