, Research Paper
The Code of Hammurabi was a primitive and cruel justice system that relied on fear to keep the populace in line. Hammurabi claimed he was sent by a god to rule, so therefore, no one would question his authority. Religion alone was not enough to keep the people in line, so Hammurabi created a code of laws that would scare the people into obedience. Breaking the laws resulted in an inhumane or exaggerated punishment. Common human error was treated as a crime, and could have severe consequences. The people lived in constant fear of the law.
The justice system claimed to have an “eye for an eye” mentality, but it often seemed that it was a life for an eye. Killing a man for committing robbery is extreme, he could just be picking a pocket, rather than robbing a bank. Cutting of an offender’s hand was a common punishment for small crimes. If a son strikes his father, his hand shall be cut off. This is done regardless of the circumstances, considering the father could be beating the son. Amputating a hand often led to death, for there was no medicine to stop the bleeding.
The court attempted to keep people from bearing false witness, by giving severe penalties. If a man cannot prove that the man he is accusing of murder is guilty, he shall be put to death. While this might deter citizens from making false accusations, it might cause an innocent man to be put to death because he could not find evidence. If someone were to bear false witness concerning grain or money, he shall put death. A little extreme, considering it could be concerning pocket change. Sentences like this would cause the people to be afraid to stand up for their rights in court.
Severe penalties were often inflicted in cases of common human error. If a physician were to cause a man’s death while operating, he would lose his hand. Physicians who try to do good are punished for making mistakes. Once they lose their hand, they cannot operate again. If criminals gather in a bar, and the owner does not arrest them, he is put to death. It is possible the owner feared for his life, and could not arrest them. And if a priestess enters a bar, she will be burned to death. Burning is a cruel way to kill someone, especially for just having the need to drink.
Despite its cruel nature, the Code of Hammurabi was very effective. Citizens were too afraid of the consequences to break the law. However, fear is not a good way to gain the support of the people. By using a fair justice system and analyzing each individual case, the justice system could help the innocent and punish the guilty. Instead, Hammurabi chose to adopt a system that would cause the citizens to be afraid. The code often punished the innocent for unfair reasons.
Unfortunately, the justice system today is no better than that of Hammurabi. Anyone rich enough to afford a good lawyer can get away with any crime. The punishments are woefully ineffective, the prison is supposed to force criminals to rethink their ways, but no effort is put into that. The use of the penalty is shown not to be a deterrent for criminals, because it is used so rarely and only in the most extreme cases. The system caters to money-grubbing lawyers, who often abuse the system to get their clients more money. Lawsuits are used by greedy people to get money they don’t deserve by suing companies for supposed problems they have caused.
Both systems of justice do not accomplish what they should be doing: Forcing criminals to rethink their actions. Hammurabi simply scared them out of crime, harming innocents in the process. The American system of justice simply sticks criminals in jail, and once they leave, they will go and commit more crimes. The only way to create a truly fair and effective justice system is to combine the two. A prison system that causes criminals to rethink their values, and a court system that protects the innocent and punishes the guilty. Only then will we have the perfect justice system that Hammurabi claimed to have.