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Should criminal sentencing be oriented towards punishment or rehabilitation?

There are basically two lines of thought on what the goal of criminal sentencing (this means after guilt has been proven) should be: justice for the victim, which is usually used to mean punishment for the perpetrator, and rehabilitation for the perpetrator, which means working to make him a functioning member of society. Examples of policies favoring justice for the victim would include the death penalty, as it precludes the possibility of rehabilitation, and life sentences without the possibility of parole, for the same reason. Examples of policies favoring rehabilitation for the perpetrator include in-prison education for inmates, because the aim is to prepare them to find a job on the outside, reducing their dependence on crime and hopefully make them functioning members of society, and parole systems, because they allow for the possibility that if a convict can reform his ways, and has the possibility of functioning well on the outside, he should be released. There are of course, various compromises within those philosophies. One such mixture of philosophies can be seen in the minimum time requirements for parole; which state that inmates granted the possibility of parole must first serve a set number of years out of their sentence before they can be considered for parole. The idea of these minimum time requirements are to provide a deterrent while still allowing for rehabilitation. However critics say that there can be no compromise between these ideas, because if there is any immutable punishment, that contradicts the idea that if the convict is rehabilitated he is released, favoring a deterrent, which has nothing to do with the individual's possibility. So: do you think that these two concepts can exist symbiotically? If so, how? If not, which do you think we should abide by? As a side-note, all my examples are from U.S. law. I would be very interested to hear examples of these concepts from wherever you live.

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    Oct 7 2012: I suggest both.

    Also locking people up may be something else, not just punishment. It may protect society from those who are a threat.

    Whether we have free will or not, some fear of punishment is a partial deterrent either consciously or unconsciously.

    Also, whether we have free will or not, if you put alternative ideas or options in other peoples heads, either conscious or unconscious, if you can change their habits, you may help prevent future crimes.

    Assuming you don't lock every convicted criminal for life for every crime, they will get out one day. Why not give rehabilitation a try. Why not try it on a volunteer or compulsory basis and check the data.

    In fact, if there is data to show attempts at rehabilitation work, and the benefits outweigh the costs why not give it a go?
    • Oct 7 2012: Precisely!
    • Mats K

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      Oct 7 2012: "In fact, if there is data to show attempts at rehabilitation work, and the benefits outweigh the costs why not give it a go?"

      I would go as far as saying that if the data shows that rehabilitation works better than punishment, it should be done regardless of cost.
      • Oct 7 2012: A man comes home from work, finds his wife in bed with another man and shoots her. The man is convicted for manslaughter. Chances of him ever doing it again are tiny (because he wasn't a deranged serial killer and the situation of him catching his wife cheating is unlikely to repeat in his lifetime), even without any efforts at rehabilitation. Are you saying he should not receive any punishment at all?

        @Mats below

        At the time of the trial it really doesn't matter how the perpetrator became who he is. My point was that a person committing a crime only once does not make that crime and the damage done by it any less serious. When some vandal damages your car for $5000 and then is rehabilitated and never vandalizes anything again, you're still left with a $5000 bill if the vandalism is not forced to pay you. There is more to crime than recidivity statistics: damage is done and has to be compensated for, preferably by the perpetrators, this is why punishment is so much more than primitive revenge.

        @David Steele

        Seeing prison as compensation may seem hard but the vast majority of punishments are fines or community service, clearly those are about repairing damage. In cases where the perpetrator cannot afford a fine a prison sentence is there to assure that not only wealthier perpetrators are punished. Also, while prison may not deter our one-time passion killer, jailing him may deter others, at the very least it will prevent a wave of killers trying to stay out of jail by claiming they only killed out of passion. At some level the parents of the victim may find compensation in the fact that the killer of their child is forced to have a hard time and think about the consequences of his actions. Lastly, an efficient prison system (which not every country has), and/or the prisoner's reduced income potential after release will redistribute wealth away from the perpetrator to the rest of society.
        • Mats K

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          Oct 7 2012: Human behavior is subject to the same laws as any other natural phenomenon. Our customs, behaviors, and values are byproducts of our culture. No one is born with greed, prejudice, bigotry, patriotism and hatred; these are all learned behavior patterns. If the environment is unaltered, similar behavior will reoccur.

          If you were raised by the headhunters of the Amazon as a baby, if you saw nothing else, you'd be a headhunter. If you were raised in Nazi Germany where all you see is 'Heil Hitler', you'd be a Nazi. So I think all people are perfectly well adjusted where they're coming from. There's no such thing as good or bad people. You're taught to hate certain people, but where they're coming from, it's normal. If you're brought up in the South, uneducated region, you might become a member of the Ku Klux Klan, you speak with a Southern accent. Where do you get that from? The environment. Where do you get, 'I'm gonna get me a nigger and kick his ass'. You get that from the environment. It's not that people are good or bad. They're raised in an aberrated or twisted environment.

          So, the more justice you seek, the more hurt you become because there's no such thing as justice. There is whatever there is out there. That's it... The point is we have to redesign the environment that produces aberrant behaviour. That's the problem. Not putting a person in jail. That's why judges, lawyers, 'freedom of choice': such concepts are dangerous because it gives you mis-information that the person is 'bad', or that person is a 'serial killer'. Serial killers are made, just like soldiers become serial killers with a machine gun. They become killing machines, but nobody looks at them as murderers or assassins because that's 'natural'". So we blame people. We say, 'Well this guy was a Nazi. He tortured Jews.' No, he was brought up to torture Jews.
        • Oct 8 2012: Thanks John. I would respond to your comment by asking you this: what is the merit of punishment? It seems like a stupid question, and maybe it is, but think about it. The potential punishment obviously had no affect as a deterrent in your scenario. This is a man who, as you have stated, will not re-offend. So while I'm not saying I necessarily think there should be no punishment, I'm just posing the question. I mean, you mention that the punishment should serve as compensation, but who's really being compensated by the perpetrator spending time in prison. If you were to tell the family of the victim that the man who killed there relative no longer existed and in his place was a productive member of society, don't you think that would give them even more peace of mind than being told the killer is in jail? Also, I think phrasing the question as "are you saying he should not receive any punishment at all" is a bit misleading, as that implies the other side is arguing that there should be no response to the crime, when in fact the argument is for rehabilitation oriented sentencing. Finally, and this is only a technical point unrelated to the validity of your argument, vandals don't actually have to pay you for the damage they've caused just because they've been convicted of the crime. In fact, you would either have to file a claim with your local victim compensation office or sue the vandal civilly in court. In either case, your not likely to recover any money, because the victims compensation office is going to be much to busy with more serious crimes to help you, and if you were to beat the perpetrator in civil court-which if he had already been convicted in criminal is almost a foregone conclusion-he would then likely file for bankruptcy, because statistically he would likely be dirt poor and then, depending on the terms of the bankruptcy, you'd likely just have to absorb the debt.
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          Oct 10 2012: Mk, I suggest greed and competitiveness are fairly natural.

          We have a mix of nature and nurture.

          E.g. We have sex drives. For some this leads to rape or pedophilia.

          Part of the difficulty in this discussion is you almost need to look case by case.

          Agree the environment is important. But there is a genetic component too. Some people are psychopaths. Some people in the same situation make different choices.

          But agree part of it it luck.
    • Oct 8 2012: Obey, theres no evidence that punishment works as a deterrent. Criminal behavior almost always finds its roots in impulse control problems. This can be due to various reasons, but I can tell you thinking your behavior through before you do it is a rarity in the criminal population, this, of course, is why people get caught for crimes so easily. This is also why so many criminals in the united states are locked up for drug crimes or crimes related to drug and alcohol abuse. I can tell you that most addicts really don't want to commit crimes they just have to in order to get high. The power of that pleasure will always usurp punishment deterrents. What we really need is treatment for those who are locked up. In my opinion prisons should be solely focused on warehousing irredeemable convicts and rehabilitating the others with cognitive behavioral therapy focusing on impulse control. Theres a very interesting study that was done called the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, it pertains directly to this issue. Its an interesting quick read.
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        Oct 8 2012: your experiment is interest . that is good
      • Oct 8 2012: Punishment is also a way of paying for the damage you caused. Not repeating previous crimes doesn't make the damage you already did magically go away.
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        Oct 10 2012: Hi Brian.

        I agree with the power of recency and impulse issues.

        But suggest fear of punishment works for some people with some crimes. I don't cheat on my tax because I don't want to get caught. I even resisted hitting someone because I don't want an assault charge amongst other things.

        This might be the minority.

        But I suggest there would be more crime if there were no punishments.

        I think it should be part of the mix, but probably not the central one.

        There are also studies that indicate it is important for there be a cost for people overstepping the mark otherwise they will take unfair advantage.

        But agree there is a range of people and situations.
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      Oct 11 2012: But the other thing is that if you lock away someone for like 40 years and then you release him because he's been rehab'd, the drastic shock in change of environments is too great. I'm totally pulling this from Shawshank Redemption, but the movie brings up a really tragic point.

      I mean, 40 years from now is such a different world than today. A lot of people hate change, and that much change is almost inhuman to deal with. It can induce a lot of loneliness too because you're living in a world where you may feel like you just don't belong anymore.
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    Oct 8 2012: Rehabilitation, positive reinforcement works every time
    • Oct 8 2012: Every time? Just to play devil's advocate, do you really think Charles Manson can be rehabilitated? If we captured Osama Bin Laden alive, do you think he could have been rehabilitated?
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        Oct 8 2012: Good day David,

        First I am always a fan of devils advocate, so devils away. But yes if done properly and from day 1 of birth you can achieve better results with positive reinforcement. The problem with our current system is until we change everything that has to do with negative reinforcement system. A positive reinforcement system will not work efficiently. Given enough time and the right positive reinforcement, I think that even someone like Charles Manson would be rehabilitated. The problem is that most people think people should be punished for their actions. For me even as a young child this never made sense, I never understood how yelling at me or punishing me for something I did after I did it actually accomplished anything other then more frustration from all parties involved. It almost makes sense to yell at someone before they do it, that might actually stop the x thing from happening in the first place. Now unfortunately am one of those people if you tell me not to do something I almost always go do that thing. So that doesn't work either. However what does work is showing that through positive reinforcement even for bad behavior the person will change in the way that is best fit. Also everyone has a little bad in us and its fun to be bad. Its about balance not control. In a negative reinforcement system its about control and authority, not about actually making the person a better person to enter into society.

        Here is an example of what Norway is doing.

        Also when one tries to "debate" syntax one will always argue in circles
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          Oct 8 2012: Even where rehabilitation is difficult, positive reenforce, and an appeal to one's better nature is always the most compassionate response society can offer.
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        Oct 8 2012: Also as far as Bin Laden is concerned every side has a hero and a terrorist. One perspective's hero is another's perceptive a terrorist.
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    Oct 8 2012: Why not get the lifers to become lecturers with benefits of access to the net while educating the ones that show promise,set the lecturers aside in their own wing,the access will be only to the local university for material and the faculty,rather than working with them on a limited daily basis,educate them to educate each other.
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    Oct 7 2012: As taught in law enforcement academies ... offenders are sent to prison as punishment not for punishment. As Pat stated they are warehoused and attempts at rehibilitation are superficial at best. I have worked both on the streets and inside and can tell you that this is true.

    In almost every case the final answer is money. To house a inmate is about $65K for hardened and about $40K for minimal. Schools to educate are expensive and without a profit margin are not interested.

    The internal poltics of a prision are very simple .... Prison rules: Do as you are told or you will be punished ... Gang rules in prision: Do as you are told or we will kill you, your dog, and your family.

    As well meaning as they may be, those who protest the prisons treatments and lack of rehibilitation efforts are not well informed. In order for this to work I see one method. Designer prisons. Put murders and those doing life sentences in one area; long term inmates in another; and keeping seperate first timers and short time inmates and these are the ones that MAYBE can be given educational and job training. These are the ones that we should invest on and provide opportunities for success and NOT returning to prison. By isolating them from the hardened prisoners they are not exposed to the prison mentality and gang influence would be minimal and maybe even controlable.

    At the higher level custodies there is little chance for rehab .... the focus is on protecting them from each other. The sad fact is that the gangs are really in charge. We had six officers scheduled and often less in physical presence to manage 2000 inmates. You do the math.

    First develop a plan for rehab .... then find funding .... then devise a means that would not endanger the public .... the checklist goes on.

    I see you are a student. Take a tour of the local prison and rethink your question.

    • Oct 8 2012: Thanks Bob, I take particular interest in your response because of your apparent expertise. I have a parent that works in prisons (he's an attorney for the state that defends prison employees when they're sued by prisoners) which is actually what gave me the idea for this debate, and while I don't mean for this to sound like I'm claiming equal knowledge, I think I can at least respond intelligently. I would ask you this: I know that I can go on Google and find an instance of virtually anything happening, so that alone would not mean much. However there many cases of high level offenders becoming productive members of society. How do you respond to that when you seem to claim high level offenders are nearly impossible to rehabilitate. Also, if John Doe is an alcoholic, and commits a violent act while intoxicated (reminding anyone who's reading this that intoxication is not a defense in any of the U.S. states) does that really mean he's unable to be rehabilitated? Wouldn't a drug/alcohol treatment program and some classes for when he's out be just what he needs? And wouldn't this save taxpayers a lot of money down the road if this helps ensure he doesn't re-offend? A trial is much more expensive than scheduling an A.A. representative to come in and have some group therapy (please set aside the stigma). Finally, taking the state of affairs you describe above, with gangs ruling the prisons, and those who try to help the prisoners being only naive idealists, do you think there should be improvement? I mean, you mention separating the different level offenders, but aside from that do you think we should accept that as the best option available to us, or do you think there's room for some more improvement? If so, I would of course have to follow up with where? Forgive me if this sounds like a test problem, as you mentioned, I am a student.
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        Oct 8 2012: I do think that with most prisoners their main problem is that they have lost their self respect. For reason delineated below.

        I have hired a few of these guys as workers in the past, the ones whose accommodations had signs on the wall that stated "we not fire warning shots". There is a certain element of society that I don't care what you do they are not going to be rehabilitated as they are complete sociopaths, they have zero empathy for the most shocking offenses. You have to talk with these guys to get the idea.
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        Oct 8 2012: They worked for me.
        • Oct 8 2012: Sorry, thought it was a hypothetical.
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        Oct 8 2012: There is nothing hypothetical about what I'm saying. You can go on about nurture vs nature or free will which to me is hypothetical and insidious. The reason this meme is insidious is that it convinces the individual that the fault lies with something or someone else. The problem with this is that the individual blames, insert favorite straw man here, which automatically make the blamer the victim. So people become professional victims. We all know from empirical evidence that the only thing that helps the individual is when he takes responsibility for himself. Forget all the hypothetical and go with what works.

        I think the correct thinking is to look at what works, as per the scientific method is the truth. What doesn't work is trying to rehabilitate psychopaths. What does is to allow the ones that can to take responsibility for themselves.
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        Oct 8 2012: Casey

        No it is easy just pitch the book the psych use to determine if someone is mentally ill. The book is a canard in the first place as it's only real purpose is to have an excuse to prescribe drugs which is where the real money is.
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    Oct 6 2012: "We are all just prisoners here...of our own device" Eagles.
    Prison is a reaction. Some of it is due to poor judicial systems. Some of it is due to lack of condusive enviornment. Some of it is due do poor or no education. Some of it is due to a sense of hopelessness.

    I'd prefer to fight the battle way further upstream. Fix the precursors to criminal activity.
    Prison helps no one....we all pay a price, the more prisoners ....the higher the cost to humanity.
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    Oct 6 2012: The reality is that it is just a warehouse. What it should be is a way for an individual to make restitution to society.
    Which most certainly would include working your ass off (as the rest of us do, unless you work for the government) to make up for the damage YOU did. In other words repeat after me I'm responsible, I'm responsible, I'm responsible, I'm responsible, I'm responsible, I'm responsible, I'm responsible, I'm responsible...
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      Oct 6 2012: You're implying that all criminals have free will.

      "Free will may exist (it may simply be beyond our current science), but one thing seems clear: if free will does exist, it has little room in which to operate. It can at best be a small factor riding on top of vast neural networks shaped by genes and environment. In fact, free will may end up being so small that we eventually think about bad decision-making in the same way we think about any physical process, such as diabetes or lung disease."
      David Eagleman

      The assumption that criminals owe society is predicated on the notion that they had the opportunity and access to the things our society claims they provide. This is not the case.
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        Oct 6 2012: Yes it is a fact that they have free will.

        I believe that humans are an aggregate that include a spiritual aspect which aligns with natural law. Dr Eagleman's statement indicates a dystopian eugenic reality.

        I will agree to disagree. Especially with the equality trope that is inferred.
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          Oct 6 2012: Reply to Eagleman. Or better yet, read the article first.
        • Oct 6 2012: Pat what are you talking about? It is a fact? where do your thoughts come from? What is the Autonomic nervous system? The existence of free will, or for that matter non existence, is hardly a fact. Equality trope? Whats your take on equality? I need to hear this.

          " Though we feel that we can choose what we do, our understanding of the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets. Recent experiments in neuroscience support the view that it is our physical brain, following the known laws of science, that determines our actions, and not some agency that exists outside those laws. For example, a study of patients undergoing awake brain surgery found that by electrically stimulating the appropriate regions of the brain, one could create in the patient the desire to move the hand, arm, or foot, or to move the lips and talk. It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.”-Stephen Hawking
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          Oct 30 2012: Those that argue in favor of free will do so as part of a belief system, they provide no research on the subject.
          This is a research reference which provides some insight into why our society clings to the notion.

          "It all seems quite rational, so why is our lack of free will so difficult to accept for many people? Cashmore explains that there are several compelling reasons that people have for believing in free will, not the least of which is that we have a constant awareness of making decisions that seem to be driven by our own volition. In addition, free will is a very useful concept when it comes to the justice system; we take responsibility for our criminal actions and accordingly, are eligible for personal punishment, which is deemed to be necessary for protecting society."

          Read more at:
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        Oct 6 2012: No thanks
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        Oct 6 2012: Free will doesn't exist. But as a metaphor it does, and in a court of law, it definitely should exist.
        If you're raising kids, same thing, the whole educationnal idea rests on the helpfull illusion that free will exists.
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          Oct 6 2012: That is ass backwards.
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          Oct 6 2012: Free will exists you just don't see it,it moves too fast to comprehend it,in other words it has become reality before you realize it's gone,the next decision is being processed due to the prediction data that you have accumulated,we all make a choice at any given moment.
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        Oct 6 2012: Thedore

        I get the idea I just don't agree.
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          Oct 6 2012: I see this thread as being representative of the large problem in society where there is an unwillingness to move beyond old ideas.
          TED is a place that provides new information and it must be approached with an open mind. When we are closed off to new ways of looking at problem we become married to the problem instead of dating the solutions.
          Problems are complex, often there is not one answer. What we know is this, there is: something wrong with our criminal justice system and the policies that are slow to change it.
          Our prison populations have skyrocketed over the last 20 years, to around 2.25 million prisoners.
          A number on TEDTalks have already shed light on the issue: see those listed above.
          Those that refuse to educate themselves about this problem, and instead cling to irrational opinions are the same people complain about the costs associated with housing and feeding this segment of the population.

          The TEDTalk by Elizabeth Pisani addresses some related public policies regarding drug use and HIV, pointing out that we are very irrational in our public policy making.

          Margaret Thatcher created the world's first national needle exchange program and other countries followed suit. and in all of those countries, you will see, not more than four percent ever became infected with HIV. Thacher did it because she ran a country that had a national health service. So, if she didn't invest in effective prevention, she was going to have pick up the costs of treatment later on, and obviously those are much higher. So she was making a politically rational decision.

          We in the US did not follow Thacher's thinking. And from some of the replies here, this is still a battle that needs to be fought. Ignorance is a part of every problem.
          Short retorts the defend an unwillingness to become informed are arrogant and self serving and benefit no one, and least of all the commenter.
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        Oct 6 2012: Brian

        That quote sounds like a description of an automaton. I'm sure you guys have faith in your Darwinian religion I just don't see it that way. I would say that what Hawking says is the illusion and free will or us is the reality. You disagree I get it, that is fine with me.
      • Oct 6 2012: Whether free will exists or not is immaterial to this discussion because not having free will simply means being predestined to react to certain stimuli in a certain way, most likely you'll react differently to different justice systems so the nature of the system matters for the outcome, even in a world without free will, also, prison serves as much to protect the general population from the offender as it does to punish/rehabilitate the offender.
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        Oct 6 2012: Theodore

        It may surprise you that I'm not as ignorant on this as you assume.

        The answer that is worth finding out about is the one that produces results. Before looking at new "ideas", the better thing to do is to find out about what is extant. I do not buy the premise that problems are complex, in fact I would say by describing a problem as complex indicates a fundamental lack of understanding coming from fundamental glibness on the subject. E.G. the reason that the U.S. has a high rate of incarceration is that many more drugs are illegal with higher penalties in the U.S. . Additionally the prison unions want this to be the case as then they have job security.

        The linked videos I have seen before are the the Mr Dow talk and the Mr Horowitz talk of the 2 you espouse to the Mr Dow talk, although I get it and it is quite cogent but to genuinely fix the problem is more along the lines Mr Horowitz talk.

        You see when you get away from the specious meme of not having free will you can make some real progress. This requires a good command of logic, which is something I suggest you look into.

        When you treat the individual as though he has free will and is responsible .you can start fixing some things. If on the other hand he is given the idea that everything is predetermined there is not point in trying, that is a huge disservice to the prisoner.

        The basic problem with prisoners is that they have lost self respect. How come? They did something they didn't agree with, they compromised their integrity, their viewpoint. If you watch the Horowitz talk from 30 seconds to 50 seconds Tony did something he did not agree with that was not true to his perspective. And just like that his life is over. Sorry to be so simple but this Really is the way it is.

        The first thing to know about a subject is know that you don't know about a subject. How do you know if you know, glad you asked Theodore, it is does what you are saying work or not.
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          Oct 6 2012: My use of the term "ignorant" is to imply ignoring that which might be considered.

          Regarding your argument here, I can only say that I am referencing the work and research of intelligent people that have addressed this issue here at TED. which appears logical enough I find for many others here in the conversation to follow.
          What are your sources, outside of your opinion?

          Allow me to ask:
          1) Are there any less drugs in white neighborhoods? No, but blacks are more likely to be arrested.

          "The majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status."

          2) Are there problems with the criminal justice system aside from the ones you have suggested? Is the system broken?
          Yes, and the problems are many!

          (You will note the reviewer is Justice John Paul Stevens)

          "The rule of law has vanished in America’s criminal justice system. Prosecutors now decide whom to punish and how severely. Almost no one accused of a crime will ever face a jury. Inconsistent policing, rampant plea bargaining, overcrowded courtrooms, and ever more draconian sentencing have produced a gigantic prison population, with black citizens the primary defendants and victims of crime. In this passionately argued book, the leading criminal law scholar of his generation looks to history for the roots of these problems—and for their solutions." (Note the words "problemS and solutionS")

          Shall I go on, I can? This is a topic I have researched. My fear is that you will choice to ignore all information accept that which agrees with you.
          At a point a neural network does not learn it only response to error and requires back propagation.
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        Oct 7 2012: I have demonstrated I'm not ignoring anything. Except I don't have the time or interest to study everything you throw out like back propagation. I do a triage on what I want to study what you are saying is not of much value to me because I cannot use it and therefore do not consider it to be important. If you wanted me to understand you would not have used the word in the first place or at least explained it. What does appear to be your motivation is something else, some sort of posturing?

        You make some good points in the post especially regarding plea bargains which is egregiously abused. But those points are not apt to the OP's point.

        My reference is really simple and one that you mention listen to the video by Horowitz between 30 and 50 seconds into the talk when Tony did something that he didn't agree with and it changed his life forever. That is IMPORTANT, that is philosophy and the very substance of ethics and logic and reason.

        Spare me the oblique comments and just speak to that point. Or will your "neural network allow you to do that without going into back propagation?
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          Oct 7 2012: Regarding Tony:

          "When Tony was 16 years old, one day, one moment, "It was mom's gun. Just flash it, scare the guy. He's a punk. He took some money; we'll take his money. That'll teach him. Then last minute, I'm thinking, 'Can't do this. This is wrong.' My buddy says, 'C'mon, let's do this.' I say, 'Let's do this.'" And those three words, Tony's going to remember, because the next thing he knows, he hears the pop."

          It is problematic to imagine yourself in the shoes of someone breaking the law and conclude, “Well, I wouldn’t have done that”—because if you weren’t exposed to circumstances like in utero cocaine, lead poisoning, and physical abuse, and that he may have experience, then you and he are not directly comparable. You cannot walk a mile in his shoes.

          "Tony interrupts me. "What are you going to teach me about right and wrong? I know what is wrong. I have done wrong. I am told every day, by every face I see, every wall I face, that I am wrong. If I ever get out of here, there will always be a mark by my name. I'm a convict; I am branded 'wrong.' What are you going to tell me about right and wrong?"
          Tony has a small margin to know what he is to do. He lacks the skills, the tools. Tony is on the edge, he is poor, he wants to say no, but peer influence tips the scales. Free will is open the window.
          It is obvious that punish Tony leaves him scared. Tony will never be judged by his peers, he will plea bagain and do hard time.
          Horowitz's point is that there is a human being in Tony that is worth saving, and able to learn. Tony's problem is that until he is place in jail, he has no opportunity to get help, or to have a mentor like Horowitz to learn from.
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        Oct 7 2012: NO, you do not have to walk a mile in Toni's shoes. He did something he did not agree with that he knew in his gut he should not do.

        In my experience situations that ALWAYS got me into trouble was when I did something I did not agree with. This is often called I had gut feeling I should not do this. You inevitably get mad about the situaltion but the reality is that you are mad at yourself because you were not true to yourself. This is the very essence of ethics and not a small point.
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          Oct 7 2012: Well, you negate the affects of the environment and focus solely on the cognitive to determine all behavior. Social psychology dictates a great deal as well. One only needs to look at the torture and abuse at Abu Graib Prison, and these were highly trained individuals. This is similar to the famous Prisoner Experiments done at Sanford University by Philip Zimbardo, who followed on the heels of the research of Stanley Millgram.
          The actions of others plays to a different part of the brain and places us in conflict. This is why contraband is smuggled into prisons by prison guides. Again, trained guards that should know better also,but are placed in situation that create conflict with their reasoning. Congressmen, who get caught in a scandal. Did they know better, YES, So why do they act as they do?

          It is not all that simple, it is a complex problem.

          Take addiction which is a similar behavior in many ways. Where there is a long term rewards in place individuals repeated avoid addiction which is a short term reward. Often positive short term rewards most also be linked to long term rewards to insure successful outcomes.

          There is actually very little difference in the brain, between behaviors like stealing or over eating.
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        Oct 7 2012: Yes I do negate the effects of the environment. You are saying the individual is a product of his environment, I'm saying that the environment is a product of the individual.

        Is that the one where the individual is asked to push a button to create an electrical shock? and to measure their level of empathy?

        I would say that the individual has acquiesced to an outside effort. Do you see what I'm saying regarding this as the point of a transgression to oneself?

        It is that simple.

        What I have said previously is the core of addiction.

        The additional factor is that the person gets mentally stuck in a incident of pleasure. My anecdotal experience with this was cigarette smoking. I read a book titled "Quit Smoking the Easy way" The author indicated how the core of the problem is that the individual is addicted to nicotine which most people would say DUAH. But to a smoker that is quite a revelation especially me. What the author said was that you would trick your self by saying it was that you needed this to enjoy social situations, or drinking alcohol, or just enjoyed exhaling smoke, etc. What all this boils down too was not so much a meme or habit but a mental image that the individual gets stuck in and has lost control of. The truth of this is that I have not had a cigarette for 8 months after 30+ years of smoking a pack and a half a day.

        How much pain the individual is in is also going to effect how desirable the drug is, a gun shot victim would have a very hard time not taking a pain killer. But at some point when the pain is not overwhelming the individual will have a choice regarding this and will either become an addict or be true to himself.
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        Oct 7 2012: With Zimbardo or Abu Graib it is the same situation the individual acquiesced to the herd mentality and degraded himself, he committed a transgression against himself, which is always the exact moment of the beginning of his trouble. This a point of integrity that requires vigilance. When Bob Winner talks about the sheeple he is talking about people who have acquiesced their freedom to an authority. They have violated their own integrity.

        One more example of how this works. I was contracted to do a job which we completed. The customer was very happy, as was the contractor and architect. The contractor that we did the work for wanted us to do some additional work that I felt was going to be problematic. I refused to do the additional work on 4 separate occasions on the 5th occasion the contractor was begging me to do the work so I acquiesced and agreed to do the work. The job was a nightmare and ended up in 5 year law suit. The beginning of the trouble was when I committed the transgression against myself I was not true to my viewpoint. I was livid with the contractor who had completely lied about the whole situation to save his own skin. The only thing that gave many any peace was to finally admit that I did it to myself, which is always the case with these situations.

        If nothing else, whether you agree or not, using my perspective will get results in any ethics matter as I'm sure it did with Horowitz that is it works and produces results. Having someone say they are a victim and a product of the environment just gets victims who blame. If you just say I'm responsible it empowers you to do something about the situation it frees you of blame it allows you to create your own world. It allows you to create your own universe which is not created by anyone other than you.
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          Oct 7 2012: This would follow a certain reasoning. "I am sinner, save my soul" I see.

          What truly confuses me, but severs to make my point, how easily you have dismissed a torrent of information that your scheme is all to willing to explain away. Not in one area have you given to new thinking. I'm not sure whether to applaud you or cry. Might it be that the same force that is at work in your thinking is the same one that forced the criminal not to admit responsibility?
          Know this, there are people smart than you and I writing books on this subject.
          There is always more to learn.
          The real is that there are not more like Horowitz working with this population, but then and if we get to them at an earlier age....

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        Oct 7 2012: It is the exact opposite of "I am sinner, save my soul". And neither have you considered one thing that I said... another case of the pot calling the pan black, ugh

        You know I don't think smart has much to do with it, what does have to do with it is the ability to communicate and consider.
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          Oct 7 2012: You have hardly provided a "torrent of information," in terms of reference have you, just opinion.
          You are officially free to endlessly debate someone else. I am rest my case
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        Oct 7 2012: Sure I did. I'm done with this thread, there is no point to this
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          Oct 7 2012: Sorry I must have missed them ALL the links you posted. Please posted them here again.
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        Oct 8 2012: I was communicating a self evident concept with examples. You want to look at endless links by "experts" of which I watched most and responded to most.

        I'm talking about a self evident truth I do not have or want someone to tell me what to think about it. It's roots are in an understanding of ethics that I'm sure you can goggle but you refused to acknowledge that this is what Horowitz is talking about.

        You like most Tedsters are at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from me. In a nut shell you are saying the individual is a product of his environment, I'm saying that the environment is a product of the individual.

        Have a nice day
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          Oct 8 2012: Is there any chance in the universe, just the chance, that you might be wrong, that you might have something left to learn?
          I really have been patient with you, it is called "Nature vs Nuture."

          Examine twin studies.

          "What could be so powerful that it trumps the combined effects of nature and nurture?"

        • Oct 8 2012: Pat, admitting responsibility is essentially a tool of empowerment. It is something that can help people who are wishing to change their behavior. However it has no bearing on the existence or non existence of free will or the culpability or non culpability of the person in question. A person is both a product of their environment and the environment is a product of them. By dismissing the aspect of nurture your throwing behavioral psychology to the wind. I might add your also dismissing the unconscious mind, your behavior is a product of many things among them are competing impulses, you cant take credit for being able to suppress certain impulses more than you can take credit for the functioning of your nervous system.
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        Oct 8 2012: "Is there any chance in the universe, just the chance, that you might be wrong, that you might have something left to learn? " " I really have been patient with you"

        Right back at you
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        Oct 31 2012: I looked at this on the is free will an illusion as well.

        I have thought about this as much as I have time for.

        For me the bottom line is that the free will concept is more workable in that if nothing else the people are happier under this illusion than the illusion it is just a matter of how the synapses fire.
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          Oct 31 2012: Francis Crick said, ‘Dream as we may, reality knocks relentlessly at the door.’
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        Oct 31 2012: And so it goes, is reality our dream or is the dream a result of our reality?
  • Oct 6 2012: I'll start this off and see if anyone takes an interest: I think we should focus our system on rehabilitation. I think that both philosophies can coexist because the only way you'll get benefits is if you are truly rehabilitated-at least ideally-so I believe a deterrent would remain. Criminals would know they'll go to jail for their crimes. But they may also receive drug treatment and similar programs. Realistically, prison would still be a very bad place to end up; it wouldn't be fun. Criminals are not going to think they should go commit a crime to get all the great benefits of prison. I also think that feelings like 'this criminal needs to be punished,' those sort of ideas that are rooted more in passion than logic are the exact reason we don't let the victims decide the criminal's fate. In the twenty first century I think that we should place higher value on creating a productive citizen than on punishment for our own emotional appeasement.
  • Nov 5 2012: Well, for my first TED debate, I think this went pretty well. Many lessons learned, on both the question posed and TED debates. Thanks.
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    Nov 1 2012: Very old argument - mad, bad and dangerous to know. Result is successful career in politics or business or crime. White collar crime investigated by social sciences particularly sociology back in 1970s and 1980s. Always rehabilitation but not rehab as in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', rehab after a thorough analysis of the unique person and their circumstances. Many fine minds in prisons just needing an alternative vocabulary and new experiences. Always advocate for market gardens in prisons, an outdoor space to learn to grow food and crops. Women nearly always in prison for wanting to support and protect others. Men often in prison for painful reasons too. Did you know 'death by police' just another form of suicide. Find it so hard not to use harsh words when trying to explain difficult and complex situations in limited word count. Always advocate for holistic approach. Problem tends to be rehab resource intensive. The punishment is the removal from 'normal life'. The punishment is the other inmates. The punishment is the institutionalisation. Don't want a revolving door criminal want opportunities to be different next time for them (not just a better thief or whatever BTW).
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    Nov 1 2012: Self control vs Temptation:
    How can we use this information to correct criminal thinking instead of punish it.
  • Oct 31 2012: So how do you feel this should affect the goal of our criminal justice system? Rehabilitation or punishment?

    "Those that argue in favor of free will do so as part of a belief system, they provide no research on the subject. "

    I thought that while I want this debate to stay focused on how our criminal justice system should be oriented, I might briefly address this by offering some logic based arguments that might be used in support of fee will.

    First of all, the question of the possible existence of free will is a philosophical question. As such, I'm not sure it's fair to say there is no research supporting a side. Second, free will is a very abstract concept, and while you may read articles such as the one in the Atlantic and feel they disprove the existence of free will, hypothetically I could read the same article and arrive at a different conclusion.

    "The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion." This definition is provided by Wikipedia (the well known arbiter of philosophical truths). The article claims that free will cannot exist because ultimately our brain chemistry is what determines our choices, and what it chooses is predictable. I might look at this and say that since my brain is part of me, my decision is not being controlled by necessity or fate, and as such I have free will. This is just one of many possible examples intended to show that there is virtually always an argument for any idea (sometimes even a good one), so I'm not sure the belief in free will should be dismissed as simply part of a "belief system." It's also worth noting that every belief, even the belief that we have no free will is based on a belief system. But I don't want to belabor a point that may have just been poor phrasing.

    Finally, I don't want to let any of this distract from the overall topic, so make sure if anyone comments on this topic you do it in the scope of criminal justice and the debate prompt.
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    Oct 30 2012: "A brain region that curbs our natural self interest has been identified. The studies could explain how we control fairness in our society, researchers say.

    Humans are the only animals to act spitefully or to mete out "justice", dishing out punishment to people seen to be behaving unfairly - even if it is not in the punisher's own best interests. This tendency has been hard to explain in evolutionary terms, because it has no obvious reproductive advantage and punishing unfairness can actually lead to the punisher being harmed."
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    Oct 30 2012: Those that argue in favor of free will do so as part of a belief system, they provide no research on the subject.
    This is a research reference which provides some insight into why our society clings to the notion.

    "It all seems quite rational, so why is our lack of free will so difficult to accept for many people? Cashmore explains that there are several compelling reasons that people have for believing in free will, not the least of which is that we have a constant awareness of making decisions that seem to be driven by our own volition. In addition, free will is a very useful concept when it comes to the justice system; we take responsibility for our criminal actions and accordingly, are eligible for personal punishment, which is deemed to be necessary for protecting society."

    Read more at:
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    Oct 25 2012: The book "Reform through community" is a study of criminal reform through the Kibbutz system in Israel. The Kibbutzim are are a community that focus on "hard work, egalitarianism, interdependence, support, and acceptance yielded involvement, commitment, and higher self-esteem". The overriding message is that when you intervene in somebody's life and make them feel valid, recognise them as human and accept that there problems are normal, the success rates are staggering.

    Notions of right and wrong, good and evil are religious notions.They are deeply ingrained in western societies and are the basis of our legal system.But they are only beliefs,devoid of any peer reviewed data to suggest they are relevant and plenty to suggest they do not work.In reality good and evil in Law are arbitrary absolutes for something totally subjective. For example if you are a hard line Christian your interpretation of right and wrong is likely to be very different to that of a Budhist monk, or a white supremist, or a doctor.

    In the face of ever changing moral values, our legal system is static, delivering "justice" for actions that in reality should not be considered crimes at all.Defining acts as crimes formed of free will & choice is an archaic Biblical view,which takes no account of psychology, genetics, neuroscience and social science. The legal system basically absolves society at large of any real responsibility towards the aberrant people it creates.The irony is there is no true justice.A murder cannot be undone and no amount of punishment changes that.

    We know that environment is the overriding factor that determines our path in life.We can paper over cracks, attempting to merge rehabilitation with punishment,whilst facing a barrage of pseudo-religious ideological bullshit from the self appointed guardians of justice, but until our society realises that the more unequal we become the worse things are for everyone, and changes, murders will still happen
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    Oct 19 2012: Why am I not surprised to read that TEDx events are being held behind prison walls.

    This is an idea worth spreading!
  • Oct 19 2012: I dont think there is a best approach. I have seen some things do the trick . And i have seen many guys take the spiritual path and succeed. But why not a mixture of both, Science, medicine and a spiritual path may work even better. But all that will work only if the individual makes a decision.
    Remember the old story: "You cant solve a problem if you dont accept there is a problem, then you must decide if you want to solve it or not. At least try to solve it. An inmate, no matter how fearsome he might try to be, is someone that needs help. But if i toss a rope to someone he must grab it so i can pull him out. Working with people is really difficult a man made by the streets has build a wall around himself, because in the streets you need to be strong or make others think you are strong., So the Priest and the Scientist must first go through that wall to deal with the human being. And both of them do what they do best.
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      Oct 19 2012: Re: "But if i toss a rope to someone he must grab it so i can pull him out. "

      Even in cases where the individual has not admitted to a problem, society still needs to create the affordance of the rope being tossed to those ready to grab on. We must always promote that promise.
      • Oct 20 2012: You are right. We must always toss that rope and never give up.
  • Oct 13 2012: Depends on the crime, some mistakes in life that are made cannot be fixed.

    How do you rehabilitate someone that committed murder? Is it even possible.
    • Oct 17 2012:

      Are you precluding the possibility that Kevin Hughes might be rehabilitated? This is one example, but we all know the multitude of hypotheticals and real life examples like Kevin that could be used. To name just a few:
      What about someone who committed murder while under the influence; so he was not in full control of his mental faculties and decision making proccess?

      Someone whose violence was a result abuse?

      a crime of passion, rather than deliberate planning and intent?

      Or, to introduce one that I think is new, what about someone who accidentally killed someone during the commission of a separate crime? Most states in the U.S. (I believe all of them but without being sure I'm not going to state that) allow someone to be charged with murder if the death was a result of another crime they were committing. A good example of this is an old lady having a heart attack during a bank robbery. The robber can now be charged with that woman's murder. Or if a security guard tried to shoot the robber but missed and killed a bystander, the robber can again be charged with that bystander's murder.

      Are you saying that this bank robber, or any of the examples listed above can't be rehabilitated?
  • Oct 13 2012: First we must define what is the purpose of punishment. A long term sentence is a payback that the system gives to someone for an act that is considered a crime. Rehabilitation is good and works well when the subject wants it. There is a high number of offenders that commit crime after being released from their "punishment time". And the percentage of offenders that stay out of trouble after they go through a rehab program is pretty high.
    In some extreme cases rehab is useless. So the system must take out of the society that extreme offender to keep the rest of the society safe from him/her . I think that the main goal must be to rehab the offenders, but punishment and rehab cant exist without each other. When one fails there is the other.
    • Oct 17 2012: To bring it from the hypothetical to the practical, is it fair to say then that you would advocate a system in which everybody gets one chance at rehabilitation and if they fail or relapse, they revert to basic punishment?
      • Oct 18 2012: Everybody deserves a chance at rehabilitation. Question is : how many individuals out of 100 really want to change? Maybe the first step before rehabilitation is to show the subject why it is good for him/her. Do the best to reach the mind of the subject so the message is properly delivered.
        The basis of punishment is fear. After punishment the offender is supposed to be afraid of being punished again. But i am not sure if that works, because there is a high percentage of offenders that come in and out of detention very often.
        Some people after a bad experience decide to change their ways, some people don't
        As i said before, there are extreme cases where the subject has a "wrong programming situation" in his mindset. We can take the example of serial offenders. As humans they deserve a chance to change. But there are bad instructions in his mindset, that push him to do what he does. What kind of rehabilitation program or how do we get to this individual and wipe off this wrong instructions from his mindset.
        I have seen many cases of successful rehabilitation at the church,. Real people with real situations and after no scientific method worked their last hope was embracing faith and i don't know how but it worked.
        But not everyone will take a step to pray every day and read the Bible. So we also need a scientific method that can be applied in a higher number of cases.
        • Oct 18 2012: Do you think that teaching inmates who "will take a step to pray every day and read the Bible" to do this is the best approach? or do you think that the science and medicine should be the default method of treatment, with the bible study approach being a rare case only taken by the decision of the inmate?
  • Oct 10 2012: Isn't this all an argument for rehabilitation? Correct me if I'm wrong (I mean that literally) but it seems your argument has two main points: lack of punishment may lead to indigents committing crimes to get the benefits of prison rehabilitation programs, and that most criminals-or at least a lot more than we currently acknowledge-have psychological issues that don't qualify them as legally insane, but nevertheless is the root cause of their criminal behavior.

    To address the first issue, it seems to me that if some members of society would be willing to commit a crime for basic education, job training, or whatever other potential benefit of a criminal justice system oriented towards rehabilitation would offer, the problem that would present towards said criminal justice system would be an avoidable one, and the real failure would be on the part of the public education system and other social programs that were supposed to be available to them and failed them. Anything you can think of that someone might commit a crime to get in prison is something that is already supposed to be available to them for free or a reduced price.

    Your second point, that criminals might have unrecognized psychological issues seems to suggest that our criminal justice system should improve it's psychological care, which is also a rehabilitative program.

    Are you in fact arguing for a more rehabilitation focused system? Or am I misinterpreting your arguments?
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    Oct 9 2012: Without punishment, there will be people who will commit crimes, knowing that rehabilitation may provide them with free education. There has to be a sense of consequences for criminal behavior to make people think twice.

    Without rehabilitation, criminals will become hardened, as is now often the case. People don't commit crimes because they know how to act properly and don't, they commit crimes because there is a distortion in their sense of ability to do the right thing and prosper. They sense an injustice in which they are the victim firsthand.

    There are psychological issues to this question. The stress of poverty coupled with a sick child and no insurance distorts a person's ability to think rationally. These are mitigating factors. When poverty is coupled with addicting behaviors (drugs, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, etc.), these are compounding factors. There are people who are driven to criminal actions due to stress, and there are people who drive themselves to criminal actions due to lack of self-control. If only it were that simple.

    In his book "The New Primal Scream", author Arthur Janov presents evidence that early childhood or birth trauma can create subconscious drives that can become debilitating. Such people can't control themselves and have no idea why.
    There is a close relationship between insanity and criminal behavior, even when a person knows the difference between right and wrong. They are driven to make the wrong choices for reasons that they don't understand. Getting them the psychological help that they need is expensive, and therefore, rarely happens (except in cases in which a person is labeled insane). This being the case, rehabilitation is only partially effective for most criminals because it doesn't address the root of the problem.

    The justice system is often well aware of these problems, but it is torn between the need to protect the innocent, while doing the best it can within budget constraints.
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    Oct 8 2012: While I have included links to many references in my responses to this discussion I have tried to keep them simple. There is deeper research into human behavior that would apply as well.

    The Power/Interaction Model of Interpersonal Influence
    The bases of power are included within a larger context through the development of a Power/Interaction Model of Interpersonal Influence (Raven, 1992). The model begins with a consideration of the motivation for influence and the use of power, then to the factors which lead to choice of power strategy, preparatory devices for implementing the bases of power, the manner in which a power strategy is utilized, the effective changes or lack of change in the target of influence, the after-effects, and the readjustment of the perceptions and choices of future strategies by the agent.
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    Oct 8 2012: The last time I was sued was because I took pizza in my lunch and the prisoner claimed that was cruel punishment that I could have pizza and he didn't. Thank your dad for helping all of us. I have been sued often.

    When you say high level I assume that you refer to the Public and Institutional levels assigned. What I infer is that if you have been in prison for many years you become institutionalized. In many ways that is a requirement for survival. Can they adapt when released some can and good for them. However, I do not think that is the common result .. most have a real struggle in adjusting to life outside and return to the same environment and the same friends that got them into prison the first time. The alcholoic would be part of the designer prisions I suggested. Their problem is not the crime it is the abuse. A unit set up to address this would save us time and money and the added advantage of not exposing them to hardened prisoners. In some cases I support work release programs for those type of crime.

    As your father can explain the very terms of sentencing and law protecting the public would make most approaches very limited and cost prohibative. Inmates who qualify for work programs pose a minimal risk of escape and danger to the public (level 1/1). These are the ones I mentioned that the time and money would provide the highest rate of return in efforts to rehibilitate. Others could be invested in if they demonstrate the effort and desire, but again that would depend on the level and institutional history.

    The key here is money. Prisons must spend wisely and are responsible to the public for their safety. If the program works and the rest of the prison operations is not effected then praise is in line. One slip up and all programs are in trouble and the public wants a wardens head. This is a fine line to walk.

    There is always room for improvement. I hope you find it. Talk to me anytime.

    All the best. Bob.
    • Oct 8 2012: Thanks, that's an interesting response; gives me a lot to think about. I don't mean to get too far off topic, but as far as getting sued for your lunch goes, there should be more done about that. While that sort of story makes my dad a very interesting person to talk to at parties, it's tragic for those who are affected and have to worry about litigating with some crazy inmate. Here's what I can tell you: this problem is not knew. In fact, there's a case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court that decided judges are supposed to summarily review cases filed by prisoners and decide if they meet some minimum requirements for a legitimate lawsuit such as all named defendants actually being accused of tortious behavior. The problem is, judges are not reviewing these cases at all. This is easy to figure out for yourself, just read some of the rulings, they're a matter of public record. I usually hesitate to say judges need to be harsher on litigants, especially those who are poor and received little education such as prisoners, however this is a special situation. The judges are not living up to their instructions.
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        Oct 8 2012: Absolutely ... frivilous law suit should never make it past the starting gate. It really costs the tax payers a bundle and ties up courts.

        David it is really refreshing to talk to you. Thanks for your interest. Talk to me any time.

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      Oct 8 2012: Good day Robert,

      You might like this article then
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    Oct 7 2012: As Mr No1Kinobe has rightly stated, punishment does serve as a deterrent; the punishment is a message to the offender that his or her behaviour is not acceptable.
    The first sign of change in the convict is the acceptance of the punishment as what he or she deserves; if a convict has this mindset, then positive change is most likely.

    But the prisons should also be a place where convicts would be opportuned to improve themselves intellectually, morally and in other enriching ways. Idleness in prisons is not ideal, and some convicts really need help as far as mental health is concerned.

    The focus in the adminstration of justice should be 'Justice' and 'Mercy'.
    The justice part is the punishment for wrongdoing; the mercy part is rehabilitation of the convict.
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      Oct 8 2012: Re: "...his or her behaviour is not acceptable."

      Acceptable to whom?
      In some countries rape is the fault of the woman. All laws are not created equal.
      This type of a punishment mentality is aimed at creating obedience of authority rather than compliance.
      It is also the thinking that grants permission to people to spank children into submission. Nineteen states still allow paddling and spanking for children
  • Oct 7 2012: I think it should be oriented to work. We are being forced by their actions to remove them from society. They owe a debt to society for this effort. They are capable of providing work to offset incarceration expenses. I see the lessons of hard work (pride, responsibility, accountability, etc.) as good rehabilitation lessons. If they need other services for rehabilitation services (education, substance abuse counseling, healthcare, etc.) then we can help use some of their earnings to offset these expenses, just like outside life. I also do not see anything wrong with permitting them to do controlled charity work in their free time if possible. I also like the idea of educated white collar criminals being forced to teach other inmates basic education skills.

    The knowledge of hard work waiting for a criminal in prison may be more of a deterrent than anything else. The work need not be chain gang degrading, but work none-the-less. No free rides!
  • Oct 6 2012: I am all for the punishment for wrongdoing. I believe if you violate someone elses basic human rights, you deserve to lose yours. I also totally agree with the death penalty (especially for people like Robert Pickton, Homolka and her boytoy), and think that the 'get out of jail free' card the DA can offer needs a special clause in it to prevent people from revealing self incriminating evidence and then walking.
  • Oct 6 2012: "Free will exists you just don't see it,it moves too fast to comprehend it,in other words it has become reality before you realize it's gone,the next decision is being processed due to the prediction data that you have accumulated,we all make a choice at any given moment."

    Ken how is this free will if its "gone" before you realize it? Either way your still constrained by the laws of physics which dictate your environment, you can only make a decision based on certain options. For instance if you have never seen the color blue and someone places 5 crayons in front of you one red, one pink, one yellow, one brown, one green, the choice to pick blue is impossible because it doesn't exist as a concept in your brain.
    • Oct 6 2012: Why this whole discussion about free will? Whether prison rehabilitates/deters you because you are programmed to be rehabilitated/deterred by it or because you choose to be, doesn't matter for the rest of society that has to put up with you.
      • Oct 6 2012: I think it matters tremendously. I don't know about you but I don't think it would be particularly helpful or moral to imprison people, especially drug offenders, for crimes which they didn't just simply chose to commit.

        It doesn't matter if prison works? Do we want to continuously deal with criminal behavior? We have a recidivism rate of around 2/3 with the highest incarceration rate in the world. I think the only question is how do we determine who is irredeemable and how do we rehabilitate the rest of the population in prison. We have to do something different because this institution has absolutely failed our country.
        • Oct 6 2012: "I don't know about you but I don't think it would be particularly helpful or moral to imprison people, especially drug offenders, for crimes which they didn't just simply chose to commit."

          Helpful, definitely, moral as well when you think about protecting all of scoiety, I did not specify any crimes here, you choose to make this about American drug laws, I will not go along with that. This discussion was about crime in general.

          "It doesn't matter if prison works?"

          It's all that matters, as I said in my comment above, but from the rest of your response it seems to me you have been reading some other comment.
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      Oct 6 2012: All i know is that when i was very young i decided to jump a few hurdles,to free ride it if you want,it was a choice not an environmental reaction and i have a addicted type behavior set due to my silly mother working for a short time at a lolly factory,it didn't lead to drugs or alcoholism but i can't be around lollies or chocolate,even then i chose to put my hand in the cookie jar,i know a lot about choices and you're presented with them every instant of your life unless you've given another power over you to control it.

      I've been around drugs,it's a choice.
      • Oct 6 2012: Aw man, Ken your talking about your frontal lobe wrestling with your limbic system here. This has nothing to do with free will. You cant take credit for the way your brain works, you have zero responsibility or choice over the functioning of your nervous system.

        "I've been around drugs,it's a choice." This is just pointless assertion
        For you it may have been a choice, maybe you were born with a better functioning and more developed frontal lobe, maybe you were better conditioned by your environment for self control. You cant take credit for any of that, nor is it a choice.
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          Oct 6 2012: Yes it depends on the postal information i have posted above that gives rise to the assessment,i was 6 and very curious what was hidden on the top shelves of the wardrobes,it was fun and a choice,it wasn't her fault it was just the way it was for a curious child,i've been around anesthetists and their little dispensaries to forensic psyche wards and their system of controlled dispense to the home baker trying to choose which is the right choice to circumnavigate the system,don't get me wrong , i worked in the sector and have family that are on the other side of the railroad tracks,What i've seen is it's a choice,when the person decides to forgo their internal natural instincts and try it,on the other hand in the sanctioned sector it's specific and there for specific reasons to help the person or damage control.
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      Oct 6 2012: I agree we are constrained by physics but it doesn't dictate choice i can't choose blue if it isn't there for me to make a choice but if i didn't know blue existed then there is no way i could choose it,i'm a organic predator with two eye's side by side soley dedicated to the accumalated prediction inferences of the next 24 seconds ahead of time,the only other time when this is co opted is when double buffering takes place and time slows down.
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    Oct 6 2012: Both but input a Prison university where the inmate can have their sentence cut down if they graduate,all credits have to be obtained by assignments written in their own hand writing and access to computers kept to a minimun,they got the time,there is no rush but looking at this post shows i don't have a clue how the American system is set up or run.
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    Oct 6 2012: RE: "(this means after guilt has been proven)"

    When does this happen anymore? One of the problems with the criminal justice system is that the police decides who to arrest ornottoarrest, and prosecutors offer plea bargains.

    "Criminal cases are often processed on an assembly line, leaving too little time and attention for each matter. The high volume puts enormous pressure on all the players to resolve cases through negotiation, leading at times to either under-punishment of serious criminality, or over-punishment of those who might be innocent or less guilty than charged, but who still plead guilty to avoid a trial. Police have enormous discretion in investigating and arresting, but the quality of the police work is uneven and hard to monitor. Many defendants need appointed counsel, but funding for public defenders is so low that only the bare minimum of an accused's needs are likely to be met. "

    If your question is how should it change, I suggest reading David Eagleman's article here:

    "THE LEGAL SYSTEM rests on the assumption that we are “practical reasoners,” a term of art that presumes, at bottom, the existence of free will. The idea is that we use conscious deliberation when deciding how to act—that is, in the absence of external duress, we make free decisions. This concept of the practical reasoner is intuitive but problematic."
    • Oct 8 2012: Sorry it's been so long since I've checked back on this thread. I've actually already read the Atlantic article you cite, as I'm a subscriber, and it's one of my favorites. The lexisnexis symposium I can't afford (I'm a minor and my allowance isn't that lucrative) but my father works for a law office that pays for his membership. He's allowed me to use his account before and I'm sure he'd be willing to again (he's not supposed to because it's technically an office resource, but I won't tell if you won't). I would however ask you again, just to be clear: does the supposed non-existence of free will, or at least the equating of that to brain processes mean you support sentencing oriented towards rehabilitation (you'll have to excuse me if you stated this more explicitly in one of your other comments and I just missed it)?
  • Oct 6 2012: "Should criminal sentencing be oriented towards punishment or rehabilitation?"

    Depends on the crime and the personality of the offender. Rehabilitation is very important (obviously) but some people can't be rehabilitated (because they're amoral or just plain wacked), the worst crimes deserve life in prison (making preparation for rehabilitation rather useless) and the punishment side of the equation is important to provide a detterrent and satisfy the victims and society at large. Rehabilitation of willing, regretful convicts depends on whether they can find a job after prison.
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    Oct 5 2012: As much as 'Justice for the victim' can be an emotional sway into the favour of punishment, it does nothing for the next inevitable victim. Re-offending rates average at 50% and one thing you quickly learn about prison is that those who commit the worst crimes are typically at the top of the food chain in prison and have little in the way of life outside of it so the effects can often be minimal to them.
    Infact, its been demonstrated that some criminals even reoffend for the purpose of getting back into prison (no stress, no bills, no need to work etc etc)

    Next of all, what about victimless crimes? Marijuana smokers, check-bouncers and parole-breakers (and in some states, even those awaiting trial) are placed into the exact same setting, who are often on the receiving end of the punishment above those who are justly in there;
    Only once they leave, many leave with a prison-mentality and no chance of work or necessary government assistance.

    Also I think its worth mentioning that prison and even the death penalty are clearly not deterrents in the slightest.
    Simply look at the prison population and if you've ever done hypothetically anything in your life that could consitute as 'arrestable if viewed by enforcement' or something that got you into detention, did you consider prison, detention, a record or a death penalty? No.
    No one does and thats exactly how it works. The person most likely to commit a crime are typically those irrational and/or stupid enough to not consider getting caught before they do it.

    So punishment orientated prison (atleast in any way we have now) is the worst way to go about it.