Re: Punishment

den Otter (
Thu, 12 Mar 1998 02:33:55 +0100

> From: John K Clark <>

> "den Otter" <> On Tue, 10 Mar 1998 Wrote:
> >Just out of curiosity: why do you object to painful capital
> >punishment? Wouldn't it be more logical (and fair) to match the
> >punisment to the crime?
> I don't think it's logical because fairness is a useless concept in this
> context.

Fairness just as useless/useful in this context as it is in any other.

> A man becomes evil because of his genes or his environment or
> perhaps some random fluctuation in his brain, this in no way excuses his
> actions because it doesn't matter why he's a monster, he's still a monster
> and must be dealt with to ensure he doesn't commit more evil.


> However, the
> "balancing the books" meme that sees virtue in the suffering of other people
> is pointless, a relic of Christian mythology about hell, " God is good and
> if it's OK for him to burn people for eternity then it must be OK to torture
> somebody I don't like for a few days before I kill him, God seems to enjoy it
> and I do too". Such ideas belong on the ash heap of history.

The "balancing the books meme" a/k/a "an eye for an eye" is independent
from Christian or other mythology. That it happened to be included in the
Christian-Judeo meme complex is irrelevant, it doesn't automatically make
it a bad meme. On the contrary, it is the purest and most consequent form
of justice that is humanly possible. Most people agree (and that's duly the
way most legal systems work) that the bigger the crime, the "heavier" the
punishment should be. You get a ticket for speeding, go to jail for stealing
a car, go somewhat longer to jail for stealing several cars etc. Why then,
would this perfectly logical system stop at capital punishment? People
can get several life centences for murdering several persons, the logical
equivalent with capital punishment would be more and longer suffering.

> That's the logical reason, but I have another reason and it's is purely
> emotional and therefore much more powerful. I simply become unhappy when I
> see another living thing in pain, and if I'm the cause of that pain then I'm
> even more unhappy. I don't claim there is any profound significance in my
> attitude, it's just the way my brain is wired.

Would you agree with a system where you can make a sort of last will in
which you specify that, should you get murdered, whether or not you want
capital punishment/crime-dependent c.p./or imprisonment for your murderer?
In this way, we could all have our own kind of justice in an organized fashion.

> >By the way, what would the rationale be against corporal punishment

> >for violent but non-lethal crimes?
> I see insurmountable practical problems because I don't see how you could get
> the calibration right. Even if they commit the exact same crime, a 25 year
> old 300 pound Olympic weight lifter and a 82 year old 89 pound grandmother
> can not receive the same corporal punishment. You'd end up killing some
> people for minor crimes and giving virtually no punishment to others who
> commit major ones.

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko <> responded:

> 10 year jail sentence for these people will also be perceived differently.
> And so will forced abstinence from sex, prison environment, solitude,
> separation from family, etc. Calibrating people's psychological
> perceptions does sound like an insurmountable problem, but it is never
> taken into account. Calibrating physical effects, such as tiredness and
> pain, is extremely easy compared to that. So by your very argument, we
> should abandon all other types of punishment in favor of the corporal.

John K Clark <>:
> Tiredness and pain are psychological perceptions, heart failure, shock, and
> massive blood loss are physical effects. You'd be giving one person a mild
> irritation, a second person a lifelong crippling injury, and a third person a
> death sentence, and all for committing the exact same crime.

This doesn't change the fact that people can suffer horribly in prison too, not
only psychologically (I'd rather have a caning than a year in jail btw) but also
physically (rape with aids risk, beatings and even murder are pretty common
in jails). You wouldn't be doing anyone a favour!

There are thousands of ways to administer corporal punishment, and with the
help of modern technology it should be quite feasible to control the damage
done (and prevent any permanent damage, if so desired).

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko <>:

> You can be unhappy punishing anybody, but the criminals will also be
> unhappy. That's the point - their unhappiness with the punishment will
> prevent them from committing [more] crime.

John K Clark <>:

> Exactly, preventing future crime is the only reason for punishment, or at
> least the only reason I would care to defend. My point was that if you're
> going to kill a murderer anyway then you can be sure he will never kill again
> so there is no purpose in torturing him before you do so.

First of all I think that revenge is a valid reason to punish too. Why not?
Also, it is only fair towards the victims and those who kill just one person
that mass/serial murderers and especially cruel killers pay a higher price.
Otherwise you'd be implicitely stating that you can kill for free once you've
made your first victim (what is there to lose?) and that the lives of the other
victims were somehow "irrelevant". On the other hand, knowing that every
additional evil deed will cause you more suffering might make a potential
multiple killer think twice.

John K Clark <>:

> Ok, an argument could be made about increasing the deterrent, but this effect
> may not exist (it would probably just generate sympathy in the population for
> the murderer and make him a martyr) however even if it did and the effect was
> proven to be large I still wouldn't go for it because emotional revulsion
> against torture would prevent me. Hey, I never said I was a paragon of logic.

No-one is asking you to do the torturing, to watch or even otherwise participate
(assuming the last will system would be adopted). The point is: would you
(try to) stop others from seeking justice in a different way?

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko <>:

> Besides, if the punishment is known in advance, and you think that it's
> too harsh on you personally, then you don't have to commit that crime, right?
> If you do, it's your own choice - maybe you thought that though the
> punishment for you is more severe, but the chances to get caught and convicted
> are smaller (we can't calibrate that for people). So you made a free conscious
> choice, and now get the promised payoff. It will also be a lesson to others
> not to do it. Why do you thing old ladies commit fewer crimes ? ;-)

Exactly, if you can't take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen. And most violent
offenders are young healthy males anyway...