Stiffer sentences may actually NOT be the answer. I believe certainty of punishment is more effective than long prison sentences. After six months in prison, a convict has adjusted to prison life and can function there as well as or better than outside.
If a kid steals a candy bar and gets away with it, he'll steal another. Then he'll up the ante and steal something bigger. Before long he steals a car for a joy ride, dumps it and walks away. Then he starts stealing cars and selling them to a chop shop. And so on and so on.
If a kid steals a candy bar and is caught and punished -- not heavy punishment, but something that lets him know there are consequences, and every time he steals something this happens, before long he gets the idea it's not getting him anywhere. He stops stealing or beating people up or whatever.
The problem is we'd have to live in a police state for this to work to stop every potential criminal from going there.
Back when I practiced criminal Law, a few of my clients were sent to prison for 60-day revaluations
after conviction. None of my clients ever got long sentences, but as a result of the 60 days in that
regimented, brutal situation, they all straightened out -- at least, that's the way it appeared to me
and the authorities.
In one client's case, I did too good a job representing him. He was a businessman who seemed to
always be on the financial edge and when he was short, he'd write a check. Usually, the check was written on one of his defunct businesses accounts, so it wasn't difficult for the police to find him. He managed to avoid a long prison sentence because he was a very charming individual -- a good con man, I guess. So it wasn't just my lawyering skills that saved him. He was good at conning prison psychologists, social workers and judges into believing he would stop doing stupid things.
Anyway, Kathy, we could argue about stiff sentences versus certainty of apprehension and which serves as a deterrent to the criminal mind, but in the long run maybe neither has much effect on a determined warped mind.