The Instigator
MasterDebater123
Con (against)
Losing
7 Points
The Contender
JBlake
Pro (for)
Winning
24 Points

Is prison a moral and necessary institution?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
JBlake
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/6/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,044 times Debate No: 5299
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (4)
Votes (5)

 

MasterDebater123

Con

I would like to argue that the prison system is not a moral, necessary, or even effective solution to the problem of crime.

I argue that the prison system is immoral because of the needless violence, oftentimes at the hands of its guards, that run rampant inside many prisons. Another reason I find the prison system immoral, and this goes for the entire justice system, is that it focuses too much on the perpetrator and not enough on the victim. Without giving something back to the victims I don't see how justice can possibly be served.

I argue that the prison system is not necessary or effective in curbing crime because of many studies done which show that even though the prison population goes up, the crime rate drops very little, if any. In fifteen studies done on the impact of incarceration on crime rate, which are dated from 1988 to 2006, the most reduction of crime that was found to be due to incarceration was 28.4 %, which was from the study done by Devine, Sheley, and Smith, done in 1988. More recent studies done in 1996, by Levitt, showed a 3.8 % decrease in violent offenses, and a 2005 study done by Spelman shows a 4.4 decrease in violent offenses (Source: Reconsidering Incarceration: New Directions for Reducing Crime – Jan. 2007, by Don Stemen). Sometimes the crime rate actually increases along with the rise in the prison population.

There have been true to life examples of this process in action where the victim gets compensated with the development of California's Crime Victims Fund and other cases. For example, in June of 1992 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a twenty-three year old Sue Clayton was raped on the New Mexico University campus while returning to her dorm room from an evening class. Sue's father was an insurance company executive, and one of the policies he had written up for his family was a rider on a life insurance policy for his wife and two daughters covering the chance of rape. Even though the rapist wasn't caught (as of the published date of my source), Sue received $150,000 in a settlement (Source: Every Man and Woman an Island, by Robert Clapp, page 116).

Because of the current system's insistence on prosecuting the perpetrator the victims are often left without any form of compensation and then the government steals their money in the form of taxes to pay for the criminal's incarceration. Within this current system the victim gets robbed twice. Once by the criminal, and the second time by the state (which is a different topic all together).

It must be noted that there are workable alternatives but I'm not arguing their effectiveness (which I argue that they are but again a different topic), but if prison is moral and necessary.
JBlake

Pro

Claims:
1. The prison system is immoral.
2. The prison system is not necessary.

Note: Con notes that he is not arguing the effectiveness of the prison system, but its morality and necessity.

Rebuttal:
1. Morality is relative. What may be moral for some people is immoral for others. I will provide a few examples of this point:
a) John finds it is moral for him to perform sexual intercourse with Sally out of wedlock. However, Steve finds it immoral for John to perform sexual intercourse with Sally out of wedlock.
b) John finds it moral to steal from Steve to feed his starving family. Steve finds it immoral for John to steal from him to feed John's starving family.

This concept can be applied to literally every subject, including the prison system.

2. The prison system is a necessary institution to separate people whose actions deviate from the proscribed laws of a given society. People who prove themselves to be unwilling to cooperate with a society's desire for a peaceful continued existence must be removed from a position where he/she can cause that society harm.
Debate Round No. 1
MasterDebater123

Con

JBlake claims that:

1. Morality is relative.

My rebuttal:

Yes, I agree that morality is relative, however, I do not see what is moral about allowing someone to harm an individual, or steal something from them, and they get nothing in return.

I argue that this form of treatment for victims is immoral and victims should be given a higher priority within the justice system.

An example of this immoral system is the following:

A store owner named Ed Marshall had his own cabinet and woodworking business. On April of 1992, in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Joseph Tate (age 28) broke into Marshall's store and stole tools, materials, and money, all totaling $18,000. Three months later, because of a tip, he was arrested. Because it was Tate's first offense the judge took it easy on him and only sentenced him to five years probation and community service. Then, less than a year later, Tate robbed Marshall again. This time Tate made off with $4,500 in goods.

The same judge as before gave Tate eight months in jail, and five more years of probation, and more community service. Once again, when Tate got out of jail, he and two accomplices robbed Marshall; they stole his company truck, and (as of about 2004-2005) have not been caught yet (Source: Every Man and Woman An Island, by Robert Clapp, page 115).

Given this current form of the criminal justice system, what possible "justice" can be served within the framework of simply putting a man in jail, while the victim is left with nothing?

Now, as I said before, morality is relative but I think any average, moral person can clearly see the problem here.

The second claim of JBlake is that:

The prison system is a necessary institution to separate people whose actions deviate from the proscribed laws of a given society.

My rebuttal:

This argument sounds very logical at first but in reality it is not. The reason is because prison separates people from society, but only temporarily and once they are released there is oftentimes nothing stopping them from continuing their crimes. A recidivism study that was done in February of 2003 shows that the percentage of repeat offenders is going up. Data collected from a Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report on Recidivism indicates that within three years of being released, 67.5 % of released prisoners were re-arrested, 46.9 % were reconvicted for new crimes, 25.4 % were re-sentenced for a new crime, and 51.8 % returned to prison.

Another study that was done and reported in the Corrections Yearbook found that the recidivism rate was rising. In 1990, the recidivism rate was 31.7 %. By 2000, it increased to 33.8 % (Source: Data Spotlight: Recidivism, by the MTC Institute, February 2003).

JBlake made the following incorrect statement:

"Note: Con notes that he is not arguing the effectiveness of the prison system, but its morality and necessity."

I am, in fact, arguing the prison's system effectiveness, since I said the following:

"I argue that the prison system is not necessary or *effective* in curbing crime because of many studies..."

Also in my opening sentence:

"I would like to argue that the prison system is not a moral, necessary, or even *effective* solution to the problem of crime."

I see, though, where the confusion was. I was stating that I was not going to argue the effectiveness of the alternatives to the prison system since I said:

"It must be noted that there are workable alternatives but I'm not arguing their effectiveness.."

I apologize for not being clear enough.
JBlake

Pro

The fault is all mine on misunderstanding yourstatement.

Claims:
1. Victims are awarded no 'justice' within the justice system. (Marshall/Tate example)
2. Given this current form of the criminal justice system, what possible "justice" can be served within the framework of simply putting a man in jail, while the victim is left with nothing?
3. "morality is relative but I think any average, moral person can clearly see the problem here."
4. Prison is unsuccessfull in reforming criminals. (Recidivism rates)

Rebuttal:
1. Just as 'morality' is relative, so is justice. Many people feel they have received proper justice merely by sending the person to jail, many also would only feel justice was served if the person was executed for even a small transgression toward them.

Justice is not a very important factor in the necessity of the prison system. The most important aspect is that the deviant character is separated from the society with whom he has, by committing the crime, refused to cooperate for a length of time corresponding to the severity of his crime. Is it 'just' to execute a shoplifter? Should we hang kids who drink when they are underage? Should we imprison them for thirty years? No, because the punishment would be oppressive and it does not fit the crime.

It is an unfortunate result that some people are more difficult or impossible to reform. My opponent lists a number of correct statistics that, while they are correct, they do not necessarily mean we have to scrap the current prison system. Some prisons are more competent than others in their recidivism rates due to their individual inmate policy. Some of the less competent systems may look to these as examples in making their own changes. However, scrapping the entire system is unnecessary.

While it is true that there are individual policies that prisons can inact that would help lower their recidivism rate, it is not true that every deviant character can be reformed. The answer to this are the recent 'Three Strikes Laws' that require courts to hand down extended sentences (and in some cases, life sentences) for felons who refuse to conform to the society's expectation of a smooth and peacefull existence.

2. As mentioned in the passage above, justice is not meant for the victim (though he is welcome to share in it), it is meant for society. Society has dictated varying lengths of separation. If we allowed victims to enact their own justice a victim of a trespasser might kill said trespasser and claim it is the proper ammount of justice for the transgression.

3. My opponent argues that there exists such a thing as a 'moral person'. Morality does not exist. Morality is a man made phenomenon. There is nothing that dictates a set of standard morals, they are relative and thus different for every person. For example:
John finds it morally permissible to end the life of Steve. Albert (since Steve is now dead) calls this 'murder' and finds it immoral.

The reason we imprison John for this action is not because it was an immoral act, but because it is not conducive to a peacefull, smooth functioning society to allow a deviant character to remain among those who choose the cooperate.

4. Again, it is an unfortunate result that some people are impossible to reform. There will always be a recidivism rate no matter what system you have in place (though I will not mention them because we are not debating the effectiveness of other systems). This is where the 'Three Strikes Laws' come into play. They permanently (or more extensively) separate the deviant character who is unwilling to reform.

My opponent's statistics do not prove that the prison system is not necessary, only that individual prisons should focus more on reforming its inhabitants.

Conclusion:
Morality is relative and imaginary, therefore the prison system can not be immoral. Justice is not meant for victims, but for society as a whole. Recidivism can be effected at the individual prison level, and need not be the cause of a complete overhaul.
Therefore, the Prison System is not immoral, and it is necessary.
Debate Round No. 2
MasterDebater123

Con

JBlake's claims:

Morality is relative and imaginary, therefore the prison system can not be immoral. Justice is not meant for victims, but for society as a whole. Recidivism can be effected at the individual prison level, and need not be the cause of a complete overhaul.
Therefore, the Prison System is not immoral, and it is necessary.

1. Morality is relative and imaginary, therefore the prison system can not be immoral.

My rebuttal:

I argue that morality is not entirely relative, and definitely not imaginary. The reason is because there are many scientific studies which show that there is some kind of unconscious moral sense driving many human beings' actions and emotions. These findings have been confirmed by Marc Hauser, author of the book "Moral Minds," and Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal." In several studies where people had to answer questions that had to do with morality the answers were the same for participants regardless of religion, political affiliation, etc.

Feelings of unfairness, the belief that murder is wrong, stealing, etc. are all universal among human beings, and even primates. This obviously does not ensure that these things will never happen, but due to many factors such as drugs, mental disorders, etc., these transgressions against humanity will continue. But to say there is no true sense of morality is incorrect.

2. Justice is not meant for victims, but for society as a whole.

This I agree with - to a point - but the current method in which this goal is trying to be met is actually harming society. The current system, instead of attempting to rehabilitate individuals, takes parents from their children, and rips families and society apart. From the study Reconsidering Incarceration: New Directions for Reducing Crime, it was shown that in certain neighborhoods incarceration actually lead to increasing crime rates. The theory is, judging from several studies, that communities can reach an incarceration "tipping point," when incarceration rates get so high that it breaks down the "social and family bonds that guide individuals away from crime," and take away adults who would otherwise nurture their children. It tends to "deprive communities of income, reduce future income potential, and engender a deep resentment toward the legal system. As a result, communities become less capable of maintaining social order through families or social groups, crime rates go up."

I also argue that victims should be given proper compensation and yes the current system is not for the victim, but for the state. The state wrongfully (and immorally) sees transgressions against society as a whole but this is not the case. The perpetrator committed an act of violence or theft against an *individual* or a *group of individuals,* not an entire town.

It is these individuals who should be addressed because they were the ones who were directly affected. The victims should be given some form of compensation and the perpetrator should be eased back into society in an attempt to keep the society functional and allow the perpetrator to resume his daily life so a negative social stigma doesn't effect his quality of life, as does often happen with inmates who are released from prisons today. In this way, the victim gets some form of compensation, the criminal is allowed back into society so he can continue to have a normal life, and society as a whole will not be broken down.

It might not be realized, but before this form of "justice" was developed (which was often to fill the pockets of the state with money due to fines, bail, etc.) this form was justice was used by nearly all societies.

An early written code incorporating restitution was the Code of Hammurabi from 2380 BC, which included restitution for offenses against property but not for personal crimes (Source: A Restorative Justice Reader: Texts, sources, context, edited by Gerry Johnstone, page 114). Another fact seems to be that "not until the Late Middle and Late Codes that death was established as the exclusive sanction for intentional homicide." Up until that time, "[o]f fifty to one hundred scattered tribal communities as to which the information available is of undoubted reliability 73 percent called for a pecuniary sanction versus 14 percent [that] called for a certain number of persons to be handed over to the family of the victim as a sanction. This too was actually a fine, though not a monetary one. One hundred percent of the Early and Early Middle Codes, beginning with the Salic code (around 500-600 AD) and lasting through the Anglo-Saxon laws (900-1100 AD), called for pecuniary sanction for homicide" (Source: A Restorative Justice Reader: Texts, sources, context, edited by Gerry Johnstone, page 115).

The idea of victim compensation has been around for centuries, and only until the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Europe did our current form of law begin to take shape. Before that, there was no "set of rules imposed from above;" law was simply a "part of the 'common conscience.' When social bonds were violated, there followed negotiation for restitution and reconciliation. The law was a mediating process designed, not to allocate blame and punishment, but to reconcile conflicting parties. Law was not a separate institution but a diffuse process interwoven with all other aspects of life" (Source: A Restorative Justice Reader: Texts, sources, context, edited by Gerry Johnstone, pages 101-102).

3. Recidivism can be effected at the individual prison level, and need not be the cause of a complete overhaul.

Yes, this is possible, but is not being done. Within the current system prisons are becoming overcrowded (often with non-violent offenses such as drug users) which makes rehabilitation difficult, and in many prisons rehabilitation, especially for drug use, is nonexistent.

Because the current system is ineffective in keeping criminals from recommitting crimes, breaks down the society in many cases, and ignores the victims, this process should be reconstructed where fairness and morality are present. In fact, it seems that many people actually agree with this approach.

A study by the Advocates for Self Government found that 78% chose the free-market system, in which the victim receives direct restitution from the perpetrator and/or from an insurance company, regardless of what happens to the perpetrator – even if he went free (Source: Every Man and Woman An Island, by Robert Clapp, page 117).
JBlake

Pro

Note: My opponent has ventured into comparisons of other systems as he claimed he would not do. I will address these, but make no new comparisons as per the debate guidelines.

Claims:
1. Studies show that morality is real as has a set of general principles including murder, stealing, &ct.
2. "From the study Reconsidering Incarceration: New Directions for Reducing Crime, it was shown that in certain neighborhoods incarceration actually lead to increasing crime rates."
3. Victims should be given proper compensation
4. "The state wrongfully (and immorally) sees transgressions against society as a whole but this is not the case."
5. Perpetrators should be eased back into society.
6. Victim compensation is the system primarily used in past societies. The Code of Hammurabi is cited as evidence.
7. Recidivism can be combatted at the individual level, but they are not.
8. 78% of people choose a free-market type prison system "in which the victim receives direct restitution from the perpetrator and/or from an insurance company, regardless of what happens to the perpetrator – even if he went free."

Rebuttal:
1. Even if it could be proven that morality is real, that does not prove that the prison system is immoral. Obviously the line must be drawn somewhere, or else it would be immoral to pet kittens. My opponent has not proven that the prison system is immoral in any way.
I would counter that studies on morality are inaccurate. The fact that they can prove that most people generally accept a specific set of immorality (murder, theft) does not prove that morality is real, it merely proves that most people have been conditioned from birth through adulthood to accept a set of moral laws. Would you call the wolf that kills another wolf from a rival pack for trespassing on his territory immoral? Why should it be any different for human beings?

2. Some neighborhoods may have an increase in crime rates, while others may have a decrease in crime rate. That in no way implicates the prison system as the main contributing factor.

More importantly, the violent crime rate in America has seen an overall decline since the mid nineties (a time period that the prison system was still in place. The rate has dropped from 51.2 per 1000 people in 1994 to 21.0 per 1000 people in 2005. This is more than a 50% decrease in total violent crimes, (defined in the study as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault).

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics:
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov...

3. Who is to decide what defines 'proper compensation'. What the state decides as 'proper compensation' may not be what the individual feels is 'proper compensation'. In either case, 'justice' has the potential to be skewed too radically in either direction (either too much compensation [such as execution], or too little compensation). Therefore we are either left with a dangerous system where the compensation does not fit the crime, or a system that has the same problem of not providing what people deem 'proper compensation'.

4. I challenge my opponent to prove that it is immoral for the state to view transgressions as against the society as a whole.

5. Perpetrators are eased back into society in the current prison system, as my opponent notes as well.

6. My opponent merely proves that a victim compensation system has existed in the past, and has not proven it is more moral than the current system. If anything, his examples prove that the current system is MORE 'moral' than victim compensation.
a)
The Code of Hammurabi infamously implemented the "eye for an eye" ideology. Here are a few examples of the 'justice' of the Hammurabi victim compensation system:
"195. If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.
196. If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.
197. If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken."

This does not sound like a particularly 'moral', 'just', or effective system.
b)
"If an ox was known to be dangerous but the owner did not take proper precautions and the ox gored a person to death, both the ox and its owner were to be killed, unless the victim's family was willing to accept a reparation instead."
"called for a certain number of persons to be handed over to the family of the victim as a sanction"
(Source: A Restorative Justice Reader: Texts, sources, context, edited by Gerry Johnstone, page 115)

Suppose in the first quotation that the family was not willing to accept a reparation. Does that make this system of legalized murder more moral than the current prison system? Is the ox owner's death a proper ammount of 'justice' for the family?
The second quotation (that given by my opponent) sounds a lot like slavery to me. Is it my opponent's contention that slavery is more 'moral' and 'just' than the current prison system?

7. The alleged fact of whether the recidivism rate is actually being combatted at the individual prison level does not change the fact that it CAN be. A change in policy would fix this solution quickly, without completely overhauling the prison system.

Also, an increase in recidivism rates does not necessarily mean that more people are returning to a life of crime upon release. When the overall crime rate drops (meaning less people going into the prison system), an increase in the percentage of recidivism results:

Psychologist Terrie E. Moffit identifies two types of criminals. Those that perform criminal acts as an adolescent (the majority) who eventually grow out of this phase; and "career criminals" who do not "age out of their criminality."
"As the proportion of adolescence limiteds decreases among the criminals due to the changing population age structure (because there are relatively fewer young men), the proportion of life-course persistents among them must necessarily rise. Since it is the life-course persistents (career criminals) who are most likely to experience recidivism, by returning to prison again and again, there must exist a necessary inverse relationship between crime rates"
(source: Satoshi Kanazawa, http://blogs.psychologytoday.com..., originally published in The Scientific Fundamentalist on August 24, 2008)

8. I ask that my opponent provide the primary source for the actual study so that I (and the audience), may put the study in its context.

Conclusion:
My opponent has not proven that the prison system is immoral. It is still to be seen if morality is real. The overall decrease in the violent crime rate suggests that there is nothing wrong with the current prison system, and is not in need of complete overhaul. The victim compensation systems of the past were brutal and, by today's standards, 'unjust'. Recidivism rates are affected mainly by population age changes, not by the current prison system.

Therefore, the current prison system is not immoral and is necessary.
Debate Round No. 3
MasterDebater123

Con

JBlake claims that I ventured into comparisons of other systems as I claimed I would not do. I did not argue their effectiveness just as I said I wouldn't do. I feel that is an inaccurate statement.I simply was showing that these forms of justice have been around a long time, and actually pre date the current system, giving real life examples of these kinds of concepts in action.

I will rebut reach of his statements one by one with the numbers corresponding to his arguments.

1. It is immoral because victims get robbed, harmed, have to pay medical bills, etc. and many times they do not have enough money to cover their loses. Suing a perpetrator could be possible, but even that is no guarantee. What if the perpetrator keeps you tied up in court, and then that is even more money lost. Then, of course, there is the fact that what if the perpetrator has nothing to sue for? A form of insurance would greatly benefit victims in such a situation. This is just the kind of situation that this "justice" system fails at, just like in the story I told earlier about the business owner who lost thousands of dollars.

Obviously concepts of morality are difficult to prove with someone who seems not to believe in morality, but in that case, I would suggest that the person is immoral themselves if they cannot see that helping victims is the best course of action. My only statement to that is that these examples of people who have been harmed in some way by someone and because of this they lose so much. The person responsible is gone after so he can be put in jail, while the poor victim has lost whatever was taken. This does nothing to help the victim.

My opponent doesn't provide any evidence that the studies are inaccurate so given that, my argument about morality still stands.

As far as your example of the wolves, yes it would be immoral to murder someone for such an infraction if they did not present any kind of a serious threat. Throughout human culture murder has been seen as a big taboo and again the many studies done show that people have an aversion to killing others (unless they have psychological problems, etc.).

2. My opponent again fails to provide evidence for a claim. He says that this was not the cause of the breakdown in society. Judging from several studies by Dina Rose and Todd Clear this is the reason for the breakdown (Source: Reconsidering Incarceration: New Directions for Reducing Crime).

Yes it's true that the crime rate has been lowered, but if it was truly the larger incarceration rates that caused this, then why is it that many studies prove that with the more people that are placed in prison, the crime rate stays the same? For example, in Texas, since the 1990's it has tripled the capacity of its prisons, increasing the number of prisoners faster than any other state. Texas' incarceration rate is 51% higher than the national average, however, despite the large increase in prisoner incarceration, the crime rate has not declined in Texas (Source: 2007 Texas' Criminal Justice Solutions: A Policy Guide, page 1).

In another study that was conducted in January of 2007 it was estimated that, even with 5.6 million people in prisons, it only reduced the crime rate by 25%.

3. Compensation would be whatever the two conflicting parties deemed as appropriate. A mediator could help the negotiations and help resolve conflicts. Instead someone coming down upon someone and forcing some from of restitution (like a judge), each party would argue what they want and attempt to come to a satisfactory resolution. This can be monetary compensation, a simple apology, simply returning the goods stolen, etc.

4. Again, as I said before it can be difficult to prove morality to someone who seems not to believe in it, but as I've said before, it is the victims who were affected, and therefore it is they who should be compensated. I also was referring to the fact that the state sees a criminal in this justice system as transgressing the social rules, or laws, in a society as a whole and claims that this person's actions effect everyone. I do not agree with this because it does not effect everyone. Some people may feel a bit less safe at night, but that doesn't mean everyone feels that way. It also implies that everyone views the same things as immoral. If someone is caught drinking in public and is arrested I would see no problem with what this person was doing and I wouldn't call what he did a problem for the society - so long as he did not harm anyone or cause any damage. Again, this goes back to the fact that the victims are left out of the loop in this "justice" system and oftentimes pay dearly for it.

5. Note - there was no rebuttal here...

6. That was my only intention to show that these forms have existed in the past, and with the examples I've given of the harm that can come to victims (financial, emotional, etc.) with this form of justice system I have, in fact, proven this system to be immoral. I have also shown, citing the studies done by Hauser, that there does seem to be an innate moral sense in human beings, which contradicts his earlier claim that there was no such thing as morality.

I'm confused by the rest of JBlake's rebuttal because he is attacking a strawman. I never said that the Code of Hammurabi was a just or moral system. The only claim I made about it was that it was an early written code incorporating restitution and nothing more so the rest of my opponent's argument is moot - including his false accusation that I see slavery as moral, which I most certainly do not.

7. Yes it can be but it's not currently, and I argue that it might be difficult to successfully rehabilitate individuals in as hostile enviornment as is prison. This is also one reason that I argue prison is immoral.

According to the document, Confronting Confinement: A Report of The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, by John J. Gibbons and Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, from June of 2006, it says on page six about the conditions within prison:

"...[T]here is still too much violence in America's prisons and jails, too many facilities that are crowded to the breaking point, too little medical and mental health care, unnecessary uses of solitary confinement and other forms of segregation..."

Note - There were several reports of violence I had cited but my post was too long, so I had to exclude those.

Obviously these things don't happen on a daily basis at all prisons, but these problems are important ones, and once again highlights a problem with incarceration for punishment. What did most people in jail do that deserves such horrible treatment? Because over half of the people in prisons seem to be in there for non-violent, drug related crimes I don't see how being treated like the above examples demonstrate is anywhere close to humane, or necessary.

The cited source of Moffit doesn't seem to rebut the data I've collected on recidivism rates. All across the board it's shown that even after being placed in prison, over half return.

8. I assume it is the recidivism studies you are referring.

Two studies are:

The February of 2003 Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report on Recidivism indicates that within three years of being released, 67.5 % of released prisoners were re-arrested, 46.9 % were reconvicted for new crimes, 25.4 % were re-sentenced for a new crime, and 51.8 % returned to prison.

The Corrections Yearbook found that the recidivism rate was rising. In 1990, the recidivism rate was 31.7 %. By 2000, it increased to 33.8 % (Source: Data Spotlight: Recidivism, by the MTC Institute, February 2003).

Finally, my opponent still has not shown how prison effectively (and morally) helps the victims or stops crime. The several studies I've shown prove that prison doesn't do much to deter people from committing crimes even after they are released.
JBlake

Pro

Claims:
1. The prison system is immoral because "victims get robbed, harmed, have to pay medical bills, etc."
2. "Then, of course, there is the fact that what if the perpetrator has nothing to sue for? A form of insurance would greatly benefit victims in such a situation."
3. "My opponent doesn't provide any evidence that the studies are inaccurate so given that, my argument about morality still stands."
4. "A mediator could help the negotiations and help resolve conflicts. Instead someone coming down upon someone and forcing some from of restitution (like a judge), each party would argue what they want and attempt to come to a satisfactory resolution."
5. "the fact that the state sees a criminal in this justice system as transgressing the social rules, or laws, in a society as a whole and claims that this person's actions effect everyone. I do not agree with this because it does not effect everyone."
6. "It also implies that everyone views the same things as immoral. If someone is caught drinking in public and is arrested I would see no problem with what this person was doing and I wouldn't call what he did a problem for the society - so long as he did not harm anyone or cause any damage."
7. "Because over half of the people in prisons seem to be in there for non-violent, drug related crimes I don't see how being treated like the above examples demonstrate is anywhere close to humane, or necessary."
8. "I assume it is the recidivism studies you are referring."
9. "The cited source of Moffit doesn't seem to rebut the data I've collected on recidivism rates. All across the board it's shown that even after being placed in prison, over half return."
10. "my opponent still has not shown how prison effectively (and morally) helps the victims or stops crime"

Rebuttal:
1. People would still be getting robbed and harmed under any other system as well. As for paying restitution (for losses and medical payments) the current system already has such a system in place.
Victims have a certain amount of say in what to do in a case where a perpetrator does or can not pay the restitution (which would certainly happen in a restitution-only system as well). Included are links to a couple summaries of this since I don't have enough space to include this minor point:
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov...
http://www.letswrap.com...

2. I will not refute whether or not this *opinion is correct. I will only point out that such a criminal insurance program could be added to the current system as well as any new system that could be invented.

3. I reject this once again. Just because a number of people interviewed can identify what they believe to be a basic set of "morals" does not prove the existence of morality. If someone were to take a poll in a Muslim dominated region and a study showed that most people agreed that killing infidels (non believers) was moral, does that make it a fact?

Most people would agree that the sky is blue, but that does not make it a fact. (I assume I don't need to explain the reason the sky appears blue).

4. What would happen if they did not come to an agreeable compromise? Precisely what I have mentioned before, either the offender must pay more than a 'just' amount because the victim has a high opinion as to what constitutes 'justice', or he will have to settle for something less than his definition of 'justice' (which is what my opponent claims is already the case in the current system). Again, this leaves either a system of insufficient compensation, or too much compensation, both having potentially harmfull consequences on society.

5. The fact that my opponent disagrees with the function and intent of the criminal justice system, does not make the prison system immoral or unnecessary. There are more than enough people to balance out his opinion.

6. Right here my opponent proves my point quite well.
"It also implies that everyone views the same things as immoral. If someone is caught drinking in public and is arrested I would see no problem with what this person was doing and I wouldn't call what he did a problem for the society - so long as he did not harm anyone or cause any damage."

There are still people who find alcohol to be immoral, and seek its prohibition. One example is the Prohibition Party (http://www.prohibition.org...)(http://www.prohibitionists.org...)

7. That does not prove that the prison system is immoral and unnecessary, it merely proves that some reforms may be in order as to the extent we should punish non-violent or drug-related criminals. Unfortunately, that is an entirely different and irrelevent topic.

8. Actually, it was the statement claiming that:
78% of the people choose a free-market type prison system "in which the victim receives direct restitution from the perpetrator and/or from an insurance company, regardless of what happens to the perpetrator – even if he went free."

Sorry if I was unclear on what information I was requesting.

9. But it does refute your sources by linking recidivism rates to the average age of populations. When there are fewer "adolescent limiteds" (those who eventually grow out of a criminal phase), the proportion of "life-course criminals" (career criminals) necessarily increases. An increase in the recidivism rate (percentage of repeat criminals) makes it seem as though more people are not being rehabilitated, when the reality is that there are less "adolescenent limiteds". This is corroborated with the overal decline in the crime rate since the mid nineties, and an increase in the recidivism rate. Again, this is because the population age has increased (due to the high number of baby boomers), therefore decreasing the number of "adolescent limiteds".

10. It is not my responsibility to prove that the prison system helps victims or stops crimes. This is not the topic we are debating. Crime can never be fully eradicated. In fact, I have stated on several occaisions that the purpose of the prison system is to separate people from society that are not willing to cooperate with its prescribed laws.

Conclusion:
The prison system is necessary to separate deviant characters from society so that is can function peacefully.
The prison system is morally neutral. It can neither be moral or immoral. Minor reforms can be made to make up for the things that my opponent claims are its shortcomings.
My opponent has not demonstrated that the prison system is immoral and unecessary, only that it is him opinion that it is immoral, and that other systems can/have existed to deal with criminals.
Debate Round No. 4
MasterDebater123

Con

I was typing a response and I became extremely frustrated about the format of this site. I've had my reservations about this site because of the democratic nature of the voting system. As Pen (of Pen and Teller) said once on the show B.S. "The truth is not democratic." You cannot vote on what the truth is and if you're arguing an unfavorable topic you will most likely "lose" no matter how much evidence you have.

I was also getting frustrated about the fact that I was continuously having to edit out crucial parts of my post and weakening my argument. Complex topics require complex answers and with the variety of complex topics that have been discussed I need a lot more than about three pages to cover it all thoroughly.

I've decided to resign and cancel my membership so I'm able to properly debate at other places without the above problems. But to show this isn't a cop out I will gladly debate anyone (even JBlake... in fact I'd love to) on my blog where I have written about much about this and I will not have the limitations that this site has. My blog is http://arizonaatheist.blogspot.com...

But, I will finish with this.

Overall JBlake still doesn't seem to get it. I've proven with evidence that morality is innate. Just because his *hunch* tells him otherwise means nothing. Like I said, complex topics require complex answers and basically what's happening is that the people who answered the questions did so *without thinking about it or understanding why* those were the answers they chose. The answers were standard on a variety of morality related questions such as this these:

If 5 people came into a hospital all needing organ transplants but no donors were available would be it moral to kill one man waiting in the waiting room to save all five? No.

Here's another. A train has lost it's breaks and is heading on a track that 5 hikers are walking on, while a side track one hiker is walking. If the conductor switches the train to the side track and kills the one man would that seem morally OK? I'd say yes, but again, why? As Mark Hauser said, "If you said "no" to the first question and "yes" to the second, you are like most people I know or the thousands of subjects I have tested in experiments. Further, you most likely answered these questions immediately, with little or no reflection. What, however, determined your answer?" He goes on to say how usually morality says that killing is wrong so how does it somehow "feel right" to kill in the second scenario but not the first? Some innate moral processes seem to be at work and we cannot consciously figure out why we feel about a particular scenario the way we do with the standard morality that we are taught in society or religion. So where are these principals coming from? That is the question that the science of evolutionary morality is attempting to answer.

- Moral Minds, by Marc Hauser, page 32.

As I said, these are complex topics and would requite many more words to fully explain it all.

Once again you seem to dismiss one of the issues I wanted to debate. Prison's effectiveness, and even when I corrected you earlier you make the same mistake again.

With your lack of sources about the effectiveness of prisons and the lack of evidence about the innate morality that humans and other animals seem to share, I feel I've been successful in arguing my case. But, as I said, truth is not democratic so who knows how it will be voted on - especially with my bowing out of the debate. But, as I said people's opinion's do not prove someone right or wrong.

Either way, I'm confidant I have the evidence to prove I'm correct, and if you or anyone would like to debate this issue further (where I actually have room to reply fully!) I'd be happy to do so. My blog's address is linked to above.

I apologize for the hasty exit but I've reached a point that I will tolerate my being limited in my responses.

Thank you.
JBlake

Pro

I would like to note that it is unfortunate that my opponent has decided to resign his account. He is obviously a fine debater and could contribute much to this website and community. I urge him to reconsider and give it another chance. One purpose of such debate is to expand your own mind. Perhaps other people have idea you had never thought of. Perhaps you have idea most here haven't thought of (which I would be inclinced to say is the case - and those ideals could do some people good).

I will make this short due to the fact that my opponent bowed out.

Conclusion:

My opponent has not proven that the prison system is immoral. In fact, he hasn't even proven morality to be real. He has proven that there are studies suggesting that most people have a 'hunch' that there is a set of morals.

My opponent has not proven that prison is unnecessary. He claims that the prison system is ineffective, citing recidivism rates as the main source of evidence. I have proven that recidivism rates fluctuate based on the overall age of a population. Furthermore, he does not prove that any alternate form would be more efficient. He suggests a retribution system but has not proven how such a system would be an improvement to the current system. He also doesn't mention what would be done with repeat offenders, so we must assume they would be roaming free. I fail to see how this would be an improvement, in fact I would call it downright dangerous. Without such evidence it would be foolish to attempt to replace one institution with another before we know that it will be an improvement.
The burden of proof in this case is on the person attacking the status quo. Since he has not proven that prison is immoral or unnecessary, the day belongs to PRO.

Again, I hope my opponent reconsiders his decision to leave.
Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by MasterDebater123 8 years ago
MasterDebater123
JBlake said:
"Finally, you offered no feasable replacement...."

That wasn't the purpose of the debate.

Again, if you'd like you discuss this further I offer you to come to my blog.

Thank you.
Posted by JBlake 8 years ago
JBlake
This proves nothing...

These immoral actions you claimed here in the comment section should have been used in the debate, they would have helped your case. The fact is that you did not mention them.

I did not need to provide much evidence since all I had to prove was the necessity and morality of the prison system. I did not have to prove that the prison system in its current state was efficient or moral to prove that it was necessary and usefull.

Yes there are problems with it, notably the recidivism rate and the 'moral' problems you cited below. But none of these problems merit a complete overhaul of the system. A few well placed reforms would handle all of these issues, hence the fact that I did not need any evidence to 'prove' that reforms could be implemented.

I also did not need to prove that morality is real with evidence, since no evidence could possibly exist for something so metaphysical. The study you cited only shows that people those tested (like most people) have been conditioned to accept a set of 'moral' laws. The problem with this is that there is nothing to govern 'moral' laws. In order to prove morality you would have to prove the existence of a diety, or something similar to one, since that is the only way 'morality' can be governed. Since that is equally metaphysical, it cannot be proven either.

The study on age is relevant. It shows why the recidivism rate is increasing while the overall crime rate is simultaneously decreasing. It shows that there are not more people as repeat offenders, but that there are less criminals overall.

Finally, you offered no feasable replacement.
Posted by MasterDebater123 8 years ago
MasterDebater123
Because of this absurd layout, one cannot post very much and explain the issues at length.

Here is my comment continued:

With my opponent's continuous strawman arguments, his lack of evidence about the prison population and crime rate, and his immoral act of claiming prison is moral, I declare that I did not "lose" though, as I said, the truth is not democratic.

I still welcome anyone to my blog to discuss the issues further.
Posted by MasterDebater123 8 years ago
MasterDebater123
I figured I'd express my thoughts about this debate:

First, I can't believe I'm "losing" when:

1. My opponent failed to explain how morality does not exist. Just claiming so means nothing.

2. My opponent failed to show how prison lowered the crime rate. I provided studies which prove that incarceration only lowers the crime rate by as much as about 28% and in many cases only 4% per each 10% increase in the prison population. In many cases it can actually lead to increasing crime rates. This was never refuted by my opponent and he instead insisted that the lower crime rate was due to the incarceration rate but failed to show the correlation.

3. My opponent continuously attacked a strawman by claiming I did not want be debate the effectiveness of incarceration, even when my very first sentence of my argument said so. Even after being corrected several time he still made the same mistake.

4. The study citing age as being the reason for the recidivism rates is lacking because age is not the only factor. There are many people who get out of prison and continue to commit crimes. Looking at many studies (I listed sources in debate) it seems that the lack of rehabilitation programs, the violence, and the horrible medical care are several such reasons for the high recidivism rates. I provided several studies which came to that conclusion; I do not see how one study (which seems very limited) can prove that recidivism is not a problem when so many do see it as a problem.

5. Back to the concept of morality: Anyone trying to claim that the beatings; even ones so severe they lead to death, the locking up of mentally ill individuals, and the rape of women in jail is "moral" is a horrible person. Incarceration is not moral for these, and other, reasons.

Second, my opponent said how people would be running free and causing havoc is another strawman. I never said people committing crimes would not be dealt with - just not with incarceration.

With my oppon
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