Heavier Sentences: Is that Enough?!

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Mon 24 April / Apr 2017. 12:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Tue 25 April / Apr 2017. 01:22 AM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

The Cabinet just approved an amendment bill to the penal code, including several clauses, as summarised in a report by AlGhad.

For a while now, pressure has been gaining on the government to enact these amendments, to legislate heavier sentences and show reinforce compliance to the rule of law and the authority of the State.

According to AlGhad’s report, these amendments annul diluted sentences for rape crimes, which is good, and increases sentences on a variety of acts, which are seen recently on the rise. These would include administrative corruption, transgressions against public funds, auto theft, firing up weapons, water violations, and certificate forgery.

More so, the bill heightens protective procedures to preserve the rights of women and children with special needs, also by maximising related punishments.

Heavier sentences are necessary. And these amendments do address the recent incompliance and looseness by the State. The previous legislated sentences do not meet the pressing rise of scale and type of these crimes and violations against society.

However, the important question along these lines has always been: are heavier sentences enough to put an end to the spread of these crimes?

Is it enough to maximise penalties to reinforce the rule of law and reiterate the authority of the state and its ability to put to rest the spread of crime and deviation?

Necessarily, legislative amendments comprise an integral component of the needed reform.

Still, we have a real, even more pressing cultural problem, when it comes to law and the public’s perceptions of it; the people do not understand the law and therefore do not abide to it. And this is not exclusive to Jordan. This is an issue in perhaps most Arab societies.

In so many aspects of our daily lives, we run things outside the law and its perceptions. This is until we run into it and find ourselves in a hole, deepened by legal clauses that criminalise certain actions which should be otherwise clear to us.

This also includes the concepts of right and duty.

An example on this, one which exposes the difference between our understanding of the law and that of other peoples, is the way citizens and businessmen approach taxation policies. Many have mastered tax evasion and manipulation.

Had there been a law, entailing heavy sentences, backed by a societal understanding of the act as a real crime, tax evasion would not have been that big of a problem today!

There is a culture aspread which disregards the law; of carelessness. So many care so little for the law and its implications.

Therefore, the intensification of sentences and penal clauses should come hand in hand with the launch of a wider endeavour to populate the rule of law. An effort should be pulled to build a state of law and citizenship, as opposed to this culture, by enlightening people on the concepts of law fullness.

This is no longer a luxury.

So long as no effort is being put into legal enlightenment, crime and violations will increase.

Meanwhile, the societal situation will complicate, and deviations will rise.

That said, such an endeavour requires a lot of dedication channelled via the right ways to set the wheels of change in motion; be it through media campaigns or direct public engagement, a comprehensive discourse must be launched to instil a new culture and value of lawfulness in society, and put an end to recklessness and undermining practices.

Second, it would serve this purpose well to include the concepts of law and its importance, alongside a number of legislations and international, as well as local, laws in school curriculums.

This would help populate the notions of lawfulness in the nearer future!

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.