Should you serve a sentence in the country of the crime?

samantha orobator_-23Pregnant British woman Samantha Orobator, convicted of drugs smuggling in Laos, could serve her jail term back in the UK after successful talks between British and Laotian authorities. She’d been threatened with the death penalty after trafficking 680g of heroin, but became pregnant in jail. Under Loatian law, pregnant women cannot be sentenced to death.

British Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant said, “I very much hope that with any luck Samantha will be able to return in the next week or ten days.”  Samantha, who is 20, has also been helped by Reprieve to be able to serve her sentence in the UK.

Some of you have already been commenting on this blog. Keith says I would argue that for the most part, people should be accountable to the laws stipulated by the government that they are in- after all, we would expect citizens of other countries to respect our laws within our borders, would we not?

However Venessa argues in some places it would be difficult to know if the charges were genuine and that creates a sticky situation that is tough to deal with.

Gary McKinnon
There’s also the case of Gary McKinnon, an Asperger’s Syndrome sufferer, who is accused hacking into US military and NASA computer systems. A few days ago, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was asked about the case and said, “The Garry McKinnon case raises a number of issues and anybody who looks at this must be sympathetic to someone who suffers from Asperger syndrome.”

Gary spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday. Writing on their blog, Archmoomoo writes: Asperger’s Syndrome shouldn’t be an excuse. I don’t want people on the autistic spectrum breaking into my house (or computer) and getting away with it just because they leave a message on my fridge door saying they were only looking for a cup of sugar and that my home security is poor.  But Knellerman writes: Welcome to Asperger’s: Right motive, wrong action. Gary was looking for UFOs, not hacking into military secrets. As for Gary coming across as arrogant, that is often a sign of AS. Poor insight into own behaviour.

But if you commit a crime in a different country, should your punishment or imprisonment also be there? Is it right that convicted prisoners are helped by their governments to come home to serve their sentence? Conditions in jails may be better in their country, is it fair that these prisoners are helped in this way? And why should a foreign country pay for the upkeep of a criminal from another country?

32 Responses to “Should you serve a sentence in the country of the crime?”

  1. July 28, 2009 at 19:14

    Firstly, congratulation for this website blog, and in my viewpoint drugs, for sure is the bad of century and this youth women could be death, and luckly she may go hometown because her pregnancy. Who envolves with drugs have two ways, jail or cemitery,unfortunately.

  2. 2 Keith
    July 28, 2009 at 19:20

    It’s a difficult position. If people are only judged by laws in certain countries, they are eligible for loopholes. However, we obviously don’t often agree with the punishment in other countries for certain offenses (if we did, we wouldn’t have different punishments, now would we?)

    I would argue that for the most part, people should be accountable to the laws stipulated by the government that they are in- after all, we would expect citizens of other countries to respect our laws within our borders, would we not? If there is such a large discrepancy between the laws of two countries, then it is a matter of dispute between representatives of the respective countries.

  3. 3 Keith
    July 28, 2009 at 19:22

    Furthermore, in this particular case, I argue that while I don’t agree with the death penalty for drug related crimes, I don’t think that the punishment is such a grave overreaction. A heavy trafficker of hard drugs could be contributing to many counts of manslaughter.

  4. 4 Keith
    July 28, 2009 at 19:28

    I retract my previous statement, as I overestimated the actual amount of drugs this woman was responsible for trafficking. I thought it said kilograms, not grams.

  5. 5 tipsylife
    July 28, 2009 at 19:33

    Is the fair sex still fair? I have my doubts even if these remain my own. So many women in my country are increasingly getting into the centre stage of serious crime, one of them being the same drug trafficking or working in cahoots with murderous gangs. We are increasingly terrified of women in my country. Quit an increasing a number of men wouldn’t think of bringing a girlfriend at ones living quarters. You can either be drugged or murdered by her male gang members. If you are lucky you will just be robbed.

    In my case, drug trafficking is a serious crime given the many youths who have been reduced to waste by drugs. You need to come across a drug addicted individual to understand this. It is terrible & horrible; I run out of words and for once I can understand why some countries resort to such drastic measures for dealing with such he/she crooks.

    Whether its a man or woman, they should not be spared but should be punished severely. In her case I simply don’t care what punishment she gets.

    • 6 Helen
      August 3, 2009 at 00:27

      What we call crime is arbitrary in reality.I think we often have the herd mentailty that we are”good”or have never been caught.But a lawbreaker is bad,and not like us.Yes do the punishment.So many other things are involved and ignored;I know that Jesus was crucified between two theives is never given a second thought.At that time you could be crucified for stealing.Maybe even stealing food.Does anyone think that is too much?Does anyone think it is too out of hand to put someone to death as a punishment,or do we just ignore all the other circumstances and think nothing of the crucifying of two theives but only think”I wouldn’t to be stolen from”and think nothing that they were crucified for it?

  6. 7 Tom K in Mpls
    July 28, 2009 at 19:34

    Lets see, when in Rome.. Also, why would another country want to bear the expense of punishing for another country. Then there is the rights of the complaining country within the global community. If you wish to debate capital punishment, just say it. All of this is extremely simple. I see nothing to debate.

    • 8 Helen
      August 3, 2009 at 00:40

      You should see what some of the old Chinese pusishments were:aving lye put into your eyes for looking at(a married woman I think).There are things that are not unlawful but the number of people who are hurt even by drinking amounts to criminality if there was accountability in regards of”damage done”.I unfortunately can’t say I can’t believe your attitude.Because it is the attitude so many people have.Nobody cares.Maybe nobody has the time to care or think of what’s going on in the world around them.The cause of any situation can result in desperate actions.Why do people sell or use heroin?

  7. 9 Konstantin in Germany
    July 28, 2009 at 19:37

    Here’s my somewhat hypocritical view on it:
    Firstly YES, you should serve the sentence in the country, where you commited it’s crime, provided you’re indeed guilty and you have not been framed by false accusations. Otherwise, foreigners to a country would cause havoc in it. That’s the point of it. You enter a country, you have to comply with it’s rules.

    That doesn’t mean i’ve done it always… I got arrested in North Korea (long story but nothing bad, considered by the West) and had a run-in with the police in Venezuela (taking the wrong turn and an escalating discussion with the police). I managed to get out of both situations, but there was really potential in it to screw up my life.

    Both times it was laws/rules, i didn’t really know about and which I didn’t break willingly.

    Of course, drug trafficking is another thing. Lucky Samantha.
    How did she get pregnant anyway?

  8. 10 patti in cape coral
    July 28, 2009 at 20:24

    @ Konstantin – I was wondering the same thing, how did she get pregnant? Did she know they could not put her to death if she was pregnant? Or was a rape perpetrated on her while she was in jail? Or did a boyfriend have a conjugal visit?

    I think you need to be aware and follow the laws of the country you are in, and know that in general, sentences are much stiffer than in the west. Still, looking at that young, pretty face, it is hard for me not to be relieved she doesn’t have to die after all.

  9. 11 patti in cape coral
    July 28, 2009 at 20:30

    Sorry, I just read the story, apparently she did get pregnant on purpose for a lighter sentence, getting the sperm from a fellow inmate. Does that make a difference? I don’t know. I hope if I were in the same situation, I would be as clever and quick thinking, but I doubt I would be in that same situation in the first place.

  10. 12 Venessa
    July 28, 2009 at 22:31

    “A British woman who became pregnant in an apparent attempt to avoid the death penalty for drug smuggling in Laos could be home next week after an agreement was reached between British and Laotian ministers.
    Samantha Orobator, 20, was instead sentenced to life after conceiving despite being held in a women-only jail wing. She is now likely to be transferred to complete her sentence in a British jail. She could be released within a few years. ”

    Firstly, how does someone in a women’s prison get pregnant? Secondly, she did it so she could avoid execution. I say let her give birth, adopt the child out and she can finish her sentence where she did the crime, in Laos. This isn’t a question of the charges being legitimate; this is merely a ploy by Orobator to avoid the punishment she gets in the country she committed the crime.

    “Should you serve a sentence in the country of the crime?”

    I don’t think this is a black and white issue. For the most part I would say people convicted of crimes in other countries should do their time there regardless of the conditions. However, in some places it would be difficult to know if the charges were genuine and that creates a sticky situation that is tough to deal with.

  11. 13 steve
    July 29, 2009 at 01:57

    I think that perhaps so long as you are convicted in the country where the crime is committed, if the nations agree, the time could be served in the other country. But you also need to ask, why should the country you come from pay to jail you for a crime you committed in another country?

    Imagine a scenario where what is not legal there is legal in the UK. Would this person serve time in the UK? I doubt the countries would come to an agreement on that, but there are things that are legal in europe that are illegal in the US, and like that way with many other countries. Where the case is it’s illegal in both, then so long as nations agree, then the person can be permitted to serve in the home country.

  12. 14 steve
    July 29, 2009 at 02:01

    I worked as an intern at the US Consulate in Berlin, Germany, and on occasion, I would accompany an FSO to german jails to visit american prisoners in German jails. Though this issue never came up, foreign governments do provide some aid or at least information to their nationals in the foreign justice system. In one of the cases I saw, the German prosecutor basically said there was little evidence , and he would probably be released, but he was being held for weeks without any formal charges. The purpose of consular visits is to prevent any kinds of miscarriages of justice, like someone languishing jail for long periods of times without being charged.

  13. July 29, 2009 at 06:50

    but became pregnant in jail.

    Then she was raped in jail by whom? Consented to sex in jail, had sex, got pregnant, by whom?

    Stupidity is what stupidity does, but carrying that amount of smack into a country like Loas – well, that is just nuts!

    Yet – you cannot get away from the fact she became pregnant while incarcerated – two wrongs certainly don’t make a right, but if she was raped…?

    • 16 tony
      July 29, 2009 at 08:24

      as a drug mule, she knew what she was doing, by getting pregnant in jail she knew what she was doing too, no death pently, so its life…but serve it in Loas, why bring her back for an easy life………the drug she was carrying could/would have killed hunderds.
      But in this PC country she will proberbly make millions of pounds with a book and film…….

  14. 17 Tom of Melbourne
    July 29, 2009 at 06:55

    Law enforcement is a matter strictly the responsibility of the local authority. Unless a bilateral agreement already exists with another country, a foreigner tried and found guilty of breaking local laws should be punished according to local laws, including imprisonment within the country/city where crime was committed.

    • 18 RightPaddock
      July 29, 2009 at 16:47

      @Tom of Melbourne – Exactly

      Bilateral prisoner exchange treaties normally require some of the sentence (typically 50%) be served in the country in which the criminal was convicted.

  15. 19 VictorK
    July 29, 2009 at 08:29

    @Konstantin: all the evidence suggests she was raped by a prison official. The British media initially reported the story along these lines. They then suddenly dropped all reference to how she got pregnant in a women’s prison, suggesting the influence of the British government in their treatment of the story (presumably it didn’t want to antagonise the Laotian regime – with a view to getting her out?). A free press to be proud of.

    Why shouldn’t people serve a sentence in their own country if that’s acceptable to both governments and the prisoners concerned? Obviously there’s no right to such a thing, but if it can be agreed what’s the issue? Perhaps the real issue is that only people from those few countries whose governments actually care about the welfare of their citizens will benefit from such agreements (Japanese, South Koreans, and Westerners, and maybe a few others) but nobody else. In which case: tough. That’s the way of the world.

    I still think that Ms Orobator’s pregnancy is an important issue that needs to be addressed, and the confused media response.

    • 20 patti in cape coral
      July 29, 2009 at 12:56

      The story I read stated she got the sperm from a fellow inmate when they were in a public area of the jail?

  16. 21 tony
    July 29, 2009 at 08:29

    the cynic bring up the subject……was she raped? Of course not, dont put a cover up over this. She was a drug mule, making MONEY. Very simple. There is no way of telling that this may not have been her first trip either. Life should mean life, where ever the sentenced is served. Whats the betting she will be out within 12mths over coming back to UK.

  17. 22 Peter
    July 29, 2009 at 10:26

    Something must have been traded to make the Laos gov to agree. Bribe or something. Thats how you can corrupt 3rd world countries. Yet the west complained about corruption .

  18. 23 T
    July 29, 2009 at 16:07

    Ideally, people should be extradited to another country if they break a law(s) there.

    But in the real world, we all want the best (and usually most expensive attorneys). They’re job is to use EVERY legal means to keep us ut of jail.So to criticize someone for that is hypocritical.

  19. 24 T
    July 29, 2009 at 16:09

    With McKinnon, what if he’s taken to trial? He says he was looking for (and found) evidence of UFO’s. If that’s true, how will the govt. respond? Will the MSM treat this as a serious issue? Or, will they treat it as a joke because all of the conspiracy nutters will come out?

  20. 25 Tom K in Mpls
    July 29, 2009 at 16:33

    Hey people, why are you considering pregnancy as an issue? Making this a factor simply gives criminals an advantage. This case points it out more than most. This is really very simple. She did it, she pays.

  21. 26 steve
    July 29, 2009 at 17:41

    @ Tom K
    It’s beyond the scope of this topic, but is death really the penalty for drug smuggling? Is that really an eye for an eye?

    • 27 Tom K in Mpls
      July 29, 2009 at 18:55

      Sure it is. But that is not up to foreigners. It is up to the people of the country. You or I have no right to tell them what is right. We do have the obligation to respect their ways when we go to their lands.

  22. 28 Francis
    July 30, 2009 at 05:14

    Drug trafficing has over the years became a global problem, the size in which can not be over-emphasized, it is as hugh as the glob it’s self.
    One universal decree is not enough to tackle or combat it, different countries have the right to deceide on what measures it considers suitable to confront offenders. An African adage states that “a meal is better eaten where it was cooked”

  23. 29 Timur
    July 31, 2009 at 18:35

    If the person convicted such a serious crime and it has been proved that the person actually did that, I think that the person must bear responsibility for that. If ANY of the nationals of THAT country would do the same thing, they would face death penalty and they WILL BE PUNISHED. How in this view a foreigner is any better?

  24. August 1, 2009 at 12:48

    All drug legislation is based on hypocrisy since the biggest killer of all, alcohol, is freely available and openly advertised to encourage people to guzzle themselves blotto on it. In the case of selling (another anodyne word for trafficking its all part of the same process) other killer drugs, crack cocaine etc its condemned up to and including the death penalty as in this case. The people who sell/traffic killer drugs other than alcohol know the risks. The only crime, as usual, is getting caught. This person got caught and it is a matter entirely for the government of the country where the incident happened as to where the sentence is served.

  25. 31 Helen
    August 2, 2009 at 23:39

    I would say you should serve the sentence in the country you committed the crime.In. America you are always charged where the crime took place. You go to court there. And I assume serve the jail sentence locally or are sent to the appropriate prison.A death sentence for heroin in a substantial quantity. How many heroin users die?Or are dying slowly?(At the rate sugar kills people it does make me think a little more leniently towards the British girl and a lot more harshly to sugar producers and sellers). If we are squeamish about harsh penalties there is something wrong with us or something wrong with the laws.And how many scruffy looking characters have been put to death with no sympathy for them?She looks like she should be wearing a graduation cap and gown;but why do we kill others who appear less fresh-faced and young?Where is our sympathy,our sense,where are our values?

  26. 32 Dennis Junior
    August 12, 2009 at 18:13

    You should served the sentence of any Conviction in the country of it action….Unless, both countries have come to an agreement to do a prisoner trade….

    =Dennis Junior=

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