Four former justice ministers, joined by the current one, debated Estonian criminal law at a conference today, concluding that harsher punishments will not bring crime levels down.
Märt Rask, who recently stepped down from the chair of the Supreme Court, and was the minister of justice in 1992 and from 1999-2003, said that most people support more severe punishments, but those who work in the system admit that the method does not decrease crime.
“The passion for revenge is in all of us, but in the context of rational social behavior, it is not right to fan those flames,” Rask said.
Commenting on the case of a young man, who has repeatedly attacked police officers in Viljandi, but only received community service, Jüri Adams (justice minister from 1994 to 1995) said that some young men quiet down by age 30.
Harsh prison sentences increase the chances that men like that do not settle down, but continue on a violent path, Adams said.
The current justice minister, Hanno Pevkur, said that crime victims support severe punishments the most, but hard evidence suggests more moderate punishments have not increased crime levels.
Ken-Marti Vaher (minister from 2003 to 2005) said that instead of punishments, preventative measures should be used more, concentrating on children.