Honesty Corner: Are You Prejudiced?

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Liquid

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BBC: Mob in Kenya beats child murderer to death

It got me tangentially thinking:

"I hope he rots in prison!"
"He got what he deserved!"
"Murders deserve to be murdered!"
"Good riddance to bad rubbish!"
"Whoever did it deserves a medal!"

Emotional responses to what are usually held personally as unspeakable offences. I've definitely felt the same way at times. Even amongst the criminal fraternity and amonst prison inmates, it is a commonly held belief that paedophiles and child killers as specific examples don't do well inside.

Where is the line drawn on bad punishments happening to bad people?
 
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7,252
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Where is the line drawn on bad punishments happening to bad people?
My philosophy on punishment is that the primary goal is to undo what damage was done. If this was possibly to achieve in totality, then I don't think there would be very much need for prisons or capital punishment. In cases where the damage is irreparable, then the focus shifts toward deterring the crime. That's pretty open ended, but I don't really see any point to making a someone suffer for the sake of suffering, even if they've done something truly horrible.

In the context of the highlighted example, going so far as to kill the person in question probably didn't accomplish much of value. When I think about the worst fate I could suffer, I often find life in captivity less appealing than being killed. Outside of initial shock value, long term imprisonment is more of a deterrent than death. I'd also think you could learn more from a living prisoner than a dead one and apply any information gained to improving crime prevention.
 

Hayden

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Going back a fair while now, I worked with a guy for two years before finding out (as the company was doing staff-wide police checks for a contract) that he’d committed an awful crime.

As I was sending off the checks I was talking to him and he seemed concerned, so I said to him to lighten the mood “as long as you haven’t killed anybody you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Turns out he was a convicted murderer who had done something truly despicable. Reprehensible. The worst thing you could picture to someone he should’ve protected.

It took me and the co-workers who needed to know a while to come to grips with it. From a personal perspective, he served a long prison sentence and it’s visibly clear that the other prisoners didn’t make it easy for him. In the end I decided it was the Judge’s job to judge people and if the courts believed he was rehabilitated, than I should leave my uneasiness at the door. From a business perspective, the decision was way out of my pay bracket and I left it at that.

The conversation I had to start with “So, I got your police check back…” was definitely one of the most uncomfortable and odd chats I’ll ever have. In the end the company put him in a role not affected by the contract and he continued to be a good employee who made great personal strides and remained a much loved member of the team by his (unknowing) coworkers.

Part of me still wonders if I think he actually deserves that, but as I said it’s the courts job to judge people, not mine.
 
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Danoff

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My philosophy on punishment is that the primary goal is to undo what damage was done. If this was possibly to achieve in totality, then I don't think there would be very much need for prisons or capital punishment. In cases where the damage is irreparable, then the focus shifts toward deterring the crime. That's pretty open ended, but I don't really see any point to making a someone suffer for the sake of suffering, even if they've done something truly horrible.

In the context of the highlighted example, going so far as to kill the person in question probably didn't accomplish much of value. When I think about the worst fate I could suffer, I often find life in captivity less appealing than being killed. Outside of initial shock value, long term imprisonment is more of a deterrent than death. I'd also think you could learn more from a living prisoner than a dead one and apply any information gained to improving crime prevention.
I don't agree with most of that. But I think the part I disagree with most is the idea that life in prison should come without the possibility of death. In the US we have this weird fixation on people not being able to commit suicide in prison. I'm not sure I ever agree with institutionally stripping someone of their right to exit life. I recognize that there may be practical issues with letting people kill themselves in prison, but there should be some kind of mechanism. Suicide should always be legal*.

So I reject the dilemma of life in captivity being less appealing than being killed.

Edit:
* I should say... for adults.
 
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I don't agree with most of that. But I think the part I disagree with most is the idea that life in prison should come without the possibility of death. In the US we have this weird fixation on people not being able to commit suicide in prison. I'm not sure I ever agree with institutionally stripping someone of their right to exit life. I recognize that there may be practical issues with letting people kill themselves in prison, but there should be some kind of mechanism. Suicide should always be legal.

So I reject the dilemma of life in captivity being less appealing than being killed.
I think assisted suicide or euthanasia should be legal in all 50 states. I know it is in some US states. And I'm not talking about if you have some sort of terminal disease. If you can prove that you're not trying to avoid any legal or criminal charges and you don't owe any money, then you should be able to choose to end your life any time you want to. I know I would gladly welcome that option as opposed to being a burden on society.
 

Rallywagon

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Why this stipulation?
I'm in agreement with Jezza. I think people should be allowed to have free agency over themselves and their lives. But I don't think it should be an option for avoiding responsibility or punishment. My person take, but if someone killed my daughter for example, I would be pissed if the person was allowed to off themselves rather than living through the punishment. To me, that's not justice. Justice would be that person taking the consequences of their crime, not ducking out on it by death.

And, since I think I can see the question coming. No, I don't like the death penalty for the same reason. And I know you take Danoff is that it's a great tool to use as a threat to drive for plea seals and whatnot. I don't agree, but I will caveat and say, at least with the death penalty, it's an unavoidable punishment, and not everyone going to jail wants to die. I can see the deterrent. But allowing criminals to free kill themselves, I feel, avoids consequences and thus proper justice for those wronged.
 
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Danoff

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I'm in agreement with Jezza. I think people should be allowed to have free agency over themselves and their lives. But I don't think it should be an option for avoiding responsibility or punishment. My person take, but if someone killed my daughter for example, I would be pissed if the person was allowed to off themselves rather than living through the punishment. To me, that's not justice. Justice would be that person taking the consequences of their crime, not ducking out on it by death.
How is committing suicide not taking a consequence in this case?

Capital punishment is usually considered a more severe penalty than life in prison. How is the person accepting capital punishment over life in prison then avoiding consequences?
 
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Rallywagon

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How is committing suicide not taking a consequence in this case?

Capital punishment is usually considered a more severe penalty than life in prison. How is the person accepting capital punishment over life in prison then avoiding consequences?
Sorry, I added more when I was editing some grammatical errors.
Basically, being forced to death is not equal to being allowed to commit suicide.
 

Danoff

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Sorry, I added more when I was editing some grammatical errors.
Basically, being forced to death is not equal to being allowed to commit suicide.
You're assuming that someone forced to death does not prefer it. That's not necessarily a safe assumption. Would you deny capital punishment in a case where someone indicated that they might prefer it? Like, capital punishment is only on the table if they don't want it?

Generally speaking, the US does not torture, and the purpose of judicial sentencing is not to torture (see 8th amendment in the Bill of Rights). Sentencing has several purposes, to try to make right (eg: fines), to try to rehabilitate, and to protect society. Making someone suffer is not the goal.

I find preventing prison suicide to be in violation of at least the 8th amendment (and I think at least one other amendment). But also, it is perhaps the most fundamental right. So to strip someone of that right truly means that our judicial system has no boundaries when it comes to what it will impose on people.
 
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Why this stipulation?
As @Rallywagon stated, I don't think this should be an option to avoid justice for any crimes. Yes I know there's nothing to stop someone from offing themselves in some way if they're wanted for serious crimes but they shouldn't be assisted in getting there.
 

Liquid

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How is committing suicide not taking a consequence in this case?
The commonly shared belief is that criminals live with the consequences of their actions but have the decisions taken out of the criminal's hand; a life sentence in prison is living with the consequences and compared to an execution, suicide being a choice for the murderer of your child (the example specified) would not widely be considered justice.

Not to stake a claim either way on it personally but I see the point of view being referred to. I suppose it depends if you consider a criminal committing suicide almost immediately into a sentence 'justice'. I don't think a lot of people would.
 
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Danoff

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As @Rallywagon stated, I don't think this should be an option to avoid justice for any crimes. Yes I know there's nothing to stop someone from offing themselves in some way if they're wanted for serious crimes but they shouldn't be assisted in getting there.
It's not avoiding justice, and I don't think I specified that a criminal wishing to commit suicide should be assisted. I was merely stating that they shouldn't be stopped.

The commonly shared belief is that criminals live with the consequences of their actions but have the decisions taken out of the criminal's hand; a life sentence in prison is living with the consequences and compared to an execution, suicide being a choice for the murderer of your child (the example specified) would not widely be considered justice.

Not to stake a claim either way on it personally but I see the point of view being referred to. I suppose it depends if you consider a criminal committing suicide almost immediately into a sentence 'justice'. I don't think a lot of people would.
I think if that's true it has mostly to do with people just wanting to deprive someone of something they "want". Not that our criminal in this case was suicidal, but they that they might choose suicide seems like somehow giving them something they want, and that feels somehow like injustice.

The prescription shouldn't be about what they want, it should be about what we want. The goal of the criminal justice system (I'll say again), is not to punish. It's not to torture. The US judicial system is designed to either remedy, rehabilitate, or protect society. Telling someone that they cannot commit suicide achieves none of those goals. I suppose if I squint I could see some kind of enslaved labor as roundabout serving the goal of remedy, if some assumed wages for the enslaved labor were sent to the victim or something. But that's pretty perverse. Garnishing wages is something we do for, but preventing someone from killing themselves so that they can work as a slave for someone else is probably cruel and unusual punishment.

I think if some horrible criminal wants to off themselves, they're doing us all a favor and we should absolutely clearly let them.
 

Rallywagon

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You give up a lot of rights when you become a criminal. Especially while incarcerated. I don't see this as any different. While I agree with you on the purposes of prison, punishment is also a part of that description as well, part of the "make it right" I should say. And since we are debating this against the death penalty and life in prison, well, rehabilitation isn't exactly forefront concern. These theoretical people aren't going back to society.
I'll further reiterate as well that being sentenced to death isn't the same as committing suicide. We can include exceptions, though, I think it an easier debate if we come to an understanding that they exist and those don't need point them out, but since it's there now, I'll address it. There are likely some people that will be happy to have the death penalty as they likely wanted to die anyway sure. The exception exists but by and large I think most people, even if they planned on committing suicide, will still be hit pretty hard by being sentenced to death. And certainly, being sentenced to death would satisfy the pursuit of justice more than someone committing suicide.

Now. I do have to ask, if you are for the protection of rights for criminals, and life is one of those rights, then how do you also support the death penalty, which surely violates the right of life?
 
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Danoff

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You give up a lot of rights when you become a criminal.
I agree.

These theoretical people aren't going back to society.

Just being thorough with the purposes.
I'll further reiterate as well that being sentenced to death isn't the same as committing suicide.
I agree. It's definitely not the same, at least because one is voluntary and one is potentially involuntary. But shooting up a movie theater to make your state kill you is a form of suicide. So they're much more related than you seem to let on.

There are likely some people that will be happy to have the death penalty as they likely wanted to die anyway sure. The exception exists but by and large I think most people, even if they planned on committing suicide, will still be hit pretty hard by being sentenced to death. And certainly, being sentenced to death would satisfy the pursuit of justice more than someone committing suicide.
If they choose death over some other sentence, how does that make things worse?
Now. I do have to ask, if you are for the protection of rights for criminals, and life is one of those rights, then how do you also support the death penalty, which surely violates the right of life?

I'm actually not for the protection of the right to life for all criminal acts. I'm in favor of the death penalty - though I think programmatically it should only ever be invoked if the accused does not plea bargain to life in prison. The death penalty is expensive, and carries with it the possibility of mistake. Pragmatically, if the accused is willing to give up the possibility of getting away with it (through trail and appeal), and save the state money and time, removing themselves from society, then we should always take that. They've done us a favor. If they further decide to off themselves, saving us more time, money, more effectively removing themselves from society, and putting a guarantee on it, then they've done us a favor and we should always take it - even if it's something they prefer. For that, and other reasons, I'm in favor of protecting the right to death.

I'm not in favor of the judicial system existing for punishment. I think that comes fraught with problems, including misunderstanding the various circumstances that lead up to some horrible event.
 
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Rallywagon

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I'm not in favor of the judicial system existing for punishment. I think that comes fraught with problems, including misunderstanding the various circumstances that lead up to some horrible event.
As its sole purpose, neither am I. I far prefer rehabilitation as the main objective myself. But to say it's not a punishment or shouldn't be I don't think is correct. I think part of the idea of jail and prison is tobact as a deterrent to crime, and it can't be that without it also being considered a punishment for breaking a law. I am not here to argue the semantics of what laws and how severe the punishment though. We have judges for that.
 

Danoff

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tobact as a deterrent to crime, and it can't be that without it also being considered a punishment for breaking a law
Why should we have a deterrent? I'd argue that having a deterrent is for protection of society. Allowing criminals to kill themselves is not going to prevent deterrence.
 
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I don't agree with most of that. But I think the part I disagree with most is the idea that life in prison should come without the possibility of death. In the US we have this weird fixation on people not being able to commit suicide in prison. I'm not sure I ever agree with institutionally stripping someone of their right to exit life. I recognize that there may be practical issues with letting people kill themselves in prison, but there should be some kind of mechanism. Suicide should always be legal*.

So I reject the dilemma of life in captivity being less appealing than being killed.

Edit:
* I should say... for adults.
I'm not sure if what I was saying was entirely clear now. I hadn't even really considered the idea of a criminal attempting suicide and didn't weigh in on whether it should be permitted or not. When I compared life imprisonment with death that was just my own personal ranking, I wasn't trying to say that life imprisonment should universally be considered a stronger punishment and that the worst criminals should be subjected to it. The closest I came to that was pointing out that keeping them alive could have value. The mob that killed the murder probably though his death was the best out possible, but I don't think that's self evident.

On to the actual question though, do I think someone serving a life sentence should be kept from committing suicide? Not necessarily. I'd like them to remain alive so long as they would be of use to society, for example by helping authorities solve cases of theirs that have gone cold, or just by providing the mind of criminal to analyze and learn from. Even in those cases though it would be up to the person in question to consent or not. If they do consent I could see that as a contract requiring them to remain alive (as far as is in their power) until they've provided the promised aid.
 

Danoff

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I'd like them to remain alive so long as they would be of use to society, for example by helping authorities solve cases of theirs that have gone cold, or just by providing the mind of criminal to analyze and learn from. Even in those cases though it would be up to the person in question to consent or not. If they do consent I could see that as a contract requiring them to remain alive (as far as is in their power) until they've provided the promised aid.
I imagine that most convicted criminals would rather live in prison, with the hopes of someday getting out, as opposed to a more permanent end. Self-preservation is strong. We're talking about people who were caught alive in the first place. If someone really wants to die after committing their crimes, they'll probably be found dead or killed in apprehension.

I'm not sure that a contract giving up a right to suicide would be enforced. Currently the US court system does not enforce contracts which give up basic rights. For example, we do not have indentured servitude any longer. If you entered into a contract that said "you can kill me if I don't... blah", that contract is not enforceable in court.
 

Rallywagon

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Why should we have a deterrent? I'd argue that having a deterrent is for protection of society.
I agree.


Allowing criminals to kill themselves is not going to prevent deterrence.
I don't know that I was saying it was. The point about not allowing suicide isn't about deterrence, it's about justice. I don't think justice is served by allowing suicide for convicts. It's expedient, it might cost less. But justice isn't about expediency or money.
 
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Danoff

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It's expedient, it might cost less. But justice isn't about expediency or money.
So at this point you're saying that my stated goals for the justice system (remedy, rehabilitation, and protection for society) take a back seat to punishment. So much so that you're willing to advocate that we spend additional tax dollars and additional risk that the person walks free so that we can make sure that they live a life of... what you presume is some kind of suffering for crimes (but which is not so much suffering really).
 
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I imagine that most convicted criminals would rather live in prison, with the hopes of someday getting out, as opposed to a more permanent end. Self-preservation is strong.
I'm sure many would. Even though I consider the life prison sentence worse than death, if you throw in enough uncertainty in the term of the sentence I could change my mind.
We're talking about people who were caught alive in the first place. If someone really wants to die after committing their crimes, they'll probably be found dead or killed in apprehension.
It's not so much about wanting to die after committing a crime, but wanting to die after getting caught (and imprisoned). Some people would probably have no issue going on with their lives after having committed a crime while evading capture, but would fear punishment if caught.
I'm not sure that a contract giving up a right to suicide would be enforced. Currently the US court system does not enforce contracts which give up basic rights. For example, we do not have indentured servitude any longer. If you entered into a contract that said "you can kill me if I don't... blah", that contract is not enforceable in court.
Isn't the death penalty sort of "You can kill me if I don't [respect these specific rights of others]"? In the case of criminal punishment, I don't really have a problem with trading in their rights in an attempt to correct the wrongs they've done to others. There is a bit of an issue with practicality of enforcement. If someone doesn't even want to live you probably can't coax them into helping you. Perhaps the contract I referred to might work better as something less formal like an agreement instead of a binding contract.
 

Rallywagon

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So at this point you're saying that my stated goals for the justice system (remedy, rehabilitation, and protection for society) take a back seat to punishment. So much so that you're willing to advocate that we spend additional tax dollars and additional risk that the person walks free so that we can make sure that they live a life of... what you presume is some kind of suffering for crimes (but which is not so much suffering really).
If they walk free, then should they not have been rehabilitated and thus allowed to be free, able now to become once more a productive member of society? Shouldnt that be worth the cost of the punishment? See, punishment isn't all about just "punishment" is also about reflection and self growth, it is to be a deterrent, but it is also about a part of rehabilitation. The idea of sending a misbehaved child to a corner is both a punishment and allow them time to reflect on why they are in trouble.
But yes, it is about justice as well. Some manner of recompense where none would be otherwise for the victimized.
 
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Danoff

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If they walk free, then should they not have been rehabilitated and thus allowed to be free, able now to become once more a productive member of society? Shouldnt that be worth the cost of the punishment?
No, they could walk for all kinds of reasons. They could be pardoned, new evidence could turn up which could enable some confusion as to whether they were guilty (yet them still having been guilty in reality), or they can win an appeal for a variety of reasons. I think if the person has a shot at walking free because they've served a short term, they're probably not contemplating suicide.

See, punishment isn't all about just "punishment" is also about reflection and self growth, it is to be a deterrent, but it is also about a part of rehabilitation.
Our prison system doesn't do a great job of rehabilitating. In fact, mostly it just shows criminals that prison isn't all that bad. Some of them even want to get back in. Solitary is torture, but for the most part prison is just boredom - which some people tolerate well.

We don't need people to stick around, definitely not people that we're forcing others to pay for. Part of the crime that an imprisoned person commits, is the theft of money, time and resources used to keep them in prison. They also steal a little from the minds of the people they've harmed just in knowing that they still breathe, and still might one day walk free.

There's a guy... Chris Watts... who murdered his family here in Colorado not that long ago. He's in prison. But he might not be in prison forever. I met him, I know people who were pretty closely affected - so it's a bit personal to me. If he wants to commit suicide, he'd just be ridding the world of a waste of humanity and using a few less of my tax dollars in the process. I'm not saying he needs to die. But if he wants to die, that'd be just peachy with me.

Tex Watson fathered 4 children while serving life in prison.

But yes, it is about justice as well. Some manner of recompense where none would be otherwise for the victimized.
Having the person out of the world, instead of in it and potentially going free and harming more, is perfectly fine justice.
 
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Having the person out of the world, instead of in it and potentially going free and harming more, is perfectly fine justice.
The "suicide isn't justice" thing feels like a cultural hangup. Dead is dead, no matter how you get there. I could imagine a society in which a criminal committing suicide was celebrated as peak justice, as they've removed themselves as a threat with a minimum of effort on everyone else's part.

Instead people feel like if a criminal doesn't suffer sufficiently, then it's not justice. Which is exactly the problem with a lot of "justice" systems, they're more about inflicting suffering than actually improving the overall conditions of the society. Whatever Jesus may have said, Christian-based cultures still seem super keen on the whole eye for an eye thing.
 

Rallywagon

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The "suicide isn't justice" thing feels like a cultural hangup. Dead is dead, no matter how you get there. I could imagine a society in which a criminal committing suicide was celebrated as peak justice, as they've removed themselves as a threat with a minimum of effort on everyone else's part.

Instead people feel like if a criminal doesn't suffer sufficiently, then it's not justice. Which is exactly the problem with a lot of "justice" systems, they're more about inflicting suffering than actually improving the overall conditions of the society. Whatever Jesus may have said, Christian-based cultures still seem super keen on the whole eye for an eye thing.
Idk about it being a "Christian" thing. I'm by no means religious. Neither is my dad and at best my mom is agnostic. I've definitely never known the teachings of Christ to inform my opinion here.
I was however taught if you do the crime you do the time. It's part of taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. Suicide, to me, is an easy way out of that responsibility. I won't argue against the fact that our entire justice system needs reform. In a perfect world prison itself shouldn't be the punishment. It should be about reformation. I mean, reformatory is another name for prison.
The punishment however is of a self inflicted nature. Having to live with and deal with the wrong you've done. Having to internalize it and deal with the consequences. That is a big part of reformation. And the more people we can get reformed and back to being productive members of society, the better.
As for the eye for an eye comment. I can't help think that one was not well aimed. For my part, I don't support the death penalty and what is more eye for an eye than that? Danoff, patron Saint of suicide is the one for the death penalty.
 
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Imagine the weigth you carry to decide to end your life… It is not out of choosing the easy way, it is because you have no action left. You have given it all. Suicide, is the hardest way out.

As to the title of the thread: everybody is prejudiced. Otherwise there would be no distinction between you and me.
 
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