|"Singing Into Wings", bronze by Tim Holmes|
The famous Stanford Prison Experiment revealed how easily people step into roles that contradict their natures to conform to circumstances. Stanley Millgram, son of WWII refugees, wished to know how good people could perpetuate such horrors as the Holocaust. So he designed an experiment to see if normal people would injure others if instructed to so do. They did. To a frightening degree!
Some people are truly dangerous and need to be removed from society but what most of us need when we fail is a "reasonable" punishment, not deadly retribution, and a path toward reconciliation. Even judges are constrained by draconian laws passed by congresspeople who pander for anti-crime voters. Long imprisonment is only called for in extreme cases. Incarceration is one of the most primitive aspects of contemporary life. We like to punish wrongdoers because we can get away with the same sort of behavior (why?, maybe because we have lighter skin color, or the judge was in a good mood?) We'll never know how many innocents have been wrongly imprisoned or executed, though DNA testing is exposing hundreds of such cases.
Humans all misbehave in some way and only by recognizing that commonality and focusing on outcomes rather than retribution will we be able to reach a mature sense of community. We should treat offenders the way we treat family members who do wrong: address the situation, fix the problem and try to help the offender return to positive relations with their community. That would be one mark of a truly civilized people.