Crime and Punishment

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TheCatt
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Post by TheCatt »

(How was this not a topic? Or did I miss it?)

Personal belief: Punishment should NOT fit the crime. Punishment should be overly harsh and severe, possibly even cruel or unusual.

You steal $20, you get $100 worth of punishment, etc.
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thibodeaux
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Post by thibodeaux »

How about canings?
DictionaryDave
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Post by DictionaryDave »

TheCatt wrote:(How was this not a topic? Or did I miss it?)

Personal belief: Punishment should NOT fit the crime. Punishment should be overly harsh and severe, possibly even cruel or unusual.

You steal $20, you get $100 worth of punishment, etc.

I am suprised you didn't say guilty until proven innocent.

Also historically speaking overly harsh punishment doesn't work. Hell look at England in the middle ages you could die for stealing didn't stop it.
I do get a laugh when people bring up caning since Singapore got it from the British.
TheCatt
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Post by TheCatt »

DictionaryDave wrote:I am suprised you didn't say guilty until proven innocent.

Also historically speaking overly harsh punishment doesn't work. Hell look at England in the middle ages you could die for stealing didn't stop it.
I do get a laugh when people bring up caning since Singapore got it from the British.
Why, just cuz you can't separate views very well?

And, actually, a variety of studies show that harsher crime penalties do deter crime.
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Post by TPRJones »

Punishment must be cruel and unusual, or it is not punishment.

What is cruel? Cruel is something that is harsh, perhaps highly painful, perhaps financially debilitating. If what you do to someone who has broken the law is not harsh and cruel, then it will not cause any change to their behaviour. For example, the punishment for breaking the telemarketing laws is typically about $5,000 per offense. Currently, one call out of two million is prosecuted. So, on average, the punishment for two million illegal telemarketing calls is $5,000, while the profit from those calls is much much more (on the close order of $500,000). This punishment is not cruel, and is highly insufficient to halt the illegal activity.

What is unusual? Unusual is something that does not happen frequently, something that is rare. Something that happens frequently is something that one can adjust to. Punishment that is commonplace and everyday is not punishment, it is simply an annoyance.

Now, punishment that is improperly harsh, that is a different issue.

(Go read Starship Troopers, this book deals with this topic in much more elegant detail than I ever could)
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Post by 71-1085092892 »

Heinlein, Starship Troopers, as quoted on dtman.com December 2, 2001.
I found myself mulling over a discussion in our class in History and Moral Philosophy. Mr. Dubois was talking about the disorders that preceded the breakup of the North American republic, back in the XXth century. According to him, there was a time just before they went down the drain when such crime’s as Dillinger’s were as common as dog-fights. The Terror had not just been in North America – Russia and the British Isles had it, too as well as other places. But it reached its peak in North America shortly before things went to pieces.

“Law-abiding people,” Dubois had told us, “hardly dared go into a public park at night. To do so was to risk attack by wolf packs of children, armed with chains, knives, home-made guns, bludgeons….to be hurt at least, robbed most certainly, injured for life probably – or even killed. This went on for years, right up to the war between to Russo-Anglo-American Alliance and the Chinese Hegemony. Murder, drug addiction, larceny, assault and vandalism were commonplace. Nor were the parks the only places – these things happened also on the streets in daylight, on school grounds, even inside the school buildings. But parks were so notoriously unsafe that honest people stayed clear of them after dark.”

I had tried to imagine such things happening in our schools. I simply couldn’t. Nor in our parks. A park was a place for fun, not for getting hurt. As for getting killed in one – “Mr. Dubois, didn’t they have police? Or courts?”

“They had many more police than we have. And more courts. All overworked.”

“I guess I don’t get it.” If a boy in our city had done anything half that bad….well, he and his father would have been flogged side by side. But such things just didn’t happen.

Mr. Dubois then demanded of me, “Define a ‘juvenile delinquent.’”

“Uh, one of those kids – the ones who used to beat up people.”

“Wrong.”

“Huh? The book said –“

“My apologies. Your textbook does so state. But calling a tail a leg does not make the name fit. ‘Juvenile delinquent’ is a contradiction in terms, one which gives you a clue to their problem and their failure to solve it. Have you ever raised a puppy?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you housebreak him?”

“Err…yes sir. Eventually.” It was my slowness in this that caused my mother to rule that dogs must stay out of the house.

“Ah, yes. When your puppy made mistakes, were you angry?”

“What? Why, he didn’t know any better; he was just a puppy.”

“What did you do?”

“Why, I scolded him and rubbed his nose in it and paddled him.”

“Surely he could not understand your words?”

“No, but he could tell I was sore at him!”

“But you just said you were not angry.”

Mr. Dubois had an infuriating way of getting a person mixed up. “No, but I had to make him think I was. He had to learn, didn’t he?”

“Conceded. But, having made it clear to him that you disapproved, how could you be so cruel as to spank him as well? You said the poor little beastie didn’t know that he was doing wrong. Yet you inflicted pain. Justify yourself! Or are you a sadist?”

I didn’t know then what a sadist was – but I knew pups. “Mr. Dubois, you have to! You scold him so that he knows he’s in trouble, you rub his nose in it so he will know what trouble you mean, you paddle him so he darn well won’t do it again – and you have to do it right away! It doesn’t do a bit of good to punish him later; you’ll just confuse him. Even so, he won’t learn from one lesson, so you watch and catch him again and paddle him still harder. Pretty soon he learns. But it’s a waste of breath just to scold him.” Then I added, “I guess you’ve never raised pups.”

“Many. I’m raising a dachshund now – by your methods. Let’s get back to those juvenile criminals. The most vicious averaged somewhat younger than you here in this class…. and they often started their lawless careers much younger. Let us never forget that puppy. These children were often caught; police arrested batches every day. Were they scolded? Yes, often scathingly. Were their noses rubbed in it? Rarely. News organs and officials usually kept their names secret – in many places the law so required for criminals under eighteen. Were the spanked? Indeed not! Many of them had never been spanked even as small children; there was a widespread belief that spanking, or any punishment involving pain, did a child permanent psychic damage.”

(I had reflected that my father must have never heard of that theory.)

“Corporal punishment in schools was forbidden by law,” he had gone on. “Flogging was lawful as sentence of court only in one small province, Delaware, and there only for a few crimes and was rarely invoked; it was regarded as ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’” Dubois had mused aloud, “I do not understand objections to ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment. While a judge should be benevolent in purpose, his awards should cause the criminal to suffer, else there is no punishment – and pain is the basic mechanism built into us all by millions of years of evolution which safeguards us by warning when something threatens our survival. Why should society refuse to use to use such a highly perfected survival mechanism? However, that period was loaded with pre-scientific pseudo-psychological nonsense.

“As for ‘unusual,’ punishment must be unusual or it serves no purpose.” He then pointed his stump at another boy. “What would happen if a puppy were spanked every hour?”

“Uh….probably drive him crazy!”

“Probably. It certainly will not teach him anything. How long has it been since the principal of the school had to last switch a pupil?”

“Uh, I’m not sure. About two years. That kid that swiped –“

“Never mind. Long enough. It means that such punishment is so unusual as to be significant, to deter, to instruct. Back to these young criminals – They probably were not spanked as babies; they certainly were not flogged for their crimes. The usual sequence was: for a first offense, a warning – a scolding, often without trial. After several offenses sentence of confinement but with a sentence suspended and the youngster placed on probation. A boy might be arrested many times and convicted several times before he was punished – and then it would be merely confinement, with others like him from whom he learned still more criminal habits. If he kept out of major trouble while confined, he could usually evade most of even that minor punishment, be given probation – ‘paroled’ in the jargon of the times.

“This incredible sequence could go on for years while his crimes increased in frequency and viciousness, but with no punishment whatsoever save rare dull-but-comfortable confinements. The suddenly, usually by law on his eighteenth birthday, this so-called ‘juvenile delinquent’ becomes an adult criminal – and sometimes wound up in only weeks or months in a death cell awaiting execution for murder. You –“

He had singled me out again. “Suppose you merely scolded your puppy, never punished him, let him go on making messes in the house…and occasionally locked him up in an outbuilding but soon let him back in the house with a warning not to do it again. Then one day you notice that he is now a grown dog and still not housebroken – whereupon you whip out a gun and shoot him dead. Comment, please?”

“Why…that’s the craziest way to raise a dog I ever heard of!”

“I agree. Or a child. Whose fault would it be?”

“Uh…why mine, I guess.”
TPRJones
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Post by TPRJones »

Thanks, GORDON.

Heinlein is the basis for the majority of my moral and political views. He was my teacher (and damn near my only friend) when I was growing up.
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Malcolm
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Post by Malcolm »

When I used to run w\ "delinquents," we all knew the goddamned risks & we continued to do so anyhow. The penalty for petty theft & drug dealing could've been unquestioned death & we'd still've done it.
Diogenes of Sinope: "It is not that I am mad, it is only that my head is different from yours."
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TheCatt
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Post by TheCatt »

Malcolm wrote:When I used to run w\ "delinquents," we all knew the goddamned risks & we continued to do so anyhow. The penalty for petty theft & drug dealing could've been unquestioned death & we'd still've done it.
Oh, I doubt it.

Especially if 100% of people got caught and convicted.

On the other hands, drugs shouldn't be illegal.
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Post by 71-1085092892 »

In Heinlein's world your parents would have been under the whip right there with you. Makes me think they would take a bit more interest in your leisure time activities.
TPRJones
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Post by TPRJones »

Malcolm wrote:When I used to run w\ "delinquents," we all knew the goddamned risks & we continued to do so anyhow. The penalty for petty theft & drug dealing could've been unquestioned death & we'd still've done it.
If that were the penalty, at least there wouldn't be any problems with recidivism. :D
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Post by 71-1085092892 »

"These doors are gonna swing wide."
Malcolm
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Post by Malcolm »

TheCatt wrote:
Malcolm wrote:When I used to run w\ "delinquents," we all knew the goddamned risks & we continued to do so anyhow. The penalty for petty theft & drug dealing could've been unquestioned death & we'd still've done it.

Oh, I doubt it.

Especially if 100% of people got caught and convicted.

On the other hands, drugs shouldn't be illegal.
I truly wish some of them were here to respond, but to my knowledge, the folks that ain't dead are in jail.
Diogenes of Sinope: "It is not that I am mad, it is only that my head is different from yours."
Arnold Judas Rimmer, BSC, SSC: "Better dead than smeg."
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Post by 71-1085092892 »

On the "parents legally punishable for their kids' actions" topic, we'd need to ensure that parents can't be accused of child abuse if they use corporal punishment. How can we expect parents to straighten up a bad kid if we remove all means to discipline the kid?
TPRJones
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Post by TPRJones »

Well, this is America II, right? We can do it however we want.

Maybe we should make it so that failure to instill proper morals into children, as measured by their behaviour, is termed as child neglect ... i.e. punish the parents with the children, but instead of calling it "co-punishment" or something like that, call it "disciplinary action for child neglect".
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Post by mbilderback »

GORDON wrote:On the "parents legally punishable for their kids' actions" topic, we'd need to ensure that parents can't be accused of child abuse if they use corporal punishment. How can we expect parents to straighten up a bad kid if we remove all means to discipline the kid?
If there's no deep tissue bruising or scarring, it's not abuse.
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