Punishment and rehabilitation is very much multi-dimensional.
If you knew burglary constitutes 3 months in jail and community service versus 10 years in jail and $50,000 restitution, you are psychologically more willing to commit that crime in times of hardship, because just like jail sentences, the persons motives to commit the crime also vary widely. I think the point here is that the tougher laws will prevent the people who are sitting on the "fence" from making the decision to commit those crimes versus finding other means of getting what they need or want. You can call this the preventative approach.
Then you must consider what punishment constitutes justice. You cannot always punish at the level that the victim will always want, because more times then not they will be thinking emotionally and irrationally wanting the toughest punishment. However the punishment must be upto par with what the general public believes is an acceptable punishment for X crime. It is not always just perpetually and infinitely "tough on crime", it is 'we aren't tough enough on the punishments for some crimes and need to adjust and amend accordingly to constitute justice. Sometimes its the reverse, the punishment is to harsh for the crime. Thus the justice dimension.
Last but certainly not least is the rehabilitation of the person. The majority of the time it is not the persons psychological soundness that caused them to commit the crime, it is often a choice they made. To make that choice they took into account their need to commit the crime (variable) and the associated punishment, because of this the willingness to take the risk is also variable in each scenario. A minority of the people committing the crime is filled up by mentally ill, uneducated, or otherwise mentally unsound people. Our judicial system allows for the defense to claim insanity, and mental illness. As such commonly judges make concessions and allow these people to take classes/groups/therapy/whatever for reduced sentences. The choice is at the judicial level, not at the legislative level.
However! I see a problem when the government starts intervening into legislation that is in the "grey zone". The grey zone to me is where the government begins to try to intervene into my personal liberty. It is not upto the government to protect me against myself. If what I am doing does not directly negatively effect others, then I should not be punished for doing it.
To conclude, I think it is more important to analyze the specific components of each change in tougher sentences, then to just overall say that any legislation that is tougher on crime is automatically bad.
Last edited by noid; 12-11-2011 at 08:42 PM.