I have a concern with this policy revision.
It's basically akin to a "mandatory minimum" sentencing structure such as is common in the US criminal law system. 4 strikes = permaban. This kind of thing feels very fair and impartial at first. But what it fails to account for are mitigating factors and other case-specific details. The US legal system also allows for executive branch pardons and commutations (even if such are rather rare), so that there is a structure to account for cases where the correct application of the laws results in an unjust result.
Two possible mitigating factors that seem worthy of consideration, in general: Post count over the previous year and a nebulously defined general level of net contribution to the community. I don't post much, and am a new user. If I manage to rack up four warnings at my current posting rate, roughly 1/30 of my posts warrant official moderator action. If someone who averages a thousand posts a year gets four warnings, they could have as low as a 1/250 ratio. While it's absolutely true that both me and the high volume poster would have earned four warnings, it's a lot easier to slip up if you're posting a lot more. Humans aren't perfect creatures, we get emotional and have bad days. Members of the community who put more of themselves into the forum are necessarily going to, at times, put some of the uglier parts of themselves into the forum. Obviously this doesn't excuse misbehavior, nor should it be a blanket get out of jail free card, but it seems worth considering.
This is an online forum, not a country. It makes almost no sense to compare the "penal codes" of the two. If you manage to get 4 hard warnings, you are not going to improve your behavior. Keep in mind that a hard warning isn't the first response the mod team goes for in most situations. Hard warnings are debated on the mod forum, not just given at a whim. In all my time frequenting various forums, I have never gotten even a single formal warning. Ever. And yes, I still get emotional, I don't hold back on what I want to say, but the amount of redacted
you have to pull to even get one formal warning is large enough that I never crosses that threshold. I have gotten a soft warning about once. If you have a "hard warning"/total post ration of 1/250 you're still doing something very wrong.
I really doubt I'm some sort of virtuous saint.
I also dislike the idea of keeping problematic posts around because they provide some sort of nebulous "value" to the community. In my personal experience with online forums, that is never worth it. It sours the community and makes it rot at the base. In pretty much every community, you'll have people providing the same value without being toxic. If you keep people around because they're popular or provide some sort of value that supposedly offsets their toxicity, you're probably making a mistake. All it does is show people that being toxic is allowed, as long as you post a lot.
I encourage you to think about what sort of behavior elicits a hard warning. Keep in mind that most users getting a hard warning will have gotten plenty of soft ones beforehand.