Mob Justice and the Depression
During a severe economic downturn, there are many criminals who will take advantage and use their survival skills to adapt, improvise and overcome. Many will be merely sociopaths who ordinarily “act” normal and hold jobs and then when things get tough will revert to their true selves. As people get desperate and have no skills to make it, but have the ability to procure a weapon, those folks will attempt robberies. Seasoned criminals will use much more caution since they know the penalties having already been incarcerated. Those folks will attack households that are empty or temporarily empty due to their owners searching for food or employment. It doesn't pay, nor is it efficient to run into someone who can defend the home or slow down the criminal. A typical strategy is picking non-traditional buildings and people since the “loot” might be food or supplies, or attacking households in which the owners are away at a funeral. The less experienced criminals by circumstance are drug addicts or desperate people, and if you ask a law enforcement person, they'll tell you some of the botched robberies that resulted in deaths.
During the Depression, early bank robbers were treated like Robin Hood. They might give a small amount of money for witnesses to look the other way, offer special favors, have notoriety so women hide them, or they may pay bills or leave food so people will house them temporarily.
Later people will wise up as they realize that it's killing law enforcement and costing them money as security is routed to deal with them. Much of the romance of the robbers will decline. In a SHTF scenario, losing a trained law enforcement specialist could severely hurt the defensive/offensive capability of the community.
Other folks that look different or have other religious beliefs or act different will be looked upon with suspicion. They may get blamed for crimes that others do, whether they actually are like those people or are guilty or not. This happened many times with lynchings in both the North and South, and since a mob is already frustrated with the living conditions, and because law enforcement may be lacking or unable to deal with so many robberies or attacks, mob justice often will occur. Violence happened when sharecroppers bugged out due to foreclosed farms and since they tried to relocate to areas where the local people were struggling.
It may start out of a need to self-protect an area. Since people self-segregate by being in the neighborhood that they like, but transient people are always a part of an economic downturn, then mistakes can easily happen, and by the time a leader can calm them down, violence or deaths can occur. If you're a community leader, you can't let things progress that way, as it's too easy for innocents to be killed.
Most trials are long drawn out processes with lots of money spent and time and a judge and jails and more long waiting periods, and feeding and housing the accused or guilty and people to watch them, and ….You get the picture. When resources are minimal and when people form into a mob, then very rapid actions can happen which precludes evidence and a jury of peers and lawyers and a judge.
When justice is normally met out, since we claim to be a civil society, then it tends to occur as long incarceration. As trials may fail to provide adequate evidence, we have many checks and balances such as later trials in which new evidence is introduced or witnesses can be more thoroughly tested. Since that's expensive in pioneer towns, capital punishment was used.
There's many problems with that. The main reason for it is to give relief to the community. Obviously there can't be any real justice given to the dead or the family members who've lost their support network, or just are grieving. In pioneer towns, the injury of people tended to handicap them permanently, and the deaths perpetuated severe economic loss for a generation. The act of capital punishment is to dispense catharsis. However in the absence of civility and control by leadership and law enforcement, the typical way it's mete out is by torture, not a shift execution. That's a historical fact of the barbaric nature within us. I urge you to read about these lynching and see the depth of the depravity that were committed. It's not often discussed in polite society or in history classes since it's so inflammatory.
You must not let that happen, even if you think it seems right. Such actions, like the current torture that we're using with “enemy combatants”, damages the people administering the torture far longer. Talk to any trained psychiatrist or psychologist who works with soldiers and PTSD. The action of violence, whether performed or received in an instant, can last for many decades of that person's life. It creates a psychic scar so deep that while the body attempts to heal over it, and while it can dismissed so the person can function, never heals completely.
Even worse things can happen. Since all people give up information under torture, but since the veracity of it can't be easily confirmed, then there is uncertainty on the part of those administering it, and since the tortured person must give them something, then lying is a strategy for survival.
Some people are tougher than others, and it's unpredictable who will give up information. They may give up information to move the guilt to someone else to get temporary relief from pain. This can mean one person may give up information on 20 or more people, all of whom may either be guilty of small crimes or innocent (or truly guilty too). Then classically those people become victims of torture.
Since some people are tough about their own pain, it's typical for those who perform torture to attack the most vulnerable in front of the 1st tortured victim. The victims might be your friends tortured right in front of you. They could be your wives or children in a SHTF scenario.
From the examples of history, in totalitarian governments forced confessions are often used under torture or threat of torture and then these are used to affect the community to persuade them of what can happen or that the accused are guilty.
Mob justice is NO JUSTICE.