John Rawls was a political philosopher who wrote,” A Theory of Justice” in 1971 where he defined two principles, namely:
- Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatibly with a similar liberty for other (Rawls, 1971, p.302)
- The social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are able to be of the greatest benefit to the least advantaged members of society and offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity. (Rawls, 1971, p.302)
The goal behind social justice is to create a better working world where people are free to share the same chances and achieve the most sought-after positions. Without social justice, life cannot live long as a time will come when people will want change.
At the end of the 18th century, the British government enforced the Speenhamland System, which is referred to as poor laws. The idea behind it was to provide everyone with a decent revenue so they can live with dignity.
In 1944, K Polanski demonstrated how badly the Poor Laws affected the English economy where it created an environment characterised by unfair competition. If you look at the Industrial Revolution, countries such as South Korea, Hong-King or Singapore became wealthy countries in a short period of time and social justice and the welfare of workers was definitely not considered. Social justice is a luxury that only developed countries, such as the U.K., can afford. However, it shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be an obligation.
Penalties for Breaking the Law
In Britain, the penalties you receive for breaking the law have changed remarkably. It was only 54 years ago when the last execution by hanging took place and capital punishment was abolished. In the Georgian period of the 18th century, crime and punishment was very different. There was everything from gruesome public executions to famous and ‘heroic’ highwaymen. Many people viewed criminals as courageous and were celebrated. The crimes were reported in newspapers, books and pamphlets, attracting interest from all across the country.
Highwaymen were often mentioned in folklore and legend and became popular celebrities. An example of this is Jack Sheppard, who was a street robber hanged in 1724 after four escapes from prison and over 200,000 people attended his execution. Theft rates were particularly during the 18th century. Law enforcement was also very different as the victims themselves often chose the punishments for the criminals. Every parish had one or two constables who were unpaid and performed policing duties in their free time.
In the 19th century crime and punishment improved drastically. The police force that we know today was first brought into existence in 1856. Trials in court were often very quick, unlike today, anyone working in law enforcement had a greater power to decide the fate of the prisoners. Transportation came about as an alternative to hanging where criminals were transported to colonies to serve prison sentences. Prison regimes became much harder and were based on separation, silence, hard labour and moral guidance. At the end of the 19th century, not just crime but also poverty rates were increasing as the industrial revolution made many rich, but equally much more families poor.
In the 21st century, Britain uses fines, community service and prison as their main penalties for breaking the law. Criminals involved in serious crime are given a much fairer trial, if a trail is needed, which includes:
- Timeline of Events
- Prosecution and Defence witnesses
Life Inside of Prison
Life inside of prison is a daunting prospect for anyone so why are there so many repeat offenders? The death penalty was often the only penalty, even if you were innocent. The prison system has certainly developed dramatically, with prisons being separated depending on the severity of the crime committed and the gender you identify as:
- Category A prisons are the prisons that hold inmates that have committed the most severe crimes and are all maximum security. Escaping from a Category A prison is designed to be impossible as the inmates pose a great threat to the public, police or national security.
- Category B prisons do not need maximum security, however, the potential to escape will still be very difficult.
- Category C host prisoners that cannot be trusted with open conditions but are considered to be prisoners and are unlikely to escape.
- Category D prisoners can be trusted in open conditions.
In some ways, prisoners are given a much better quality of life then in the past – especially as most if not all criminals were killed. Prisoners in are given privileges whereby members of their family or their friends can visit, if trusted they can work on menial tasks and they can be allowed to spend money each week. If a prisoner does not abide by the rules, they can be kept isolated in their cells for up to 21 days and given up to 42 extra days on top of their original sentence. Prisoners have rights, including protecting from bullying and racial harassment, being able to get in contact with a solicitor and healthcare including support for a mental health condition. All prisoners are allowed to spend between 30mins to an hour in the open air each day.
Compared to other countries worldwide, the prison system in the U.K. is much safer. Venezuela has the world’s second highest homicide rate and is considered to have some of the most violent prisons in the world. 80% of Venezuelan prisons are run by armed inmates. Of these inmates, over 3,700 of Venezuela’s most violent are crammed into a small prison that is only built for 700 people. The prisons are filthy, dangerous, overcrowded and neglected. The prisoner to guard ratio is 150:1 so maintaining any order is impossible.
The inmates themselves maintain an order of a gang-controlled hierarchy. Poorer and low-status inmates have to pay the inmates with more power to secure a place to sleep. Many prisoners have to go as far as drinking straight from corroded bathroom pipes. As a result of such abuse, riots have broken out. In 1994, 108 prisoners were killed in a brutal riot and in 2013, a further 16 inmates were killed in another riot.
Global Crime Rates
Currently, Honduras has the largest murder crime rate. The country is home to around 8.25 million people and has the highest homicide rate in the world. The average rate of murders is 90.4 murders per 100,000 people so almost every 1000th person is killed. As Honduras is a holiday destination, tourists are often targeted for various crimes.
Venezuela has the second highest crime rate. It is one of the world’s major oil exporters but also has one of the words highest occurrence of homicides. Last year, only 19% of local residents felt safe when walking home alone at night. Every year, more than 50 people out of 100,000 people are killed and this number is continuously growing.
30 years ago, the average crime rate in Britain was 620 violent crimes committed per 100,000 people. In 1991, the rate increased to 758, the highest it had been since 1960. For 15 to 20 years, both the violent and nonviolent rate have been risen and the homicide rate has risen by more than 20% in the last two years after a 30-year decline in violent crimes. This may be due to the fact that the laws have become more lenient and globally people have more access to weapons. At current in America, gun crime is at an all-time high and many are starting to consider whether it shouldn’t be as easier as it is to buy the weapons in the first place.