Each nation has its own viewpoint and methodology for dealing with crime in their society. In a global community, the issue is no longer one of “local” custom, but can easily shift across national borders. Some locales currently try to address crime as solely the result of an individual’s actions and either try to imply a genetic or an environmental cause, or in some cases, a combination of “nature and nurture”. Historically, while most communities have dealt with crime on the basis of punishment and deterrence, others have taken a wholly different approach based on the idea of education and development of the individual through a supportive environment. Some aboriginal communities have indeed recognised that criminal behavior represents a failing of the community itself and they use the expression as an opportunity to support the individual. Recently the country of Norway has been attempting a new approach that focuses not on punishment, but on creating a positive environment of acceptance and opportunity for personal development for the convicted inmates, with what appear to be extraordinary results.
A lot of thought has also gone into the roots and causes of crime. To some degree, crime is defined differently from society to society. The question of violence between one person and another is clearly a central aspect of crime. In some societies that hold individual “ownership” of resources as a core principle, the idea of theft becomes a major source of crime, although for the most part it is defined as the poor taking resources held by others, in some cases as a very act of survival. Modern day analysis shows however that appropriation of resources that should be part of the common heritage of all humanity by a small elite, in many cases through self-dealing, backroom negotiations, and even fraud, is more and more being considered to be not only a crime in itself, but a precipitating factor in crimes of property in those who have no other legitimate access to the resources of the society.
Sri Aurobindo explores these issues in the context of the development of the World-State and the implications for addressing the question of crime globally: “In the matter, for instance, of the continual struggle of society with the still ineradicable element of crime which it generates in its own bosom, the crudity of the present system is sure to be recognised and a serious attempt made to deal with it in a very radical manner. The first necessity would be the close observation and supervision of the great mass of constantly re-created corrupt human material in which the bacillus of crime finds its natural breeding-ground. This is at present done very crudely and imperfectly and, for the most part, after the event of actual crime by the separate police of each nation with extradition treaties and informal mutual aid as a device against evasion by place-shift. The World-State would insist on an international as well as a local supervision, not only to deal with the phenomenon of what may be called international crime and disorder which is likely to increase largely under future conditions, but for the more important object of the prevention of crime.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 26, The Need of Administrative Unity, pp. 229-230