The Instigator
feverish
Pro (for)
Winning
58 Points
The Contender
BangBang-Coconut
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Rehabilitation is more important than punishment

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/14/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 10,791 times Debate No: 15358
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (24)
Votes (9)

 

feverish

Pro

This debate is for the first round of the tournament organised by Freeman. http://www.debate.org...

Many thanks to Hello-Orange for agreeing to debate this subject with me.

Full resolution: Rehabilitation should be valued above punishment when dealing with convicted criminals.

This is a very broad topic that could potentially encompass arguments of a political, economical, moral, philosophical and emotional nature. I hope it is stimulating and insightful for both of us.

I would like to give my opponent the opportunity to go first if he so wishes. Alternatively, he is free to just accept the debate in this round and I will make my case in round two. If Con chooses to begin arguing in round 1, he should not make any arguments in the final round, to ensure we both have an equal number of turns to debate.

Thank you.
BangBang-Coconut

Con

I agree with my opponent that this is a very broad topic one where we could argue any, and everything.
Therefore to avoid going off on too many different tangents; I will not go first, but instead opt to allow my opponent to make the first constructive.

here's to a fantastic debate! :D
Debate Round No. 1
feverish

Pro

Often this issue is framed as rehabilitation vs punishment, as if it's an all or nothing choice between the two options. In reality most people would agree that some kind of balance between the two is favourable. Yet all too often rehabilitation seems to be a mere footnote and punishment is seen as the priority.

I will be arguing that this emphasis should be inverted, and that when dealing with convicted criminals rehabilitation should be society's main aim with punishment given less priority. I will attempt to prove that the benefit of merely punishing criminals is minimal and that a justice system that prioritises rehabilitation would have far more overall benefit to society as a whole.

A third important aspect to the justice system is keeping dangerous and violent individuals off the streets. This often seems to be equated with punishment, while the two are actually quite distinct and separate aims. I agree that there is often a need to isolate dangerous people from society at large, the question here is what our aims for the individual should be while they are in isolation.

Emotion (1)


Of the arguments one tends to hear in favour of prioritising punishment, the most persuasive are often emotional arguments. "How would you feel" people will say, "if someone murdered your family? You'd want to see them punished, wouldn't you?" The answer is of course, invariably "yes" but this clouds the issue of what is of practical benefit to society as a whole. Victims of violent crime and the families of victims need care, compassion and support. They need to know that they are not in danger from the person who has attacked them. What they don't need, and what society shouldn't encourage them to seek, is vengeance.

Executing a murderer will not bring back the departed loved one and any emotional satisfaction gained is likely to be short lived and will not wipe out the sorrow of the victim's family. Groups like MVFR have published testimonies from families who feel that the execution of the killer actually intensified their grief [1] To paraphrase Ghandi, the biblical notion of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will, seen to its logical conclusion, leave us all blind and gummy.

Similarly, if someone is the victim of property crime, then what should be important to them is that they're compensated for their loss, not the extent to which the perpetrator is punished.

Emotion (2)

There are many emotional arguments against prioritising punishment, not least the extent of miscarriages of justice. The wrongfully convicted are just as much victims as the victims of crime. The extent of miscarriages of justice is often vastly underestimated, much attention is given to high profile cases, creating the impression that such a situation is rare, but more routine appeals which are upheld are generally overlooked. In the last ten years in Britain
an annual average of 770 wrongful convictions are overturned each year [2] and there is every possibility that many times this number languish in prison without being able to afford adequate legal representation to overturn a bogus conviction.

Other innocent victims of policies that excessively punish offenders are the families of the criminal. Prison sentences lead to broken homes and cycles of criminality passed down through generations.

Deterrence

The argument is often made that the threat of punishment is necessary to deter criminal activity. The problem is that all the evidence indicates that it is not working. To refer again to the death penalty as an example, murder rates are far higher in US states that do execute murderers than in those that don't. [3] Regarding crime in general, the "get tough" approach that began to be adopted in 1970s America and continues to the present day [4] has seen prison populations soar. [5] [6]

As a last note on the failure of prisons to deter crime, one only need look at the extent of crime that goes on inside prisons. [7] [8]

Mental illness

Mental illness is a very broad term that covers a lot of conditions, but most experts agree that the rate of mental illness in prisons far exceeds the rate within the general population and as prisons get more overcrowded, the rates rise more. [9] To provide some idea of the impact of mental health on prisoners, UK government figures show that: "Two fifths of women prisoners and a fifth of male prisoners in England and Wales have attempted suicide". [10]

Is it right, or indeed practical to punish individuals with fragile minds by placing them in conditions that exacerbate their illness? [11] Making mentally ill people more ill and then releasing them back into society without adequate attempts to rehabilitate them is terrible social policy.

Criminalisation

Existing penal systems that place vulnerable drug addicts and desperate shoplifters amongst hardened sociopaths act as a university of criminality. The petty criminal who got caught because he was an amateur at his trade, will leave prison with a mental database of other criminals experience, most critically he will have learned what mistakes not to make to avoid getting caught. The middle-class student with a promising future who got caught having a toke, can potentially develop into a capable career criminal under the tutelage of his prison peers and elders.

Whatever the specifics, what is known is that most people who leave prison, end up going back in again. [12] Research in the UK has even found that "Reoffending is higher among criminals who are locked up than do community sentences – with 74% of ex-inmates at one prison convicted again within a year". [13]

Institutionalisation

Even if criminals don't re-offend, the experience of prison generally has an extremely negative impact on their ability to be functional, productive members of society. The impacts are summarised by Heaney very well here, [11] but I don't have the characters to quote from it at length.

Economy

Community sentences and rehab are invariably far cheaper than prison sentences. To take two examples, here are costs in the UK [14] and in North Carolina [15] This is especially significant as these kind of programs have also been shown to be more effective at reducing recidivism than prison sentences [16].

There are more arguments I would like to make but in order to fit in all my sources I think I'll have to leave it there for now.

Over to Con.

[1] http://www.mvfr.org...
[2] http://www.radstats.org.uk... Lord Chancellor's Department (1999) Judicial Statistics Annual Report London: HMSO Cm 4786; Lord Chancellor's Department (1998) Judicial Statistics Annual Report London: HMSO Cm 4371.
[3] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...
[4] http://law.jrank.org...
[5] http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov...
[6] http://www.nytimes.com...
[7] http://findarticles.com...
[8] http://www.money.co.uk...
[9] http://www.hrw.org...
[10] http://news.bbc.co.uk...
[11] http://aspe.hhs.gov...
[12] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[13] http://www.guardian.co.uk...
[14] http://www.rethinking.org.uk...
[15] http://www.doc.state.nc.us...
[16] http://www.google.co.uk...
BangBang-Coconut

Con

I thank my opponent for their extremely well written constructive case!

Before I get into refutation of my opponent's case I feel couple key issues are important enough to warrant mentioning.
First the burden of proof is on my opponent since they are advocating a change to the status quo. What this means is that the Con has the power of fiat, and if pro cannot warrant their stance in greater magnitude than the I can either refute it or make a case for punishment; then you must vote Con by default.

that Said, since my opponent has made such an extensive argument for his case (using up roughly 7100 out the 8000 characters offered) through the course of the Con's argumentation I will simply be refuting his arguments. If I am able to do so, then you must Con; If not then vote Pro.

So going on to my opponent's opening arguments, he makes an incredibly valid point that when considering this issue, the debate is never in black and white, and that there can be some cross-overs of similar values. Keeping this in mind; I ask that you reject the conclusion to my opponent's opening and instead present this though.

While Rehabilitation is not within itself a bad thing (by any means whatsoever) if we do not look to Punishment first then not only can justice never happen, but proper rehabilitation can never happen. Therefore me must first look to punishment so justice can occur; at that point we are able to consider rehabilitation and the issue can be fully debated.

Now going on to my opponent's case-
Emotion (1)-
First of all here, my opponent points out the obvious truth that any-one would want the criminal who did wrong to them punished. However I am a firm believer in mercy and justice being co-dependent. Therefore I completely reject the notion my opponent pushes that all of these various crimes will always result in the death penalty. Whereas the blatant fact is that the death penalty is reserved for criminals of greater magnitude.

In 1977 the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for rape was "grossly disproportionate and excessive" (Coker v. Georgia). Since 1976, all executions have been for first degree murder. Some 5,760 people were sentenced to death between 1973 and 1995 and about 5% of those sentences have been carried out. and The rate of death sentences haseven been declining over recent years. In 1994, there were 328 recorded death sentences and this declined to an average of 296 a year over the rest of the decade.

The first thing we need to reject in a debate such as this is any concept of emotion. When dealing with these issues we need to look beyond emotion (especially from the victims and offenders) as they only cloud possible decisions with pathos based conclusions. but we must look to justice, and consider which is of greater magnitude; Rehabilitation or Punishment

Now going from that much of what my opponent says here is actually detrimental in warranting a case for rehabilitation above protectionism. much of what he says here actually proves that we must look after punishing criminals first, and looking to rehabilitating them second. If criminals are not given the just compensation for their crimes then other innocent people are at risk to be victims of these criminals.

Emotion (2)-
My opponent brings up a good case here that many people experience the miscarriage of justice; and are wrongly convicted for crimes they did not commit. However this argument is a multiple causation fallacy in the realm of this debate.
First, my opponent only gives us the statistics on this situation for the country of Britain; therefore it is not an accurate number to warrant consideration in this case.
Second, this indication does not mean that we should completely reject punishment and ultimately justice, but that we need to focus more attention and energy on these things. It points that less energy needs to focused on rehabilitation
and more on punishment so the victims of these crimes can receive justice fro the crimes committed against them.

My opponent's secondary claim on broken cycles is unwarranted as well. Coming from a family which both of my parents where often in prison or jail, I can attest that while this was hard on me, it led me to develop a strong code of moral ethics. Thus this is a good thing

Deterrence-
First I cannot argue against my opponent's solid evidence. But again this is also a multiple causation fallacy.
One, My opponent attempts to make this claim by looking at only the negative effects of this system and completely ignores the positive benefits it holds to.

Two, again this does not point that this system is faulty, but that more energy and focus needs to be afforded in these areas. also extend my arguments in Emotion (1) regarding how the death penalty is reserved for only certain cases. Thus this evidence has little warrant in the field of Rehab v.s. Punishment as a whole.

Third, again my opponent doesn't really solve for the problem. As we've both come to the conclusion on both punishment and rehabilitation can exist at the same time. So not in status quo, after the emphasis on punishment has been established and justice has taken place; we can then consider and enact rehabilitation.

Mental Illness-
Again this does not mean we should completely reject this system. It simply shows that we need to put more energy into Punishing these criminals in a more just manner. And again once we have accomplished this, then Rehabilitation is able to take it's course. When the punishment is just, then rehabilitation can come into effect; with-out it we cannot ever even hope for any manner of justice or rehabilitation.

Besides, when one who is diagnosed properly with mental illness commits a crime this is taken into consideration. As a child my younger cousin and I where raised as siblings because her mother had the mental illness "Paranoia Schizophrenia" and when she would break the law because of what the voices in her head told her to do (yes it happened a few times) this was taken into consideration in court.

Criminalization-
First the initial portion of my opponent's claims here are unwarranted. He never shows either empirically, or logically why these claims are true. He just asserts that they are. That said you cannot consider it, and I cannot argue it; this argument as a whole is incredibly abusive.

Second community sentences are still a form of punishment, and as I have been advocating for this entire round, it is one of the more just punishments that we must look towards in the realm of this debate! My opponent has fallen under the gross ideal that as the con I will only be arguing in favor of harsh and strict punishment; whereas this is far from the truth.

Institutionalization-
If my opponent does not quote evidence from this source in the round then we cannot consider it. And the argument that he is unable to do so via character limit is a weak one, I also am under a character restriction, and eve more so since I have to both refute my opponent's arguments (in which he used almost the entire 8,000 characters) as well as present my own.

Economy-
Again, community sentences are still forms of punishment. Therefore my opponent's argument here do nothing to further his stance of rehabilitation, but actually you can count the arguments here as direct benefits to looking to punishment first.

so in closing, My opponent's case only looks to the extreme harms of punishing criminals, and offer little on the benefits of rehabilitation. whereas the go even farther to try and warrant community sentences as rehabilitation and not as punishment (which they are) thus making my opponent's entire constructive entirely abusive.

there fore I urge a Con vote. While rehabilitation is definitively a beneficial thing, before we can look to it with any kind of positive demeanor we must first look to measures of punishment before we can begin to consider rehabilitation.

with that I hand it back over to my capable opponent
Debate Round No. 2
feverish

Pro

Thanks Hello-Orange.

I accept that I have burden of proof as Pro and instigator, however I think it would help my opponent's case if he could make some constructive arguments of his own in favour of prioritising punishment, especially as I don't think any of his refutations stand up to much scrutiny.

Con acknowledges the "incredibly valid point" of my opening but asks us to reject it's conclusion without really explaining why. Similarly, he doesn't really explain the following: "if we do not look to Punishment first then not only can justice never happen, but proper rehabilitation can never happen." I think my opponent needs to make the case for why justice and rehabilitation are dependent on prioritising punishment, rather than simply stating it as fact.

Emotion (1)


Con: "I completely reject the notion my opponent pushes that all of these various crimes will always result in the death penalty"

I'm not really sure what Con is referring to here. I don't recall making any kind of reference to what type of crimes might merit the death penalty, and it's not a sentence I am in favour of at all. I am using it as an example because it represents the extreme of prioritising punishment over rehabilitation. Obviously, you can't rehabilitate a dead man.

Con: "The first thing we need to reject in a debate such as this is any concept of emotion."

Good. As I said, I find the emotional arguments the most (perhaps the only) persuasive arguments from my opponent's position.

Con: "If criminals are not given the just compensation for their crimes then other innocent people are at risk to be victims of these criminals."

This is a bit of a non sequitur. Obviously if a criminal is successfully rehabilitated then they are no longer a risk to the innocent either. My opponent seems to equate justice with punishment, but this is mere vengeance, not true justice. There are several dropped arguments here about the nature of justice and vengeance, the flawed premises of Old Testament style justice etc.

Emotion (2)


I'm British and my opponent is American, so throughout the debate, I've used a variety of sources, referencing both justice systems. The resolution does not refer only to the US, and I don't think it's reasonable of Con to dismiss evidence from the UK. In any case there is no doubt that miscarriages of justice are widespread in America too. [1] [2]

Con: "this indication does not mean that we should completely reject punishment"

Never said it did.

Con: "It points that less energy needs to focused on rehabilitation and more on punishment so the victims of these crimes can receive justice fro the crimes committed against them."

How on earth do miscarriages of justice mean we need to prioritise punishment more? Punishing the innocent is clearly wrong. This is basically more equivocation between justice and punishment and has nothing to do with the point in question.

The cycles of crime argument is dismissed by my opponent on the basis of his anecdotal experiences. For anyone in doubt that prison generally has negative effects on families see here: [3] [4]

Con claims that "while this was hard on me, it led me to develop a strong code of moral ethics. Thus this is a good thing." From this logic, one could argue: Sometimes raping children can lead them to develop a strong code of moral ethics, therefore raping children is good. I'm sure I don't have to point out the flaws in this argument.

Deterrence


"I cannot argue against my opponent's solid evidence."

Sounds like a concession.

"My opponent attempts to make this claim by looking at only the negative effects of this system and completely ignores the positive benefits"

I would have thought that was Con's job to point them out.

Obviously the death penalty does not apply to all crimes and I never made any suggestion it did. It is entirely relevant that we consider the effects that the ultimate deterrent has on crime, which turn out to be counter-intuitive, states with the death penalty having more murders as I showed last round.

Mental Illness


My opponent seems to be endlessly repeating his mantra that justice requires punishment and rehabilitation can't be considered until punishment has been enacted. He has presented zero logical explanation of this, and seems to be just using it to respond to every point.

Con is correct in pointing out that "when one who is diagnosed properly with mental illness commits a crime this is taken into consideration", however what about the many mentally ill people who haven't got a proper diagnosis? With the cost of health care in America, and the stigma attached to mental illness, it should come as no surprise that plenty of ill people don't have a certificate to prove it. [5] [6]

Criminalisation

I'm sorry Con finds my argument abusive. I would have thought the logic and common sense of my points were self evident, but it's not difficult to find sources that back up the facts here, with police commissioners and prison chiefs acknowledging the extent of the issue. [7] [8]

Con is right to point out that community sentences are still a form of punishment, however I think it is obvious that when compared to custodial sentences, community sentencing has less of an emphasis on punishment. Criminals on community programs do not have the same restrictions on their liberty (the main punitive aspect of prison) that confined criminals have.

Arguments about recidivism have been dropped.

Institutionalisation


Con drops the argument because I didn't provide a quote from my source. He says: "I also am under a character restriction, and eve more so since I have to both refute my opponent's arguments (in which he used almost the entire 8,000 characters) as well as present my own."

It is perhaps worth considering that a fair portion of my round 1 was sources and that Con has actually declined to make any constructive arguments of his own.

In brief, these are the main impacts of institutionalisation as described by Heaney:

Dependence on institutional structure and contingencies.
Hypervigilance, interpersonal distrust, and suspicion.
Emotional over-control, alienation, and psychological distancing.
Social withdrawal and isolation.
Incorporation of exploitative norms of prison culture.
Diminished sense of self-worth and personal value.
Post-traumatic stress reactions to the pains of imprisonment.

[9]

Economy


See the point above about why community sentencing has less emphasis on punishment than prison sentencing. The rehabilitative aspects of community sentencing are far more pronounced than their custodial equivalent and can include drug treatment programs, education requirements, mental health treatment and many other rehabilitation measures not normally associated with prison. [10] [11]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://aspe.hhs.gov...
[4] http://www.kevinmd.com...
[5] http://www.selfhelparticles.net...
[6] http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com...
[7] http://thestandard.org.nz...
[8] http://thescotsman.scotsman.com...
[9] http://aspe.hhs.gov...
[10] http://www.yjb.gov.uk...
[11] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com...
BangBang-Coconut

Con

I'm just going to be as frank as I can be; My opponent has put forth amazing arguments and sincerely chaged my opinions on this matter!

While I still believe both should happen; rehabilitation is truly more important than punishment.

I would argue devils advocate but sincerely do not see plausible ground I could cover!

A huge thank you to my opponent for giving me the best debate I've had in a long time; and also a huge apology for conceding this round.

This is not a forfeit; I am not giving up; I am conceding that my opponent's arguments are well, true.

Therefore I urge you, Vote Pro! I know when I've been beat and my opponent has thoroughly crushed me :D
Debate Round No. 3
feverish

Pro

Thanks Hello-Orange, it takes a big man to admit they are wrong and concede so graciously, so props to you.

For me, it's one of the most satisfying aspects of online debating to be able to change someones view on a topic, whether it's my opponent or just someone reading.

Good luck in the rest of the tournament and in all your future debates.
BangBang-Coconut

Con

Again, Vote For my opponent :D
Debate Round No. 4
24 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Mari_Estes 3 years ago
Mari_Estes
Rehabilitation is more important because you can punish someone and the person still goes back doing what they were doing. A punishment isn't going to stop a drug addict from wanting drugs or using drugs. Its going to separate them, and still its going to be on their mind. Rehabilitation is help and what someone would need.
Posted by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
Pro wins by concession.

I have a few comments on the topic. These did not come up as major points in the debate, so they are irrelevant to winning.

The topic wording has problems, which Pro touched on. Up until around the 60s, punishment was the primary goal of the American justice system. It then swung over to rehabilitation as the primary goal. That didn't work. Now the main goal is to keep serious criminals locked up and unable to do harm. That works. The treatment of crime in New York City was the turning point. The City discovered that locking people up for lesser crimes substantially dropped the rates of more serious crimes. So whether rehabilitation is more important than punishment is moot point. It probably is "more important" though it doesn't work.

There are lots of cause and effect problems in Pro's statistics. If increased punishment correlates to higher crime rates, does that mean that increased punishment causes high crime rates or that high crime rates causes increased punishment?
Posted by Danielle 3 years ago
Danielle
Okay I just noticed that Con conceded (and I agree with feverish - that's a very gracious thing to do that has probably warranted Orange a lot of respect), so I'm gonna go ahead and vote feves without providing the behemoth RFD I usually do. Good job to both debaters and congrats to feverish.
Posted by Vi_Veri 3 years ago
Vi_Veri
lol obvious win for Feverish. Good job, man :)
Posted by Danielle 3 years ago
Danielle
Just started reading this debate, but after R1 feves I noticed you wasted a lot of character space posting all 16 sources in the debate... oy. Maybe in the future you might find putting them elsewhere helpful just to save yourself some space. Kenyon gave me the idea to do this and I've really found it helpful :) http://www.debate.org... K gonna continue reading in a bit.
Posted by feverish 3 years ago
feverish
@Thad: It might be a forfeit in the general dictionary sense, but not really in the specific DDO debate format sense. I would much, much prefer someone to post a concession like that, than just avoid posting and let the round time out in a forfeit.
Posted by Thaddeus 3 years ago
Thaddeus
While I respect your decision to concede his arguments, that is still technically a forfeit.
Posted by BangBang-Coconut 3 years ago
BangBang-Coconut
Sources are not everything in a debate like this.
It's one of those topics steeped in both Moral consciousness, Blatant reason, and evidence.

I attacked my opponent's sources using Logic; thus sources are not necessary as I am essientially using my opponent's sources.
Posted by Extremely-Far-Right 3 years ago
Extremely-Far-Right
Hello-Orange, unless you start using some sources, you are at risk of loosing the debate...
Posted by BangBang-Coconut 3 years ago
BangBang-Coconut
Whew! I had to use all 8,000 characters @-@!
9 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 2 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
feverishBangBang-CoconutTied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Con says to vote Pro, who I am to argue? Pro accurately proves that punishment is ineffective and not an appropriate means of dispensing justice. 7 points because from reading the other RFDs, this is apparently a tournament debate where all 7 points go to the winner.
Vote Placed by seraine 2 years ago
seraine
feverishBangBang-CoconutTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession
Vote Placed by mongeese 3 years ago
mongeese
feverishBangBang-CoconutTied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: I read the debate, and while Orange's R2 response seemed pretty good, it could not hold up against feverish's comeback. Still an excellent debate.
Vote Placed by Zealous1 3 years ago
Zealous1
feverishBangBang-CoconutTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession. Lol.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
feverishBangBang-CoconutTied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Con conceded.
Vote Placed by LaissezFaire 3 years ago
LaissezFaire
feverishBangBang-CoconutTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Conceded.
Vote Placed by Danielle 3 years ago
Danielle
feverishBangBang-CoconutTied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: All 7 points as tournament policy requires.
Vote Placed by Vi_Veri 3 years ago
Vi_Veri
feverishBangBang-CoconutTied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Con forfeited the debate - gave up his side - and ended up stating he agreed with Pro. That's a win to me :) Also, Feverish had some iron arguments.
Vote Placed by Brian314 3 years ago
Brian314
feverishBangBang-CoconutTied
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Con accepted that Pro was right.