Why do people commit crimes? The one question that this class has revolved around taking theories and applying them to international, and transnational crime trying to break down what causes a person to commit a criminal act. One theory that has caught my interest throughout this class is Beccaria’s “Theory of Deterrence.” Beccaria’s three characteristics of punishment, Swiftness of punishment being that a trial must be swift, and thorough so that the individual understands the crime they have committed and why they are being punished. Certainty of punishment is to make sure the individual understands that despite what classification of a crime they will be sentenced and punished for the crime they have committed.
The last and most emphasized by Beccaria is Severity of punishment which explains that the punishment of the crime must be severe, so that the consequence outways the benefit received from committing the crime. The theory itself does not interest me on trying to explain why people commit crime, but the limitations that poke holes in this theory do. All theories we have studied during this class have been through a western viewpoint on why crime is being committed. Globally not every country “view’s” criminology through a western view point and every criminal justice system is different. For this paper, I will be applying Beccaria’s theory of deterrence to one international crime being genocides, and one transnational crime being drug trafficking.
I will bring up cases for both crimes and apply the theory I have chosen. My argument in this paper will be on the limitations of the deterrence theory, and why the three characteristics of punishment does not focus on different aspects of where the crime is being committed and the different circumstances these individuals are in. From this paper I will show that not every country follows the western viewpoint on why people commit crime. I will also breakdown in detail why the deterrence theory has its limitations when it comes to these criminal acts being done in the United States. Every criminal justice system around the world has their own different views on what is and what is not a crime.
Drug Trafficking by definition of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. Drugs that are classified to have the potential of being abused are cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines. One case that the Federal Bureau of Investigations have worked on was a drug bust in West Virginia in June 2017. Velarian Carter is a West Virginia man in prison serving a twenty year drug sentence that will now double for forty years for being convicted again, for being the man behind a drug conspiracy from prison. The investigators on this case have said that Carter was orchestrating the distribution of illegal drugs being cocaine, crack, and heroin in the state’s Raleigh County as well as nearby areas.
Carter was formerly convicted in February 2017, as well as his mexican cartel contact in California. For this case when it comes to swiftness of punishment the offender has already been convicted and has been charged with another crime. Although the case went smoothly and the offender has already understood the crime he has committed during his first conviction, that has not stopped him from committing another criminal act from behind bars. One limitation is that not every offender understands the crime and feels guilty for committing a criminal act. As explained Carter continued to be the ringleader of a drug trafficking ring even after understanding what he had done, and being sent to prison.
Certainty of punishment comes into play where the offender already knows there will be consequences for committing another criminal act even from prison. Although the offender has already understood the consequences of his actions, he continued to commit the same criminal act. For the severity of punishment again the offender understands the severe consequences of being apart of a drug trafficking ring as he was sentenced for twenty years for his first criminal act. A second limitation is that the offender is not bothered by the certainty or severity of a punishment, because there is nothing else the criminal justice system can do to him that they haven’t already done. As shown Carter continued to be the leader of a drug trafficking ring even after being sentenced to prison for twenty years, as he already is behind bars so adding another couple of years does not sway him to not continue to commit criminal acts.
A second case on drug trafficking has happened in Albuquerque, New Mexico where Gerald Soliz of Farmington pled guilty in federal court for drug trafficking and firearm charges on three separate criminal cases on April 6, 2018. The investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the HIDTA Region II Task Force that was part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. Soliz was charged with trafficking methamphetamine, heroin, and firearms as well as possession of a firearm. His second indictment of possessing a firearm was caused because Soliz was prohibited from carrying any firearm or ammunition, due to previous charges of carrying a controlled substance and child sexual assault. With Soliz making a plea agreement he is sentenced 100 to 125 months of imprisonment.
For this case we see swiftness of punishment as Gerald Soliz has plead guilty of all three charges against him as he understands the crimes he has committed, and why he is being punished for these criminal acts. Certainty of punishment is shown as he made a plea agreement he will be serving 100 to 125 months in prison. Although when it comes to severity of punishment it seems the punishment does not fit the crime even with past charges given to Gerald Soliz. The limitation is within the punishment given to Soliz as before these charges he already was a convicted felon. The plea agreement itself does not fit the crime committed as being charged with two very serious felonies did not stop Soliz from again committing criminal acts. In this case it is clear to see that the benefit Gerald Soliz received from committing these criminal acts out wayed the consequences of his actions.
Another court case on drug trafficking happened on Monday, May 7th, 2018 where Brandon Scott Hawks was charged with two counts of possession of a stolen firearm and one count of possession with the intent to distribute a quantity of controlled substances. In the Eastern District of North Carolina, Hawks was a deputy for eleven years until he held the title of sergeant in 2017. On the two counts of possessing a stolen firearm which included a Glock 26 handgun that was not submitted as evidence to the Sheriff’s Office during that time Hawks had made a traffic stop on July 23rd, 2017. Hawks possessed controlled substances which includes heroin, crack cocaine, cocaine, fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine, methamphetamine, and marijuana with the intent to distribute. During the recovery of said items, Hawks was terminated from his employment with the Gates County Sheriff’s Office. With both counts of possessing a stolen firearm Brandon Scott Hawks was charged with the maximum penalty of ten years in prison, as well as the one account of possessing a quantity of controlled substances being charged the maximum penalty of twenty years in prison.
Brandon Scott Hawks was terminated from the Gates County Sheriff’s office and charged with thirty years in prison showing the thorough process of this trial. As a former officer of the law Hawks initially knew the consequences of committing such criminal acts. Being removed from law enforcement and sentenced to prison was an act of certainty that he would not get away with the crimes he committed. Hawks was sentenced with the maximum penalty of all three counts he was charged with showing that the punishment giving by the judge was severe, and fit the crime he had committed. This case brings an offender from the other side of the law, one who upheld the laws of the United States once until he himself abused his power in law enforcement. This limitation shows that those who are educated and positioned in life to uphold the laws of a country can be the same person who breaks them.
When it comes to drug trafficking and crossing borders into the United States, Mexico is where the most drugs are being brought in and out. An article written by Natasha Clancy on “Insight Crime” gives details on Mexico’s new appointed supervisor of the countries airports suspected of facilitating drug trafficking through Mexico City’s International Airport, and being linked to organized crime groups. The Deputy Director of Airports Supervision Juan Manuel Hernandez Palafox has been using airports in Cancun, Guadalajara, and Tijuana to traffic in illegal drugs and distribute them throughout the country. Criminal Organizations from Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela are said to be sending cocaine and heroin shipments to designated airports in Mexico City. Hernandez Palafox controls a chain of command involving his subordinates being custom agents, canines, baggage handlers and security personnel. Through this chain of command these illegal drugs are being received and distributed.
As stated in the article Hernandez Palafox used to be the commander of Mexico’s federal police. In 2009 he was charged for being affiliated to organized crime due to a video showing him having relations with that of the Gulf Cartel, and other public officials. In 2010 he was released from Mexico’s federal police. It was not until documents were leaked to the public that law enforcement started to investigate the situation at the airports, and before that everyone had turned a blind eye to any information received due to president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador handpicking Hernandez for this new position. Since the documents have been leaked to the public Hernandez has been removed from his position.
His trial was handled quickly due to evidence of his involvement in drug trafficking and organized crime being leaked to the public, yet the only punishment he received was being removed from each of his positions. There is no certainty of him being punished when it seems only when he is caught in the act of criminal activities is he asked to step down from his position. The punishments Hernandez has received does not fit the crime he has committed more than once so the severity of punishment has not stopped him to continue, instead the benefit of the crime outways the consequences of his actions. The limitation in this case is the government itself being corrupt. When law enforcement becomes corrupt to its core there is no law being upheld only profit and connections being made. In a country of injustice there is no understanding on why people commit crime, because the understanding of what is considered a crime in a country like Mexico shows that everything is done out in the open.
When implementing policy implications you must view the circumstances of a country when it comes to drug trafficking. As I said before law enforcement in different countries handle criminal activity differently. If an individual is in prison for drug trafficking they should be heavily surveillanced 24/7. There rooms should be checked on a daily basis, phone calls should be heard to make sure no illegal activity is being arranged, and all mail should be searched. The punishment for continuing to commit crime even while behind bars should be more severe, and offender should have less contact with the outside world until proven they are straying off the path of crime.
As shown in two cases those who are in law enforcement can quickly become criminals themselves instead of upholding the laws of their country. When any part of law enforcement is corrupt it’s like a wound that can become infected very quickly if not handled correctly. One policy that can be implemented when it comes to law enforcement is for officers to record and document any crimes they are investigating. All items seized by law enforcement should be documented giving detailed information on the day, time, and what was specifically seized. If illegal substances are found within the premises of an officer, they should be immediately removed from their position and held in jail until a trial commences.
When a country’s government is corrupt to its core upholding the law is the least concern. What we westerner’s view as a crime might not be considered the same description of an action in a different country. When Corrupt government officials turn a blind eye to criminal activities that are being conducted in the open for everyone to see, it sends a symbol to all people around the world that this particular state is a lawless country that is there to do business no matter how inhumane the proposition is. How can one country place policy implications on a different country it does not govern? The best action another state can do is to protect their own borders from stopping illegal goods being brought in, and work with foreign law enforcement agencies that are trying to make a difference in their own country.
Genocide is an international crime that means the killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. I chose this international crime because the state itself hands down the authority to its citizens allowing them to “cleanse” a group of people from their land. Although from a global view genocide is an inhumane crime that needs an international response for other nations to step in. Although from an outside perspective this is considered a crime, yet in the state itself this is an authority given down by the government. In the state this is not a crime but an order and even in past criminal acts this crime was considered a law.
One case of genocide happened in Rwanda between the months of April and July in 1994. The population was seven million people composed of three different ethnic groups being Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. During these months the Hutu extremist government launched a plan to rid the country of its entire tutsi minority, as well as others who opposed the government’s plan. During this “cleansing” approximately 800,00 tutsi and Hutus were slaughtered. These two ethnic groups had a longstanding history of tension although both groups spoke the same language.
This tension between both groups started during the colonial period when the Belgians ruled the country. The belgians favored those with a lighter skin complexion which were the Tutsi and gave them more materialistic advantages then there darker skin brethren being the Hutus. Both groups were further divided when all Rwandans had to carry an identity card classifying if they were Tutsi or Hutus. The tension started to rise when most of the Tutsi population was moving outside of Rwanda. In 1959 the Belgians supported a Hutu revolution that forced 300,000 Tutsi to flee Rwanda and this is when the group population started to decrease in the country.
During 1962 The Hutu were the majority in the political parties and controlled the government when Belgium granted Rwanda independence. Hutu extremists among the political party started to blame the Tutsi for their economic turmoil in the country. As tensions flared a civil war broke out between both groups, and the Tutsi rebel group called the “Rwandan Patriot Front” invaded the country from the north on October 2nd, 1990. On the other hand the Hutu Extremists were listing Political Tutsi and Hutu leaders to assassinate behind closed doors. When the UN Commission on Human Rights stepped in the Rwandan government inconspicuously ruled the assassinations as spontaneous and uncontrollable.
The international community decided these assassinations were an internal conflict that the government needed to handle. The civil war between both groups in Rwanda had ended and a power sharing agreement was signed named the Arusha Accords in August 1993. Hutus extremists were angered that their leaders had signed the power sharing agreement, and this led to domino effect of Hutus extremists preparing for war. Through secret radio stations owned by Tutus extremists started to condemn the Tutsis and rally up there brethren for a “cleansing.” Secretly the Hutus extremists started to import large quantities of machetes and distributed weapons to the militias that supported them, and when tensions flared again between both groups it led to the massacre in 1994.
When applying Beccaria’s “Theory of Deterrence” you see there is no Swiftness of punishment as there was no trial after this tragic international incident. There was no certainty of punishment as the Tutus extremists ran the government under their political leaders and gave the signal to try to “cleanse” the country of the Tutsi group. There was no severe punishment given to the Tutus extremists for plotting and taking action to massacre all the Tutsis left in Rwanda. This case shows that not every country is concerned with crimes through a western view point. Some governments are ruled by dictators and warlords, or extremists as shown.
Some countries law enforcements are not as developed as the United States where committing a crime has consequences. This international crime deals with the internal conflict within one state and has no effect towards other nations. This is why the United Nations was created to step in another country and stop these inhumane crimes from continuing.This is also why the international criminal court was created to prosecute those who are not held by their countries laws, but to be prosecuted for the laws under the Genocide Convention at an international level.
- Clancy, N. (Ed.). (2019, April 01). Mexico’s New Airport Boss Aiding International Drug Trafficking: Report. Retrieved May 12, 2019, from https://www.insightcrime.org/news/brief/mexico-head-airports-facilitating-international-drug-trafficking-report/
- Drug Trafficking. (2018, August 23). Retrieved May 12, 2019, from https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/west-virginia-drug-conspiracy-sentencing-082318
- Farmington Felon Pleads Guilty to Federal Drug Trafficking and Firearms Charges. (2018, April 06). Retrieved May 10, 2019, from https://www.justice.gov/usao-nm/pr/farmington-felon-pleads-guilty-federal-drug-trafficking-and-firearms-charges
- Former Sergeant for Gates County Sheriff’s Office Arrested for Stealing Firearms and Drugs from Criminal Cases. (2018, May 07). Retrieved May 12, 2019, from https://www.justice.gov/usao-ednc/pr/former-sergeant-gates-county-sheriff-s-office-arrested-stealing-firearms-and-drugs
- Rwanda. (2013, February 20). Retrieved May 12, 2019, from https://www.ushmm.org/mobile/confront-genocide/cases-of-genocide/rwanda
- Tibbetts,S.G.(2019).Criminological theory: The essentials(3rd ed. ). Los Angeles: SAGE.