Egypt has largely been recognized as a police state since the 1980s when President Mubarak got into power. He passed a law that gave the police unprecedented powers to arrest, detain without trial and even punish the public in a manner that they saw fit. These laws were initially passed to minimize terrorism but because the latter term was not explicitly defined, it gave the police almost unlimited powers to do as they pleased thus leading to suppression of human rights and freedoms in this state (Cohen, 2011).
Strain theory’s explanation of the situation
In the strain theory, it is often assumed that people will play by the rules upheld in conventional society. However, social constraints could not allow everyone in society to equally achieve those goals thus placing many individuals in a strenuous situation that causes them to engage in crime. This theory of crime is quite applicable to the Egyptian question of police mistrust. Egyptians have historically been denied the freedom to express themselves and to associate. These restrictions have been implemented through a brutal police force. In essence, the police have created a hostile environment for carrying out economic activities because internal and external investors are often discouraged by the corruption inherent in the Egyptian authorities. Consequently, there are minimal opportunities for achieving material success for the average Egyptian.
These citizens go through strain because of the lack of control of their empowerment and this is often blamed on the police. On the other hand, Egyptians trust the army because it has behaved neutrally especially during the recent protests that led to the ousting of President Mubarak. What this implies is that the public does not blame the army for their woes. It even explains why they trust the army far more than they would the police.
Beccaria’s theory on the issue
Beccaria explains that punishment should not be implemented to serve a retributive approach or for revenge. Instead, he argues that punishment should reform the perpetrator, deter others and prevent the accused from engaging in another crime. What this implies is that the criminal justice system should be utilitarian rather than vengeful. Therefore for punishment to serve these purposes, it needs to be done speedily so that the mind can connect the crime to punishment thus heightening its deterrence value. Additionally, extremely severe punishments like the death penalty cause more harm than good although these punishments should be adjusted about the intensity of the crime. Judges should not interpret the law but just follow strict rules as the certainty of punishment can be assured (Beccaria, 1986).
Egyptian authorities have disregarded all of Beccaria’s recommendations thus explaining why their behavior has minimal deterrence value. This police use the law at their discretion, have employed capital punishment, and given sporadic treatments. Because there is no direct association between crime and punishment, the Egyptian public has become confused about their criminal justice system and has ended up mistrusting their police. The same cannot be said of the army because its actions have not been sporadic.
Daniel Nagin’s interpretations on the issue
Nagin carried out a study and found that severity and promptness of punishment had minimal effects on its deterrence but that certainty did (Nagin, 1998). In this regard, Nagin would argue that the Egyptian population mistrusts the police and trusts the army because the police give highly uncertain arrests and punishments as seen during the January to February 2011 protests. However, the army is more predictable in terms of its actions hence explaining the respect that its countrymen have for it.
Beccaria, C. (1986). On crimes and punishments. Indianapolis: Hackett.
Cohen, R. (2011). Egypt news-the protests. The New York Times.
Nagin, D. (1998). Criminal deterrence research at the outset of the twenty first century. Journal of quantitative criminology, 13(4), 45.