Friday, February 17, 2012

[lrvvlvjt] Selective enforcement of sex crimes

A very large portion women report they have experienced some form of sexual assault (including but not limited to unwanted touching or verbal harassment of a sexual nature) at some point in there lives.  Hypothetically, suppose an omniscient state successfully prosecutes and convicts every single instance.  Although a victim might forgive or not want to press charges, the state still prosecutes and convicts to label and immobilize the offender for the good of society.  What percentage of the male population would end up in jail and permanently labeled a sex offender?  I suspect extremely high.  (Written using stereotypical gender roles for ease of presentation only.)

There are actually two orthogonal problems here, one overshadowing the other.  The famous one is, where ought the legal definition of criminal wrongdoing be set?  There is plenty of debate about this, elsewhere.

We don't have an omniscient state (though cynically we are approaching one with all this surveillance).  Only a very small percentage of sex crimes are prosecuted. The overshadowed problem is, which ones?  Is there unjust bias in which ones get prosecuted?  Everyone should be treated equally under the law: this one of the most important principles of democracy.  Given such a large number of crimes to start with, it seems almost impossible to avoid unjust bias.  (In contrast, all murders will be prosecuted.)  If selected for "worst", different people have different definitions of "worst": a prosecutor might select those which are most politically favorable.  If selected for "strongest prosecutorial case", there is likely bias in which crimes result in stronger or weaker cases (for example, a rich person might be able to buy more privacy, resulting in a weaker case).

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