Over at Vox they’ve collected a few solutions to problems that people may traditionally want to call the police for. It’s quite strange to call the police to help people in mental health crisis when the police are better equipped to take on armed bank robbers. It’s also strange that the police handle traffic violations while we also call them to investigate murder. It doesn’t have to be this way, we can do better and we know how.
People often decide to call the police because someone in their area appears to be intoxicated or in some kind of mental health crisis. One 2017 study of Camden, New Jersey, for example, found that 7 percent of calls were related to some mental or behavioral health need, according to the Center for American Progress (CAP).
But police are not trained to address mental health or substance use issues, and calling them can lead to a person in crisis being arrested and jailed, rather than getting the medical treatment they may need, as Amos Irwin and Betsy Pearl write at CAP. Several police killings in recent years — like the fatal shootings of Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, last fall — happened when law enforcement officers encountered someone having a mental health crisis.
Instead of police, a growing number of cities have crisis response teams composed of social workers, counselors, and others trained to help people with mental health or substance problems. In Eugene, Oregon, for example, a program called Cahoots sends trained specialists to help people deal with crises involving mental health or substance use, and refers them to further services or treatment, as Roge Karma reported at Vox.
Florence Mumba, a former judge of the International Criminal Court, is working hard to make ecological destruction a criminal act. Mumba and a whole team of international lawyers are focusing on getting legal definitions for ecocide and want to eventually charge people, governments, and corporations that commit massive ecological destruction. Small islands nations facing extinction due to climate change have called for this before, and so it’s really good to see that there is a concerted effort to put into international law the protection of our planet.
Sands said: “The time is right to harness the power of international criminal law to protect our global environment … My hope is that this group will be able to … forge a definition that is practical, effective and sustainable, and that might attract support to allow an amendment to the ICC statute to be made.”
Mumba, a judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal and former supreme court judge in Zambia, said: “An international crime of ecocide may be important in that individual/state responsibility may be regulated to achieve balance for the survival of both humanity and nature.”
Jojo Mehta, the chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation, told the Guardian: “In most cases ecocide is likely to be a corporate crime. Criminalising something at the ICC means that nations that have ratified it have to incorporate it into their own national legislation.
“That means there would be lots of options for prosecuting [offending corporations] around the world.”
Nations around the world have been putting more and more environmental protection laws on the books. This has been good to see. However, with many new things it takes awhile for people to get used to them, accordingly the enforcement of these laws has been lax. This means that if want to stop corporations from causing massive environmental we need to actually enforce the law, thankfully this is easier than it might sound.
“It really is something that all countries share,” Carl Bruch, the director of International Programs at the Environmental Law Institute and one of the authors of the report, said in a phone interview. “We do have a lot of environmental laws that are on that books that could be so much more effective if they were actually fully implemented.”
On the justice front, sometimes a lack of proper training and education for judges can disrupt the systems in place to enforce environmental law. In Ecuador, for example, a non-government organization sued to prevent a pine tree plantation from being erected in a native grassland ecosystem. But the judge, unaware of Ecuador’s constitutional provisions that allow anybody to bring forward a suit in protection of the environment, dismissed the case and allowed the plantation to be built, the UN report noted.
When someone breaks the law or acts out in a transgressive manner we often turn to punishment to correct their behaviour. We do this in families and as a society, but is it right? If take a moment to look at the roots of modern punishment we might conclude that it’s best to try something else.
One answer is that punishment evolved to promote the greater good and prevent tragedies of the commons. This is the altruistic approach. Yes, punishment might be costly for the punisher, but (so the theory goes) it generates downstream benefits for others – stabilising cooperation, enforcing just rules, deterring freeriders. Punishment is probably essential for maintaining and enforcing norms, laws and customs. Yet its origins appear to trace back to a time before robust human societies, perhaps even before we had language to articulate the rules. Recent research has identified contexts where dominant chimps seem to punish freeloaders. So perhaps punishment preceded the benefits it generates.