WITH increasing public concern regarding repeat criminal offenders, critics and experts have been divided as to what approach would deter former convicts from committing crimes again after being released from jail.
Many public members – often angry with perpetrators of high-profile crimes including rape-murder or mass killing – have called for execution of convicted offenders, instead of life imprisonment or lengthy jail sentences.
However, there is a consensus among experts in criminology and the justice system that harsh penalties like life imprisonment and capital punishment have been proven ineffective at deterring repeat crimes, a recent seminar heard.
The seminar, entitled “The role of probation in tackling the problem of repeat criminal offences”, was organised by the Department of Probation earlier this month.
Law professor Prathan Watanavanich, an expert in criminology and justice procedures, citing findings of a research study, said that imprisonment was not an effective deterrent to prevent crimes.
Severe penalties had “only a little deterring effect” on criminals, Prathan noted.
“Also, there has been no proof that capital punishment can deter prospective perpetrators of murders,” Prathan said, citing statistics collected over the past five decades.
He said the study found that the certainty of getting arrested was “very effective” in deterring people from committing crimes.
“The certainty of getting arrested is a deterrent that is even more powerful than getting punished,” the law professor concluded.
Prathan said this finding could be applied to a current problem: Many convicts on probation or parole have not been punished for breaking the conditions of their early release. The problem, he said, is parole officers have no power to arrest people for breaking parole conditions.
The expert suggested that parole officers should be empowered to make arrests in such cases.
“Importantly, we need to make people know that they will get arrested for committing offences, and they will be rearrested for breaking the conditions for their early release,” Prathan said.
“If that can be put into practice, we will see a decline in repeat crime offenders.”
Public Prosecutor Uthai Athivej said the idea of getting rid of repeat crime offenders from society was “too harsh”, and that in practice capital punishment had been unable to deter repeat offences.
Judge Supakit Yaempracha suggested that criminal offenders should be properly classified and dealt with, both while they served their time in jail and after their release. This approach should help prevent repeat crimes, he said.
Central Investigation Bureau commander Pol Lt-General Thitiraj Nongharnpitak said Thailand has no effective measures to prevent former convicts from committing crimes again.
“Over the past three years, about 300,000 inmates have been released – some 7,000 of them sex-related offenders. Thai society still has no effective measures to monitor this group of people,” he said.
The police officer suggested a system to screen convicts before their release so that authorities could determine who should be monitored for possible repeat offences.