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David Steele

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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 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.

        Bob.
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      Oct 8 2012: Good day Robert,

      You might like this article then

      http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/24/world/europe/norway-prison-bastoy-nicest/index.html

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