Posts Tagged ‘justice’

The six reasons why we punish people

Monday, November 13th, 2017 | Religion & Politics

I studied law at high school and I was very good at it. But one thing I could never get my head around was the six aims of sentencing. When it came to punishing people, what was the point of any of it, other than rehabilitation? Surely that was our only job?

Times of changed and now I am older and wiser. My idealistic view of humans has taken a kicking at the hands of Steven Pinker and Michael Shermer. So, here are the other five aims of sentencing and why they are important.

Reparation

Never had a problem with this one. If you can make it right, you should. I don’t think that view would be in any way controversial.

Protection

A necessary evil. Sometimes we need to lock people up to stop them hurting other people, or even themselves.

Detterence and denunication

I’ll put denunciation in here because there is a lot of overlap with general deterrence. Specific deterrence is making the individual criminal think twice before doing it again; general deterrence is making wider society think twice before doing it in the first place.

Both of these are important. Why? Because people are not inherently good. They’re not evil, either. They’re just people.

And, ultimately, people weigh up the consequences of their actions. And if the risk is worth the prize, they risk it.

So, you need carrot and stick. You need to give them a job and a place in the community to give them something to lose if they commit a crime. But you also need to make the deal not worthwhile with some stick, too.

Retribution

This is the most contested aim of sentencing: punishing people because they deserve to be punished.

Why do we need to do this? Because people want to live in a fair world. And it causes us distress when that view is broken. When you find out there has been wrong-doing, you feel bad. You physically feel it. It makes us sad when we hear about unfairness.

So, crimes have to be punished. Just for the sake of adding an extra wrong, because, as we adults know, two wrongs do genuinely make a right. When someone is punished, it restores a sense of fairness to the universe and we all feel better.

Life and Death Row

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 | Distractions

life-and-death-row

Life and Death Row is a BBC documentary series looking at young people on Death Row. Unsurprisingly, it paints quite a gloomy picture. A man with a history of depression insists on having the death penalty. A another man is executed for beating eight members of his family to death: how is that possible without any of them fighting back or escaping?

In another episode, the documentary looks at the Death Penalty Clinic, a department run by the University of Houston. Undergraduate law students come together to try and put in appeals for convicts about to be executed. It was at least heartening to see people fighting.

Details can be found on the BBC website.

Waiting To Be Heard

Saturday, May 25th, 2013 | Books

Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir is a book by Amanda Knox, the girl who was convicted of murdering University of Leeds student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. Four years later the conviction was overturned on appeal, though is since going back to trial.

I’m not sure how useful it is as case notes – it’s clear from the book that Knox is innocent, but then as she wrote the book, you would expect it to be. If everything she says in the book is true, then the entire trial is a joke, but it certainly can’t have been written without bias.

BBC News published an interesting article about how what she writes in the book differs from what she said at the time. Things have almost certainly changed in the edit. But that said, even when you strip away the bias, it seems very generous to describe the evidence they do have as beyond reasonable doubt.

In any case, the book itself makes for an interesting read. Presumably there is little left to hide after the trial went through every detail of her personal life, so it is laid out without reservation. It’s structured well, in a small chunks that made it easy to read and I struggled to put it down every time.

waitingtobeheard

Rape conviction rates

Thursday, August 16th, 2012 | Religion & Politics

I’m currently reading “The Sex Myth: Why Everything We’re Told is Wrong” by Brooke Magnanti, also known as Belle de Jour. So far it’s a fascinating reading, including a section on how the idea that strip clubs in Camden have increased the rape rate is complete nonsense.

In general, rape is an area of law that suffers a lot of misconceptions.

For example, the conviction rate for rape is 58%. As Amanda Bancroft points out in The Guardian, the conviction rate across all crimes is only 57%. That means not only is the idea that rape convictions are low a myth, but that rape convictions are actually slightly higher than you would expect. That’s good news.

But the perpetuation of the stereotype that rape conviction rates are low is a real problem. As Bancroft also points out, 68% of women are concerned by the low conviction rates (that don’t really exist), potentially putting off victims from coming forward. This disinformation is something we really need to crack down on, to ensure victims aren’t afraid to report incidents.

Why I signed a petition against the death penalty

Friday, September 2nd, 2011 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

Recently, I signed a petition to retain the ban on the death penalty.

Initially, I didn’t think it worth it. Why? Because Parliament would never approve the death penalty being brought back into British society, and even if they did, Europe would just override them anyway. We don’t have to worry about the death penalty coming back.

However, having initially rejected the idea out of concern it would give the debate some genuine legitimacy, I in the end decided to sign it because if enough of us do, we don’t even have to have the faux-debate. I’m proud to see more pople standing up to say of course we don’t want the death penalty back, than people signing up to say we do.

As I write this, the petition to retain the ban currently has the 5th most signatures of any petition, the most popular bring back the death penalty petition is only 8th.

Riot!

Sunday, August 21st, 2011 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

As you may have noticed, we recently experienced some riots in the UK.

Everything was fine here in Leeds. Someone got shot in Chapeltown, but that is just a normal evening in Chapeltown. In fact, rather than a riot, we had a march of peace while other cities were kicking off. Good old Yorkshire values present such destruction, as we just stick kettle on instead (and it’s important to note I didn’t say stick the kettle on.

Two things I found interesting though.

Firstly, the amount of people who turn out to be rather right wing when it affects their lives. We should lock them up, evict them, beat school children with a cane and possibly bring back the death penalty should Facebook comments and tweets be believed.

Obviously we shouldn’t do this, we want to live in a fear-free progressive society, not a police state.

The second is that, the remaining people, though relatively few in number, seemed to think that those who were behind the riots, shouldn’t take much responsibility at all. It’s due to underlying social issues and the forgotten generation, so it isn’t their fault.

Of course this is equally nonsense. Even if there are underlying social causes, which there are, but rather contributing factors than absolute causes, people need to take some responsibility for their actions and nothing that took place in the past week is justified – stealing a loaf of bread for your starving family is justified, looting a shop isn’t.

So basically, if you expressed an opinion on the riots, you were probably wrong about it ;). But I look forward to blog posts from other people explaining to me why my middle of the road approach is nonsense as well… :D.