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Crime and Punishment

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Fitting the punishment to the crime is a debate as old as “an eye for an eye.” There’s a natural tendency to want to throw the book at those convicted of terrible crimes.

It’s hard to argue with the stiff sentences given last month in New York to two ex-Tyco officers after their conviction of looting their worldwide company of hundreds of millions of dollars. They deserve every day behind bars.

And, in view of negative public perceptions, it is probably right to increase Utah’s mandatory minimum sentence for murder from five-years-to-life to 15-years-to-life. Few think a killer like Mark Hacking should have any chance, however remote, of being freed after only five years behind bars.

But, what of the trend in this nation to give severe sentences to malleable teenage criminals, especially in light of recent scientific studies that have shown teens’ brains are still growing and changing. In fact, it has been reported, that “a key part of the brain that affects judgment may not be in place until men and women reach their early 20s.”

Clearly, those convicted of crimes against society, including teens, need to pay for their deeds. In KSL’s view, though, care must be taken to avoid so-called “cookie-cutter” sentences where judges are forced to mete out specified punishments rather than issuing reasoned judgments based on circumstances.

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