A Bahá'í View
The problems of law and order in many countries of the world are multiplying. There are many reasons for this but fundamentally it is because we are in a transition period between the old order of society and the new world civilisation which is evolving. Many people no longer have high moral standards based on religious beliefs. There is no common agreement on what is right and wrong. Theft is often not considered to be wrong if the victim is the place of work, the government or a large institution. Respect for the rights of other people is no longer universal.
Building more and more prisons, with stricter regimes, does not stem the tide of crime. What is needed is a fundamental change of attitude in the individual and in society as a whole.
There are many causes or excuses for crime. One of these is poverty or inequality. We need to create a fairer world society, in which the gross inequalities between different parts of the world and different elements of society will become a thing of the past. An international economic system, with laws based on justice for all, would eventually eliminate the extremes of both poverty and wealth. There should be no excuses for crime.
One of the many difficulties facing society is that of organised crime. Sophisticated groups of criminals operate across national frontiers, whereas the forces of law and order are generally confined by these frontiers. The fact that each country has its own police, a separate currency, different banking laws, a different legal system and only a handful of extradition treaties encourages the criminals to move themselves and their proceeds from one country to another to escape justice. The only solution is to create a world civilisation, with a common set of laws, a world currency and a world police force.
Many crimes are committed while people are acting under the influence of habit-forming drugs or alcohol. If people had a real spiritual dimension to their lives they would have no need to use these substances, which cause people to temporarily lose their sense of right and wrong and can permanently impair the intellect.
"It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should consume that which stealeth it away."
The Bahá'í teachings state clearly that society must use every means at its disposal to prevent the trade in harmful drugs.
Crimes of a Sexual Nature
These types of crime may have become more common because of the inappropriate importance given to the search for sexual satisfaction, and because of the apparent lack of boundaries in sexual behaviour. The Bahá'í teaching is that sexual relationships should only exist within marriage:
"The Bahá'í Faith recognises the value of the sex impulse, but condemns its illegitimate and improper expression.... The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has been established."
Proper Treatment of Criminals
Although individuals are encouraged to forgive those who commit crimes against them, society as a whole cannot do this:
"...if criminals were entirely forgiven, the order of the world would be upset. So punishment is one of the essential necessities for the safety of communities."
"The community has the right of defence and of self-protection; moreover, the community has no hatred nor animosity for the murderer; it imprisons or punishes him merely for the protection and security of others."
Although prisons are necessary, they do not prevent crime being committed.The following is from the Bahá'í writings and was written in the early years of this century:
"The communities are day and night occupied in making penal laws, and in preparing and organizing instruments and means of punishment. They build prisons, make chains and fetters, arrange places of exile and banishment, and different kinds of hardship and tortures, and think by these means to discipline criminals, whereas, in reality, they are causing destruction of morals and perversion of characters."
Prevention is required rather than an attempt at containment.
"The communities must think of preventing crimes, rather than of rigorously punishing them."
Moral and spiritual training is required:
"The most essential thing is that the people must be educated in such a way that no crimes will be committed; for it is possible to educate the masses so effectively that they will avoid and shrink from perpetrating crimes, so that the crime itself will appear to them as the greatest chastisement."
"They.... will refuse, though they be dying of hunger, to stretch their hands and seize unlawfully the property of their neighbour..."
A Just Future
A spiritual regeneration of the whole world is necessary for crime to be reduced to its minimum level.
"Divine civilisation so traineth every member of society that no-one, with the exception of a negligible few, will undertake to commit a crime."
When we have a world civilisation based on spiritual values, with a universal economic and legal system based on justice, crime will cease to be the problem it is today.