LAW AND SOCIETY 865
Mr. Jones, having murdered his wife, was burying her in the garden one night, when his neighbor, hearing the noise, asked him what he was doing.
«Just burying the cat, » said the neighbor.
«Funny sort of time to bury a cat», said the neighbor.
«Funny sort of cat», said Mr. Jones.
Now it is obvious to everyone that, in a community such as the one in which we live, some kind of law is necessary to try to prevent people like Mr. Jones from killing their wives. When the world was at a very primitive stage, there was no such law, and, if a man chose to kill his wife or if a woman succeeded in killing her husband, that was their own business and no one interfered officially.
But, for a very long time now, members of every community have made laws for themselves in self-protection. Otherwise it would have meant that the stronger man could have done what he liked with the weaker, and bad men could have joined together and terrorized the whole neighborhood.
If it were not for the law, you could not go out in broad daylight without the fear of being kidnapped, robbed or murdered. There are far, far more good people in the world than bad, but there are enough of the bad to make law necessary in the interests of everyone.
Unfortunately, however, we all aren’t perfect. Suppose you went to a greengrocer and bought some potatoes and found on your return home that some of them were stones. What could you do if there were no laws on the subject? In the absence of law you could only rely upon the law of the jungle.
Every country tries, therefore, to provide laws which will help its people to live safely and as comfortably as possible. This is not at all an easy thing to do, and no country has been successful in producing laws which are entirely satisfactory. But we are far better off with the imperfect laws which we have, than if we had none at all.
THE NETHERLANDS: A LAND WITHOUT PRISONS
The Dutch have adopted an innovative and remarkably humane system of dealing with law breakers, with the result that the Netherlands is close to becoming a land without prisons. And the policy is apparently paying dividends: crime is certainly climbing much more slowly there than in all other countries.
The Dutch hold the view that harsh punishment only aggravates the problems that lead a person to crime. “A prison sentence does little to ‘resocialise a person’, says vice-president of The Hague Court. “It more likely leads to bitterness. A mild sentence, possibly even just a fine, shows an offender that society cares about him.” Because of this concept fewer and fewer people are serving time in Holland. In Dutch prisons every effort is made to provide an environment that will rehabilitate the convicts.
In many institutions prisoners are allowed to wear their own clothes and keep personal things; they are given comfortably furnished rooms with such homey items as curtains, and they often are allowed to work outside the prison or leave from time to time to visit their families.
Moreover, Holland has an extraordinary one-to-one ratio between prisoner staff members and inmates. “Our objective,” says the Deputy Prison Director “is not to make life pleasant for prisoners, but to normalize it as much as possible to prepare the prisoners for a return to society.”
Dutch officials maintain that their philosophy of short prison sentences and humanitarian treatment is essential if convicts are not to become repeaters. “A heavy sentence,” they say, “keeps a person out of possible mischief longer, but it merely postpones and aggravates the problem of recidivism.”