All law stems from one source of order. In a time of anarchy and chaos a man brought for from a mountain top two stone tablets from which all law branches. Those two tablets, the Ten Commandments, were to be the seeds of lawful civilization. Those seeds have since become the roots of modern humanity. A prime example of this is the United States government.
The phrase 'In God we trust'; is imprinted on every piece of legal tender and on most documentation. The purpose of law and government is to 'protect'; the people, but the fact that punishment need be imposed only illustrates the fact that it does not protect. Punishment is imposed only after harmful actions against society have been carried out. In order for punishment and legal intervention to be applied there first must be a crime or an action that is the government's responsibility to prevent from taking place. When law is applied the government has already failed to protect the individual; punishment will do nothing to help the victim after they have been victimized. Law does not, in truth, prevent such behavior; it only deals with it once it has occurred.
Law does nothing to prevent socially harmful behavior, it therefore does not protect in accordance with the tenets set forth in the theory of the Social Contract. Why then, in such a modern civilization, do we have vigilantes? The answer is simple. The fact is that although humanity has advanced, law has failed to keep up. The prime candidates for vigilantism are those who abide by the law. They acknowledge the existence of the law and respect it. They expect that if one day they are the victim of a crime the offender will quickly go through trial and be punished.
The truth is that that is rarely the case. It can take months for an offender to even go to trial. The U. S. criminal justice system, however the best in the world, is not nearly efficient enough to properly handle the workload placed upon it. Still the situation comes up that even in a clear-cut case with hard evidence and witnesses, law enforcement will fail to properly pass down punishment to those who commit a crime.
This is the time when people take the law into their own hands. Impatience and frustration drives and individual to do what he or she believes what the government has failed to do. It can happen to anyone. But can crime be prevented in the first place? The law often frustrates teenagers and adults alike. The major difference between these two groups is experience. Teenagers are usually more likely to go out and 'punish'; those who violate them or their friends.
An example of a teen vigilante is when a teen goes out to defend his / her name in order to prevent slander. This is seen very often. Unfortunately, these teens have either not been educated or have exhausted all legal means in order to halt the crime (slander). Adults are often confronted with the same situation but by having experienced this before, they are more prepared to take action against this. But in adults we often see something not usually seen in teens, the involvement of alcohol.
Alcohol clouds judgment and increases violent tendencies. Although teens do consume alcohol, they cannot obtain it legally. Because of the age difference, punishment should not be the same for both adults and teens. Although there are some difference, for some reasons adults seem to have more choices in terms of education and correction.
In adult prisons, inmates can attend GED classes and earn degrees. Teens however do not have that same option. Instead, they have clean-up punishments such as Saturday detention at the high school. What should be done is Saturday corrective classes. Instead of cleaning the school, clean their minds.
This is where education comes in. In order to eliminate criminal behavior, we first must rehabilitate and educate those who are at high risk to or have already committed a crime. In most forms of punishment, such as seen at the Douglas Juvenile Corrections office, there is actually no correction. Lawn maintenance does in no way educate the offenders. Punishment does not promote understanding not does it allow analysis. Education, unlike punishment, is not a restriction, but a guide.
Education is a positive behavioral influence that promotes freedom and instills morality. With education comes understanding. Without those two key elements there cannot be the wisdom necessary for correction. Regarding the disciplinary action taken on juvenile offenders, some of which I have seen working outside during school hours, should not be out there. Instead, they should be forced to attend school.
Whether it is high school or a form of military school, they need education. Becoming a vigilante is almost never a result of free choice of an individual. Rather, it is forced upon one by poor or slow action on part of law enforcement. If we as society ever hope to live in peace and prosperity as guaranteed to us by the constitution, we need to not only enforce the laws, but preach the law.