The stark variation in correction system around the world has fascinated me ever since I found out about how President Duterte of the Philippines was taking the issue of drugs in his country, into his own hands. Comparing these unlawful acts to what happens to criminals in Norway, the country of my father, Norway, I became intrigued as to why there would be this disparity across the globe. Under further investigation, there seemed to be a correlation between the style of government in a country and the justice system, in particular the incarceration policy of that country. The recent right of centre governance in both the Philippines and the Indonesia as well as the USA in the late 20th century corresponded with a harsher, no-nonsense operation whereas in Norway, socialism led the way for a country in which a mass murderer was given the chance to study for a university degree whilst behind bars. Was it that the values of an administration caused a country to have a certain legal system?
The essence of right wing politics is that there will be a natural hierarchy in society based upon the natural law and economics of the world (Wikipedia, 2019). From an economic viewpoint, centre-right politics pushes for capitalism in which private ownership of property and wealth is favoured in order to promote profits for individuals rather than the state. Central to capitalism is the idea of having a competitive market by deregulating industry and reducing both corporation tax which should boost productivity, efficiency, growth and ultimately should lead to an increase in GDP. Therefore, there will clearly be both winners and losers as those which don’t continue to improve will eventually fall behind and surrender the benefits of succeeding in this very individualistic economic system. From a social standpoint, there is a spectrum over how liberal or conservative a certain party or government is. However, there is a general trend towards conservativism as you go away from the centre towards the right. For instance, a relatively liberal, right wing party such as the Progress Party in Norway wants to reduce the power of the state and the public sector when it comes to the economy but is in favour of same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples (Wikipedia, 2019). In comparison, in Indonesia, the central government does not stop provinces such as Aceh, in the northwest, from giving out punishments such as 100 lashes from gay sex (Wikipedia, 2019).
This conservatism can be seen in the penal systems of these right-wing countries where the law tends to punish criminals harshly, often with lengthy prison sentences and in some countries, an abuse of government power can lead to extrajudicial punishment by state actors. Since Rodrigo Duterte assumed his position as President of the Philippines, a reported 20,000
At the heart of a liberal welfare state such as Norway is the goal to obtain the benefits of capitalism whilst combatting its harsher effects such as leaving behind the poor and less fortunate in the wake of everyone else’s prosperity (Wikipedia, 2019). A well-developed welfare system attempts to accommodate everyone in society and give equal opportunities to all, avoiding the poverty supplied by cut-throat capitalism. As you gravitate towards the left, socialism morphs into communism where the state have near complete control over all affairs. Not only are all public services like transport or energy nationalised, instead of just being regulated, but the government takes most of the revenue produced by any business and then redistributes it evenly among all citizens. In its purest form, it aims to provide complete equality but problems arise when workers realise they can either slack off or toil away and still receive the same monetary compensation for their labour. Eventually everyone’s productivity decreases and the country’s economy stalls. This is why socialist countries must be careful to not get too involved with the private matters of business. Whilst the focus of this essay on more central politics, it is imperative to highlight the problems of straying too far from the centre.
There is a clear difference in judicial system when crossing the divide from conservatism to liberalism; a divide that separates two different viewpoints of how criminals should be dealt with. Just the use of the word ‘dealt’ encapsulates this discord. In 1972 USA, when New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller introduced draconian drug laws that meant “mandatory prison sentences of 15 years to life for drug dealers and addicts — even those caught with small amounts of marijuana, cocaine or heroin” (Mann, 2013), it signalled a complete about-turn of policy from the governor, and eventually the rest of the country. It paved the way for the federal government adopting mandatory minimum and ‘three strikes and you’re out’ laws 20 years later (where even very small-scale drug pushers faced life imprisonment for a third federal drug felony) (BBC, 2015). The focus of the penal system was now whole-heartedly on punishment and a “Let ‘em rot, throw away the key” mentality (Teichner, 2012). Turning our focus towards the liberalism of Norway, the word ‘dealt’ is used when referring to the cars in Texas Hold ‘em or by customer service assistants when helping that one tricky patron but is nowhere to be seen near a prison or a court of law. With a justice and penal system centred around prevention of crime by restoration and rehabilitation (into society) of prisoners, mass-murderers such as Anders Bering Breivik are given the chance to study political science at the University of Oslo (bearing in mind his attack was politically-motivated) (Pickles, 2018). Meanwhile the maximum prison sentence is 21 years (with the option of instalments of five years after these 21, as decided by a parole board) for any crime. One objection to the Norwegian system is that prisoners live in relative “luxury” (left) whilst some impoverished law-abiding citizens live in worse conditions than these but the reoffending rate of just 20% (compared to 76.6% rearrested within five years in the US) in Norway suggests the model works. Fundamental to this system is the idea that the punishment for the crime is the lack of freedom rather than the view that there is a necessity for retribution for a crime in the form of suffering whilst in prison (as there is in the USA).
The endeavour for rehabilitation can be seen in the use of capital punishment. The last execution in peacetime, in Norway, was in 1876 (Wikipedia, 2019), while in the US, 29 states have made use of capital punishment since 2000 (Wikipedia, 2019). At the very least, these executions were legal and constitutional but in the Philippines and recently Indonesia, the number of extrajudicial killings has risen in the last three or so years. Since Rodrigo Duterte became President of the Philippines in June 2016, the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in the ruthless murder of upwards of five thousand Filipinos, who the government claim.
To both capitalists and socialists, the democratic socialism seen in Norway is the dream. It combines equal amounts of free market capitalism to allow for a competitive economic system whilst not skimping on a strong social safety net that ensures a basic level of equality for everyone in the society. The egalitarianism doesn’t stop there though; a legal and correction system founded on rehabilitating prisoners back into society allows for criminals to be given a second chance even if they have done something worthy of life imprisonment elsewhere in the world.