Cue the Heist Music

Back when I was more of a peon, I had a job packing and delivering university library books to a warehouse 45 minutes outside of town.  Lousy pay, sweaty conditions and about a million cardboard-induced paper cuts.  Just about what you'd expect for a university job.

I used to concoct schemes while driving to the warehouse, dreaming how I'd steal the van and make a run for the border.  90 minutes round trip, plus another 60 for unloading boxes and another 45 or more before they realized something was up would give me a window of 3 hours or so to get out of the state.  Plenty of time.  I planned on getting a dozen jersey cans and filling them all with gasoline before the university realized I had gone awol with their gas card.  I would steal clean plates the night before the border crossing and vanish into Mexico, selling the van and living off the proceeds ... at least for a week or two.

A van.  I was going to give up life in America for a used Chevy van.

Good thing I got into creative writing and not crime.

So now I work in a small private school, where -for lack of anyone else- I'm the guy whose signature is printed on all the checks.  Even small schools require fairly large operating budgets.  This morning I was given  a check to deposit made out for $202,000 and sure enough, my wee signature was on the bottom.

Running to Mexico didn't even cross my mind.   Sure I'd make off with some serious dough, but I'd be giving up so much more.

This started me thinking: punishment never once entered my mind on either occasion.  Of course I wouldn't get caught ("I'm too smart to get - erm.  Nevermind.")  Losing all that I had invested in my life - that is what made the difference. 

Now, let's take that principle and apply it to the criminal justice system.  There are many, many, many people out there whose lives are far worse off than mine when I was a minimum  wage university worker.  Why shouldn't they turn to crime?  Should punishment be expected to dissuade them, when, unlike myself, they have little or nothing to lose?

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't punish criminals, but - after my drive to the bank this morning- it does seem that anyone serious about "cracking down on crime" should really consider investing instead in the lives of the folks who have nothing to lose. 

I'd bet we'd find it preempts the crime ... which seems worlds better than punishing a crime that has already happened.

Post Script. The sad part is I have a number of friends (my wife included) who would never even daydream of heists because stealing is morally wrong.  Good thing I have these moral compasses in my life.


Post a Comment

<< Home