Heard Jim Luttrell, Grant County Prosecutor, talk today at IWU about the question of what the primary element should be in determining the punishment for a crime. It was a wonderful dip into the complexity of such issues. In ethics we cover the four key factors in making moral determinations: 1) the act itself, 2) the consequences of the act, 3) motive, and 4) character. All of them surfaced at some point in his presentation.
But the main issue he was addressing is the question of justice oriented punishment versus punishment based on likely recidivism, likely repeat offense. There is a significant trend in many judicial circles to see the reform of the criminal as the primary factor in sentencing. Jim clearly senses this is a mistake, although I don't think his presentation aimed to be a straightforward argument.
But I strongly resonate with his sense that the starting point for sentencing should be justice. I also agree with him that "mitigating circumstances" should focus on motive and intent in conjunction with criminal acts, not on likely recidivism. But these are clearly very complex issues that involve multiple variables, all of which have their place.
Luttrell would agree.