The Instigator
smiletrishalovesyou
Con (against)
Tied
12 Points
The Contender
YaleMM
Pro (for)
Tied
12 Points

The American crim justice system ought 2 place a higher priority on retribution than rehabilitation

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/18/2008 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,493 times Debate No: 3289
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (8)

 

smiletrishalovesyou

Con

why is the debate topic so long? mmk um yeah i wanted to debate the current topic i have for class but then i got paranoid that my opponent would find it so this is my old topic, and i'm just going to go ahead and skip the fancy contention stuff b/c i've already thrown away my notes

This is a bit hard since Aff doesn't present first...?

Retributivists often want to adopt proportionality as a mean of punishment, but that's not possible with our current justice system.

I've been sentenced for a D.U.I. offense. My 3rd one. When I first came to prison, I had no idea what to expect. Certainly none of this. I'm a tall white male, who unfortunately has a small amount of feminine characteristics. And very shy. These characteristics have got me raped so many times I have no more feelings physically. I have been raped by up to 5 black men and two white men at a time. I've had knifes at my head and throat. I had fought and been beat so hard that I didn't ever think I'd see straight again. One time when I refused to enter a cell, I was brutally attacked by staff and taken to segragation though I had only wanted to prevent the same and worse by not locking up with my cell mate. There is no supervision after lockdown. I was given a conduct report. I explained to the hearing officer what the issue was. He told me that off the record, He suggests I find a man I would/could willingly have sex with to prevent these things from happening. I've requested protective custody only to be denied. It is not available here. He also said there was no where to run to, and it would be best for me to accept things . . . . I probably have AIDS now. I have great difficulty raising food to my mouth from shaking after nightmares or thinking to hard on all this . . . . I've laid down without physical fight to be sodomized. To prevent so much damage in struggles, ripping and tearing. Though in not fighting, it caused my heart and spirit to be raped as well. Something I don't know if I'll ever forgive myself for. - A.H., Indiana, 1996

With rehabilitation it could have been possible for A.H. to control his drinking and driving. [letter to Human Rights organization]

[someone accept this debate! i've got better arguments i swearr, it's just weird debating the resolution when there's no one to debate...]
YaleMM

Pro

So aside from merely emotional indicators of how terrible the prison system is, it seems like this is a debate about where the justice system's obligations lie, the importance of retribution, and to some extent also the efficacy of rehabilitation.

The first of these strikes me as the most important, so I'll begin with it. Where the obligation of the justice system lies. I don't think many of us have a problem with the notion that when an individual commits a crime she/he forfeits to some extent the protection owed to her/him by the justice system. The victim and the family of the victim have made no such forfeiture, so it seems like pretty easy to say that the bulk of the obligation lies with them.
Retribution is more in the interest of the victims/their families and thereby it ought be the focus of the justice system. That's a pretty basic argument, but it's one that I think will ultimately be very difficult to refute.

The importance of retribution is hugely important, for two reasons. Firstly it allows the wronged parties to feel as though justice has been done, and thereby to not let the wounds of the past fester until they become terminal, incurable. Secondly it is a right of redress that citizens cede to the government and they must see that right being inacted by the government or come to believe they are not being governed correctly. Lack of retributions creates problems both with how one views oneself, and with how one views the government which is supposed to be protecting and avenging you.

So then there's the efficacy point. When considering a hierarchy of priorities for the justice system, it seems as though we can prioritize the always efficacious "retribution" component over the questionably potent "rehabilitation" component no problem. What reason do we have to believe that if rehabilitation were preferenced it would become more effective?

And that's the problem that we are talking about. What was proposed was a question of priority. Prioritizing retribution over rehabilitation doesn't mean not trying to rehabilitate, it means doing so in a way that is still recognizably punishment, retributive, even if that makes the rehabilitation less effective.
What does preferencing rehabilitation over retribution look like? Would it still be understandably retribution?

The need to see "justice done" is a basic human one, and I don't think that that means much more than the need to see retribution. We don't have to like that about ourselves, but we do have to recognize it, and to respond to it in such a way that correctly puts that need ahead of a gesture towards rehabilitation that might not bear the fruit that ostensibly justifies it.
Debate Round No. 1
smiletrishalovesyou

Con

Retribution appeals to victims and their families, yes, but justice is not about making people happy. It is not about satisfying victims and their families. It is about serving justice and providing protection. It is about being fair and equal. If being fair and equal in turn makes the victim/families happy, then so be it, but that is not why one should believe in retribution.
A legit value for rehabilitation is safety. Retribution alone provides no guaranteed safety. More than 95% of state prisoners return to society eventually. For the years that a criminal is locked up, we are safe, but what about when they get out? Almost 70% of state inmates commit a serious crime within three years of release, according to the largest recidivism study ever conducted.
With extensive rehabilitation during and after incarceration, the recidivism rate could be greatly lowered. The results are overwhelming. In a two-part rehabilitation program in Delaware, called the Key-Crest program, the results were overwhelming. 30% of those who didn't participate in the program were arrested 18 months after prison, versus 71% of those who participated in the program.
Other programs included putting inmates to work in offices for the same amount of time as taxpayers spend working. It helped inmates build a resume.
In rehabilitation programs in Brooklyn and Indiana rehabilitation programs were also a success; however, I won't give you the stats because that would require me looking them up again and I'm sleepy.
My opponent also brings up the implications of the resolution; "Prioritizing retribution over rehabilitation doesn't mean not trying to rehabilitate, it means doing so in a way that is still recognizably punishment." That's rather contradictory, as rehabilitation isn't really about punishment at all, and I don't see how you can make rehabilitation, the restoration of someone to a useful place in society, "recognizably punishment."
Also, if we are looking at retribution in the U.S., we are mainly looking at prison systems and perhaps fines, and there is no rehabilitation in disguise as punishment. How you would make rehabilitation "recognizably punishment?" Am I really missing the point?
However, he makes a good point when he talks about the prioritizing of the two concepts. As the current U.S. justice system as a whole places no emphasis on rehabilitation and is into the whole "tough on crime" notion it could be argued that by implicating more rehabilitation programs that would in turn be prioritizing rehabilitation over retribution.
Prioritizing rehabilitation over retribution would provide us with truly justly deserved penalties; it would just also keep us safe when inmates get out of prison.
For example, recently, in CA, a man was given a life sentence for stealing videotapes such as "Free Willy" and "Cinderella." He burglarized two homes back in the 1980s, and under the "three strikes law," was able to be sent to prison for life. He had no weapon in the burglaries, nor when he shoplifted a few videotapes. He will be 87 when he is up for parole, or he could be dead.
Obviously, this man is not a model citizen, but he does not deserve to be in jail for the rest of his life. There is no reason not to believe that rehabilitation could have helped him keep things he didn't pay for on the shelves. However now we'll never know, because of this twisted justice system that is locking-people-up happy.
My opponent has stated that the government is supposed to be avenging us. My opponent has stated that the government is supposed to seeking revenge. I ask you, does "revenge" belong in our society?
We spend billions on our prison system. We spend billions locking up offenders, and almost 70% of those have already been in prison one time around. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Are a majority of our citizens really criminals, or is it a select few that keep reoffending because they don't get the help they need?
Retribution over rehabilitation, as it is now = spending billions locking people up, then billions more putting them in prison again.
Rehabilitation over retribution = significantly lowering the recidivism rate and providing long-term safety
YaleMM

Pro

There are a number of interesting problems in this round, I'll try and list the one's I think are central.

- Recidivism
- Rehabilitation coexisting with retribution
- The notion of revenge in society

So I think this discussion flows fairly easily from one to the other. The argument that is being constructed is as such: "Recividism is rampant and can be reduced by orienting towards rehabilitation instead of retribution." With several citations to statistic to support this claim.
The biggest problem I can see with the style of argument being presented is that at no point is there ever a clear illustration of what a system that was purely concerned with rehabilitation would look like. All the studies cited take place under a system which Pro believes 'places no emphasis on rehabilitation and is into the whole "tough on crime" notion' so these inmates eneter prison first, and through prison are introduced to rehabilitation programs. An important thing to note is that when they are -discharged- they get jobs, not when they are rehabilitated. All the examples given speak to rehabilitation existing alongside retribution, enforcing a retributive sentence and then attempting to rehabilitate while it is going on.

The reason we do this is to preserve a feeling of justice and to respect the rights of the victim. We have no empirical evidence for what a system that put no emphasis on retribution would produce in terms of recidivism, and so neither of us can make definitive claims in that direction. What we do have are empirical examples of families reactions when the murderer of a loved one goes free after a year, or gets off on a technicality. They do not feel whole, they do not feel restored meaningfully.

Of course the notion of revenge has relevance in our society, it is the very core of our intuitions towards justice.
There is one claim made at the top of the last argument that is fairly telling:
"Retribution appeals to victims and their families, yes, but justice is not about making people happy. It is not about satisfying victims and their families. It is about serving justice and providing protection."

Serving justice -is- about making people happy, restoring to them some measure of what was taken in a criminal act. Satisfying victims and families is, in large part, the chief obligation of the justice system given that those families ceded their own ability to seek that satisfaction -to- the justice system. We can't really know about the protection but we can certainly know about the justice.
Debate Round No. 2
smiletrishalovesyou

Con

"The biggest problem I can see with the style of argument being presented is that at no point is there ever a clear illustration of what a system that was purely concerned with rehabilitation would look like."

As you stated before, the resolution isn't about choosing one or the other, it's about placing a higher priority over one or the other. There is no point in arguing for total rehabilitation if that's not what the resolution says.

"All the studies cited take place under a system which Pro believes 'places no emphasis on rehabilitation and is into the whole "tough on crime" notion' so these inmates eneter prison first, and through prison are introduced to rehabilitation programs."

I apologize for my laziness, but there is a program in Oregon where the prisoners work simple office jobs for the government while in a rehabilitation program, putting in the same number of hours as taxpayers and saving the cost of state employees. This benefits the economy and helps the prisoners build a resume and important life skills for when they return to society.

In Ohio there is also a rehabilitative program where more than 24,000 inmates are currently working and earning their keep. There are many forms of rehabilitation, so sorry that I only presented one... here's a general overview of what more emphasis on rehabilitation could include (based on a few programs that were tried out in the 90's)...

Rehabilitation is the act of restoring people to a useful place in society. It can be achieved through in-prison counselling, sort of "half-way" houses like in the Key-Crest program, actually putting prisoners to work while they're in prison, job training, drug treatment, literacy programs, helping prisoners write a resume, etc. Rehabilitation isn't perfect; there is a chance of relapse into crime/drugs if applicable, but it is plenty better than no rehabilitation at all. [stats'll show you that; key crest] Rehabilitation needs to be a major part of the U.S. justice system because more than 95% of state prisoners return to society, and 70& of them get in trouble again. Whether you believe we should help out inmates or not is up to you and your morals, but rehabilitation is crucial if we don't want to waste our money on locking up prisoners time and time again that really just need a bit of guidance.

"What we do have are empirical examples of families reactions when the murderer of a loved one goes free after a year, or gets off on a technicality. They do not feel whole, they do not feel restored meaningfully."

Of course, we ALL symphasize with them, but does rehabilitation = getting people off on technicalities? I think not. It's about helping inmates learn life lessons for when they get out of prison, and rehabilitation programs definitely doesn't support the notion of getting murderers off. Perhaps it would offer more counseling for those serving life sentences, but rehabilitation isn't saying "screw it all, let's put everyone in a rehabilitation program then let them out after a month!"

Oh ya and Steve Doell, the president of Crime Victims United of Oregon, whose 12-year-old daughter was killed walking home from a school bus stop, said [in support of a rehabilitation program in Oregon I mentioned earlier]: The thing people need to know is that most of these folks in prison are eventually going to come out again. So we think it's smart policy to try to change them while they're locked up, so that when they return to society there will be fewer victims on the street.

BAM. mmk...

"Serving justice -is- about making people happy."

Give me a definition that says justice is the act of making people happy and I will take you seriously. Justice is the quality of being just or fair and being fair is being free from favoritism or self-interest or bias or deception, according to Princeton's definitions. Isn't going with want the people want, the victims want, favoritism? There isn't always a 'victim' anyways, so my opponent's argument is flawed. Even if priority on retribution was just for victims, that would only be a portion of criminal cases.

"Of course the notion of revenge has relevance in our society, it is the very core of our intuitions towards justice. "

Ew. Okay sorry. Yeah, anyways, does the Constitution talk about revenge? It talks about justice, yes, it talks about fairness, and equality... I see no mention of revenge. I see no mention of revenge in the defintion of justice. I see debates like "justice vs. revenge." Justice is a pretty abstract concept, but saying revenge leads to justice is extremely... flawed. idiotic. idk. Revenge is just a feeble imitation of justice. Can true justice ever be achieved anyways? Ok now I'm getting off-topic.....

"We have no empirical evidence for what a system that put no emphasis on retribution would produce in terms of recidivism"

I believe I stated earlier that, "In a two-part rehabilitation program in Delaware, called the Key-Crest program, the results were overwhelming. 30% of those who didn't participate in the program were arrested 18 months after prison, versus 71% of those who participated in the program." I realize this is one state, one program, and unforunately I cannot provide a nationwide statistic as the current system focuses on retribution, but that is evidence of what rehabilitation yields in terms of recidivism.

[unless stats aren't empirical evidence? lol i forget what the three e's are, honestly, i'm an idiot...]

ahhh i need sleep
YaleMM

Pro

YaleMM forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
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Posted by smiletrishalovesyou 8 years ago
smiletrishalovesyou
haha ok. but just letting you know, i thought "Serving justice -is- about making people happy, restoring to them some measure of what was taken in a criminal act" was the biggest piece of BS i ever heard.
Posted by YaleMM 8 years ago
YaleMM
oops.

haha more thoughts later. no time then, no time now.
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