Before I pose my question, I will clarify what I mean by 'punitive justice' in this context.


'Justice' means only the creation and enforcement of laws by a recognized political agency/ authority.  There is no implication that these laws are just or moral per se.


'Punitive' means that the afore mentioned law enforcement punishes by design.  The law making and enforcing agencies deliberately punish offenders for their crimes under the belief that punishment has intrinsic value. 


The question I pose is this: Is there still a place for punitive justice in modern society?  


This isn't intended a 'yes' or 'no' question.  Shades of grey are encouraged.  Various anarchistic views are also relevant.  I don't care about thread drift here provided it is drift and not total derailment.  Perhaps I'm thinking too narrowly on this subject.





On a side note, disagreeing with my views on this subject is punishable with death by forced Glenn Beck marathon!!!!  Grrr.

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Do not focus on punishing the law breakers. ( emotional thinking -> short term/revenge )
Focus on repairing the damage caused; rehabilitating the convicts. ( rational thinking -> long term perspective )

I fully support Loop.

My answer to Judith's question is that we should attempt to rehabilitate the offender while incarcerated to ensure that once released back into society he can rejoin as a productive member and not reoffend. The horrible act has been commited, and it is impossible to reverse. Rape is about violence (it is not a sexual act) and violence is most often the expression of deeper psychological issues which may be treated.

The pursuit of revenge is much effective in reducing crime than rehabilitating the offender. As for evidence, the least violent societies are generally among those with the most liberal treatment of convicts.

I think you're underestimating the deterrence value of speeding tickets. While it's probably true that you, like almost everyone else, routinely exceed the speed limit despite it being well-known and clearly indicated, this is most likely not due to the ineffectiveness of the law's deterrence so much as the infrequency of its enforcement. Virtually everywhere, the effective speed limit is a bit above the posted limit, and one knows that if you drive a little above the posted limit, there's practically zero chance you'll get ticketed, since everyone else is driving at the same speed. OTOH, if you exceed the limit by a good margin, and yet not so much that driving becomes truly dangerous, you'll run a real risk of being ticketed, and this is what likely holds you back.

Certainly, on most highways in the US the speed limits could be safely raised - on stretches where they now are 65 they were for a long time only 55 and weren't any more hazardous then. I drove in Germay earlier this year, where I was getting passed on a 2-lane highway because I was only doing 150 km/hr (that's almost 100 mph), in a blizzard, I might add. So US speed limits are not so high now that you need fear exceeding them for safety's sake (depending on what you're driving, I suppose).

OTOH, I only received a speeding ticket once, doing 82 in a 65 zone. Subsequently, every time I drive on that stretch of road now, I make sure to slow down to 72 or less, so as to avoid getting pulled over. The deterrent is obviously effective, at least to the extent that it is chosen to be.
Interesting topic. I am now fearful to disagree with you, though. Nothing could be worse than death by Glenn Beck.

I'll have to think about this. Rationally, I don't think punishment serves any purpose in cases where there is no concern over recidivism due to a life sentence with no parole. I know that the history of incarceration is not steeped in the notion of rehabilitation. But, the human animal is very tuned into notions of justice, fairness, and punishment due to our socialibilty. And that a killer is comfortably and happily incarcerated offends my notion of justice, especially if the victim is a loved one of mine. I can certainly see why Biblical justice was and still is popular with many.

Hmm. So many things to ponder.
Here is something I find interesting, if true.

The United States Department of Justice tracked the rearrest, re-conviction, and re-incarceration of former inmates for 3 years after their release from prisons in 15 states in 1994.[10] Key findings include:

Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).
Within 3 years, 2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape, and 1.2% of those who had served time for homicide were arrested for homicide. These are the lowest rates of re-arrest for the same category of crime.
The 272,111 offenders discharged in 1994 had accumulated 4.1 million arrest charges before their most recent imprisonment and another 744,000 charges within 3 years of release.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recidivism

I am surprised by the low rates for sex crimes. I had thought that the recidivism rates would be much, much higher. It makes me wonder if we have a national registry for sex offenders simply because of some high profile cases where a convicted rapist targeted a child. I know that many harsh laws are driven by specific crimes against children and are politically exepedient.
It is worth noting that these are re-arrest rates, not rates of re-offending.

Two things spring to mind - how many rapists or murderers were re-arrested for any crime, rather than just a same-category one? There is no mention in the article about the robbers, et al, being re-arrested for a same-category crime.

Secondly I wonder how many of the rapists and murderers were diagnosed psychopaths compared to the other listed crime-types. From the same wikipedia link:

"Findings indicate psychopathic prisoners have a 2.5 time higher probability of being released from jail than undiagnosed ones, even though they are more likely to recidivate.[7]

It has been shown that punishment and behavior modification techniques do not improve the behavior of a psychopath. Psychopathic individuals have been regularly observed to become more cunning and better able to hide their behaviour. It has been suggested that traditional therapeutic approaches actually create psychopaths, if not worse, then far more adept at manipulating others and concealing their behavior. They are generally considered to be not only incurable but also untreatable.[8]

Psychopaths also have a markedly distorted sense of the potential consequences of their actions, not only for others, but also for themselves. They do not, for example, deeply recognize the risk of being caught, disbelieved or injured as a result of their behaviour."


A higher incidence of psychopathy amongst rapists and murderers might help explain lower re-arrest rates as they learn to hide their behaviour.
It is worth noting that these are re-arrest rates, not rates of re-offending.

But, it is also worth noting that you can't capture the latter and must rely on the former. Unless a large percentage of people have managed to figure out how to commit the perfect crime and perpetually silence their victims, making the arrest rates highly unreliable data.

There is no mention in the article about the robbers, et al, being re-arrested for a same-category crime.

The source link is broken, so I can't be sure, but based on the context of the article, the rates are all for same category crimes. Also, recidivism is defined by repitious behavior, which I would see as a cause of being arrested (the result) rather than getting arrested as the behavior.

Secondly I wonder how many of the rapists and murderers were diagnosed psychopaths compared to the other listed crime-types

I think (speculate, really) that psychopaths have a high rate of sexual dysfunction or malfunction/obsession, if you will, but only make up a very small percent of sex offenders. How rare are psychopaths, anyway?
One must also contextually assume that the use of the word re-arrest also includes conviction and imprisonment. I don't like assuming anything, especially when statistics are involved. Especially when you see the same article talking about arrest charges in a contextual manner that does not imply conviction or imprisonment.

I just found that the article from wiki actually left me with more questions than answers. What's the saying? "There's lies, damn lies, and statistics"
Haha. True, true. I'm taking it all in on a contigency basis, anyway. Grains of salt all around.
I guess clear definitions aren't always easy. My layman's understanding is that psychopaths are rare. More common are sociopaths.

I think I need to read up more and get informed, too.
Maybe recidivism will be higher for the pedophiles.

Very possible. I'm almost afraid to research it online.
Unfortunately, there is a whole class of people we could describe as society's "underbelly". They don't understand rehabilitation. They don't want rehabilitation. They want to kill their (perceived) enemies or they want easy money or they want sex with frightened strangers or whatever.

The human condition encompasses the full gamut of people. Some of them are simply sick fucking people; without any hope of rehabilitation. That's the truth I've found in my experience thus far.

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