Crime is a relatively new invention. For most of human existence, we have lived in tribes which were governed by cultural beliefs of moral and immoral behavior. A culture is a set of teachings passed on through the generations. In the tribal setting, culture is passed down from grandparents to children and changes very little, except in extreme circumstances. Each tribe had a different definition of the moral life, or how to live well', based on what customs were necessary to keep the tribe together. On planet Earth there were once over 10,000 tribes and 10,000 definitions of the good life.
But today is different. We have little culture being passed down besides an over-reliance on technology which changes daily. The children of today receive as their cultural heritage a distrust of all things old and time-tested. These children are largely devoid of one of life's blessings, one of the things that makes us truly compassionate and loving humans, a community.
Around 98% of humanity lives under, is subject to, some form of government. Governments create crime (illegality) by making laws, which only becomes necessary when community is destroyed. A community shares resources, insuring that all will eat or none, all will sleep in comfort or none shall. A public, which is what we have today in abundance, always requires a government. The loss of community allows resources to be hoarded, some to grow up with everything and some with nothing.
We acknowledge that to hold up a liquor store is wrong, but perspective matters. Growing up dirt poor in the ghetto, constantly being bombarded with television shows about people who have-it-made, and there being no store within 10-blocks but the liquor store, you may not find the hold-up so much immoral as illegal.
Over two million American citizens are in the criminal justice system. A majority of those are there for drug violations, and a majority of those are there for possession only. Once again, you live in a dirt poor neighborhood (a neighborhood with little dirt and lots of concrete). Of all your friends and family, the only ones eating well are the black market dealers. Is it immoral, or just illegal, to try to get your share when the well-to-do are the least willing to share?
This gets worse. The wealthiest people are doing everything they can to own more of the world's finite resources. Technology has been a major tool of theirs. Using expensive equipment and inputs, a few owners of very large farms have driven most of our small farmers out of business, the same small farms that once provided much of rural America's jobs. Technology has been applied in every economic sector to the same ends. Adoption of technology has empowered a relative few "experts" while taking jobs away from the regular Joes and Janes, all with predictable consequences.
In making laws that define crime, we as a nation create criminals. By allowing government to be corrupted by a wealthy few, we create the conditions which motivate criminal behavior. When we allow workers to be replaced by technology, we have handed over control of our lives and communities to people who care only about hoarding more wealth.
In this light, the criminal justice system becomes a perverse monstrosity. Whether the goals are punishment or rehabilitation, the individuals nor the system are broken, rather we have a poor understanding of the problem that this perverse system was designed to address.
Getting back to the good life, that is morality versus legality, requires that we re-build our communities so they leave no one out. The only alternative is to support crime by pretending that locking people behind bars has a positive effect on society. It does not. If it did, why are there more inmates, and more laws, every year? Crime is a shared responsibility, because we all participate in this culture everyday, and we all have the ability to change it.