The Buddha's teachings were first and foremost concerned with transcendence; getting out of this mess entirely. But he didn't neglect to apply his wisdom to more mundane concerns; personal, relational, even social and political.
He told one Jataka story about a foolish king and his wise counsellor. Seems that the kingdom was having a bit of a crime-wave; banditry, looting and so forth.
The king wanted to send in the army, crack a few skulls, hang a few miscreants as a deterrent. You know the score.
The counsellor said this wouldn't help in the long run. Better, he said, to see who wanted to take up farming and grant them land, who wanted to work in the civil service and give them good wages, and who wanted to start a business and loan them capital.
They tried that, and you know what? End of problem.
Seems like Canada's new gov't likes the king's plan. PM Harper has introduced his "tough on crime" proposals. Mandatory minimum sentences, more jails, less parole.
These kind of plans go against all the real-world criminology. A guy from the John Howard Society was on the radio and made a good point; this kind of assumes that a potential criminal is making a rational cost-benefit analysis before he does the deed. It's also a sad fact that jails as presently constituted mostly just make bad people worse. Universities of crime.
Unfortunately, these kind of knee-jerk proposals are popular with a lot of the public. And they really have nothing to do with reducing crime, they're just simple vengence. Any forward thinking proposals like teaching prisoners practical skills are always shot down with the argument that we're "molly-coddling" criminals.
It's dissappointing to see this kind of stupidity still happening.