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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 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: http://phys.org/news186830615.html#jCp
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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: 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?

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