Everything I know about crime and punishment came from two main sources: my parents, of course, and later, the nuns who taught me at Mt. Mary Immaculate Academy, my convent boarding school. They all agreed that the key characteristics of effective punishment are that it is both swift and consistently predictable. Get caught red-handed tormenting your little brother? You’ll be immediately administered a sharp smack upside the head. Get caught smoking outside the convent during lunch break? Sister Mary Margaret will see to it that you lose your upcoming home weekend privileges on the spot.
Very simple. Cause and effect. Logical consequences. No discussion. No argument. No exceptions. Everybody knew the rules and everybody played by them.
Now there’s yet another source to back up this theory. Dr. Rick Linden, who teaches criminology at the University of Manitoba, tells us that this certainty of punishment may actually be far more important than the severity of punishment. Continue reading