What is the goal of the western criminal justice system and has it been met?
There are a variety of ideas or concepts which have become very popular in the world today promoted by Western civilization, accepted by Muslim countries to varying degrees or by the intellectual elite or the educated elements of the society where these ideas have become very popular and they challenge the fundamental concepts that were held by Islam with regards to these various issues, the topic we will be looking at today is a very vast topic and it is a topic concerning criminal justice; the Islamic legal system and how its laws are applied. What people tend to focus on is that the criminal justice system of Islam is very harsh, it’s referred to as being medieval, primitive or a variety of different terms used because the image given to the application of Islamic law is one of chopping off of hand and heads, lashings and stoning. This is the general image given that it is impractical in our times, these are things which modern civilization has left behind and looked as no longer applicable and having no benefit, something which was primitive. This is the general impression given.
However when we look at the issue of criminal justice and perhaps at the core of it is the issue of capital punishment which has been banned by the UN and the ECC, when you look and it and how it has been developed, for example in America and the West in general, the main goal behind the Western penology were three; retribution that is justification looking to the past, that is punishment or revenge, secondly, deterrence that looks into the future and its prevention and the last is reformation, reformation of the individual to make him a better personality and character to be released back into the society.
However from as earlier as the late thirties we find a report of the Departmental Committee on Corporal Punishment in England stating that corporal punishment was of no value as a deterrent so therefore should be abolished. In 1952, Justice Hugo Black in the US wrote that retribution is no longer the objective of criminal law, rehabilitation and reformation of offenders have become important goals of criminal jurisprudence and in 1972, Justice Marshall of the US supreme court wrote punishment for the sake of retribution law is not permissible under the eight amendment and in the same year California law declared capital punishment as unconstitutional. For some criminologist, reformation has become synonymous with cure, the criminal was no longer considered a bad man but a sick man, the convict was in need for treatment because he was ill. Either physical or almost certainly mentally or psychologically. This was the approach which western criminal justice took.
In 1965 in England the death penalty was abolished, however as some five years later in 1970 when the Home Secretary announced that a 172 convicted murderers had been released from prison since 1960, he pointed out that most of them had only served 9 years or less of their statutory life sentence. Only 5 served 12 or more years. Nine served six or less and one completed only six months and these were not cases of mistaken judgments where they were revising judgments, these are people that are convicted murderers but due to the change in attitudes, good behaviour in prison people are being let out. People who murdered people are being let out after six months! 9 of them were let out after six years or less after murdering somebody and of course the reality is that these individuals after being let out to the public a number of them ended up killing others and they are back in jail for other murders.
Today western penologist have admitted that the penal system has utterly failed in reforming and rehabilitating criminals. The reality is that the petty criminal who enters into the system sits and spends time with well-trained hardened criminals and he comes out prepared now for heavier crimes, so the prison becomes a training ground for criminals and the society ends up paying for their crimes by providing them with housing, food, clothing and shelter for the period of their sentence. The society pays for their crimes.< Back to Questions