The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/6/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 13,676 times Debate No: 28940
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (17)
Votes (1)




Good luck in advance to my opponent, and I'll be happy to clarify anything as I've set up my case like a real Lincoln-Douglas debate.

Albert Einstein once said, "If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed." It is because I agree with Albert Einstein that I stand in firm affirmation of the resolution, which states:

Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.

To clarify, I offer the following definitions.

Retribution- punishment that is justly deserved
Rehabilitation- This is the approach to justice which focuses on helping criminals see the error of their ways and once again making them productive members of society
Ought- used to express moral obligation

My value today will be Utilitarianism, which is defined as the principle that all actions are right if they are useful for the benefit of the society. My value criterion in today"s debate will be societal welfare, which is the well being of the society. My job as the affirmative, judge, is to prove to you that the criminal justice system ought to value rehabilitation over retribution. And it"s as simple as this: by rehabilitating people we are saving lives and bettering our society. I will further prove my affirmative stance with three contentions.

Contention One: Rehabilitation can help our community.
Chip Corwin, The New York Times, December 2, 2012.

"But first, we need to stop using punishment as a principal justification for lengthy prison terms and, instead, reserve prison for those who pose a grave risk to public safety. Punishment, where productive, could still be employed through sanctions and local supervision of graduated intensity. But instead of going to prison, low-risk offenders should stay in the community. This emphasis on results over retribution would bring many benefits. Not only would it help redeem America's image abroad, but it would also help restore many communities that have come to regard prison as a rite of passage. Also, offenders not in prison are better able to pay restitution to victims."

People today just don"t see prison as a threat anymore. Instead of tearing people away from their families for one drug offence, maybe we should focus on getting them ready to function well in society. While at the same time, opening up prisons to people who actually need to be there. Not only would it help our society, it would make it safer.

Contention Two: Retribution has strong negative effects on children and families.
Kim Gilhuly, The New York Times, December 2, 2012.

"Perhaps the most harmful result of needlessly incarcerating low-risk, nonviolent offenders is what it does to families, especially children. More than one-third of children with a parent in prison drop out of school. Youth whose parents go to prison are seven times more likely to be convicted of a crime as adults. But data can't measure the pain of families torn apart by harsh sentences that are ineffective, unhealthy and unfair. Most of these people need treatment, not punishment. Prison doesn't treat their problems, doesn't make communities safer and rips apart innocent families whose wounds may not heal for generations."

Why hurt one person, one family, when we can help an entire community. Retribution is not effective anymore.

Contention Three: Rehabilitation is more cost effective.
Kristin Mitchell, "Rehab or Prison?", May, 2010

"According to the Minnesota House of Representatives, it costs approximately $32,700 of taxpayer money every year for each inmate in our state"s prison system. There are around 9,000 inmates in the prison system in Minnesota. So let"s do the math. These figures add up to about $294,300,000 each year, just in one state! Providing treatment outside of jail is more cost-effective. It costs about $2,000 to $7,000 per person. Drug treatment inside jail or prison costs $24 more per day than basic costs of incarceration. The Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) program is being used in Brooklyn, New York. The average cost of putting someone in the program is $32,974, compared to the $64,338 needed to send him or her to prison for 25 months, or the average prison sentence for drug offenders. This program cuts the cost to the community by half!"

One common misconception about rehab is it costs too much. But what we need to realize is keeping someone in prison is way more. Our tax dollars are going towards food and boarding for a prisoner when they could be going towards making them better and helping the offender.

As I stated earlier judge, my job is to show that our criminal justice system ought to value rehabilitation over retribution, and I"ve done just that. Not only is it morally right and good for society, it"s much cheaper than prison. Retribution, in many cases, is dealt unfairly. In our justice system, people sometimes don"t have equal treatment in the courts. If you have more money, you have a better lawyer, and you have a lighter sentence. There is simply nothing good about retribution. Instead of punishing one person for a mistake, lets prepare for a life in society, helping the community. It is for these reasons and many more I respectfully ask for an affirmative ballot in today"s debate.


Thank you for coming to tonight's debate. I accepted this debate because the instigator's opening was very articulate, well-written, and clear, which are my favourite aspects of anything I read. Also, I thought I might have something to contribute to this subject.

My opponent expressed an intention to defend the claim that "Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system." As such, she is assuming the burden of proof and placing none on me. Although ordinarily in a debate, I would try my best to defeat my opponent's arguments, in this case, I'm genuinely interested in arriving at the truth. If my opponent convinces me of her point of view, I will concede and gladly hand the victory to her.

Utilitarianism in principle

Pro defines utilitarianism as "the principle that all actions are right if they are useful for the benefit of the society." Ever since utilitarianism was first thought of and given a name, it has come under attack, and the attacks usually take the form of coming up with obvious counter-examples. One only needs to come up with some scenario in which an action would benefit society but still be obviously wrong. For example, it may benefit society to kill an innocent man, but it wouldn't for that reason be right. So Pro needs to give us a robust defense of utilitarianism against such counter-examples before her argument can go through.

I'll give her one counter-example to defend against. It would benefit society if all old people who are living off of social security and medicare were put to sleep. Health care is the biggest burden on the federal government with most recipients being elderly people.[1] Putting those people to sleep would be a huge relief to tax-payers, and it would go a long way in rescuing the country from the impending doom from a growing debt and increased taxes. Yet it's clearly wrong to kill people just because they are a burden on society.

Utilitarianism in practice

Even if we use utilitarian principles to determine our justice system, Pro needs to show that rehabilitation works. How successful are rehabilitation programs? How would we even measure such a thing?

Suppose somebody commits a crime and goes to prison. After undergoing some rehabilitation program, he re-enters society and never commits the crime again. You might be tempted to say the rehabilitation worked, but you can't know that since you don't know that he would've committed the crime if he had not gone through the program. He might not have committed the crime anyway.

Some people are repeat offenders and some are not, so it's going to be difficult to determine whether rehabilitation programs work or not.


Pro defined retribution as "punishment that is justly deserved." The problem with putting more emphasis on rehabilitation rather than retribution is that it's not fair. Some people would get more punishment than they deserve while others would get less. The reason is because the length of stay or the severity of the conditions of imprisonment would be determined by what it takes to rehabilitate a person rather than what they deserve.

Suppose, for example, that in general it took longer to rehabilitate people who smoke marijuana than to rehabilitate people who commit rape. If we emphasized rehabilitation over retribution, then marijuana smokers would get longer sentences than rapists. But rape is clearly a more serious crime than smoking marijuana. It would be unfair to give a marijuana smoker a longer sentence than a rapist just because it takes longer to rehabilitate a marijuana smoker.

The 8th amendment to the Constitution protects against cruel and unusual punishment. Depending on what it actually took to rehabilitate somebody, the punishment inflicted on a person could easiliy be cruel and unusual in light of the crime they are guilty of. The severity of the punishment should be proportional to the severity of the crime. That is fair. It's also the definition of retribution.

Pro's contentions

All of Pro's contentions presuppose utilitarianism--a presupposition which I have already challenged. But if we grant utilitarianism for the sake of argument, her contentions still seem to be problematic.

1. Rehabilitation can help our community

Pro quotes an article from the New York Times, but the article doesn't say anything about rehabilitation. Rather, it argues that long prison sentences should be reserved for people who are dangerous to society. The purpose of prison, according to this article, is neither retribution nor rehabilitation, but simply protecting society from dangerous people by locking them up.

2. Retribuation has strong negative effects on children and families

This is true in some cases, although the article she quotes doesn't support her contention. The article points out correlations between parents going to prison and children dropping out of school, but correlation is not causation. It could be there's a correlation just because of the kind of families these people are a part of. Trashy people are more likely to drop out of school and commit crimes, so trashiness could be the cause of both.

Granted, it is unfair for children to have to suffer because of the crimes of their parents, but it is unfair of the parents to have put their kids in that situation. It isn't unfair of the government. In fact, giving criminals what they deserve is the very definition of fairness. And in many cases, putting parents in prison actually protects the children. That is especially the case when the parent is going to prison for murdering the mother or molesting the children.

3. Rehabilitation is more cost effective

Pro quotes an article saying that it's more cost effective to send a drug user to rehab than to prison. The weakness in this contention is that it takes ones specific crime and attempts to extrapolate to all crimes. The resolution of the debate is that rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in general, not just for the specific crime of drug use. Rehabilitation may work in the case of drug use because people on drugs want to get off. But we can't extrapolate that to all crimes. Muder, theft, robbery, fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, pedophilia, rape, domestic violence, etc. cannot be fixed by rehabilitation in the same way drug addiction can, and prison is more effective at protecting society from these types of criminals than rehabilitation.


We mustn't think that it's either retribution or rehabilitation. We can have both. The question is which should be emphasized. Retribution is based on the moral principles of fairness, blame, culpability, and desert. Pro needs to undermine these moral principles and defend utilitarianism.


Debate Round No. 1


First off, I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate. And for offering an excellent rebuttal to my case.

To attack my value of Utilitarianism, the Con side has said there are cases where an action may be good for society, but is still obviously wrong. He was even kind enough to give me an example. Killing off elderly people would be a relief to tax-payers and help get the country out of debt. And I will agree that killing off people on social security would do these things. However, in the long run, is it really good for the society? What about all the families that are now grieving? And now that all these taxes are no longer needed, who's to say the government won't take this opportunity to implement new taxes? Also, the cost of a proper funeral and burial and other expenses that go into a death are a lot for one family to deal with. So sure, overall, taxes decrease. But families are in debt still and a community is left grieving. Therefore, this example is not good for society and is obviously wrong. If my opponent can give me another example I may take his argument about my value into account.

The Con also says I have not provided an example where rehabilitation has worked. I have here a card which gives a specific example of rehabilitation.

Denmark's Prison System
Rupert Taylor, July 27th, 2009

"The Danish justice system is based on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Writing in The New Statesman (September 4, 2006) Nick Pearce reported that Denmark "does all it can to keep people out of jail, and once there, to prepare them for life back in the community. Its sentences are short, but its re-offending rates far lower. In Denmark, prison appears to work for the right reasons. The average Danish prison sentence is 6.2 months, with just two percent of Danish prisoners spending more than two years in jail. The hardliners of the lock-"em-up-and-throw-away-the-key school scoff at Denmark"s lenient approach to criminal justice. However, it seems to work. On July 2, 2003 Dan Damon reported for BBC News that, "While 55 percent of British prisoners will re-offend and come back to jail, in Denmark the re-offending rate is just 27 percent."

So, as we can see here, Denmark has been using rehabilitation for quite some time and it seems to be doing the job. I think after seeing the statistics, it's not that hard to see if this system works.

And as for my opponents argument about rapists and marijuana smokers, in my first contention it says that people who commit violent crimes and are a threat to society should be locked up. Therefore, this argument is invalid.

The Con also goes on to say that the 8th amendment prevents cruel and unusual punishment. And while I do not want this to turn into an argument about what punishment is acceptable, I will say that the 8th amendment is not effective in protecting against harsh punishments. For example, many will argue that the death penalty is cruel and unusual. Yet it's allowed in some states. We cannot rely on the 8th amendment for protection.

To attack my contention one, my opponent says that the purpose of prison, according to the article, is just to protect society by locking dangerous people up. However, in my card, it says "Punishment, where productive, could still be employed through sanctions and local supervision of graduated intensity." Is this not a form of rehabilitation? It goes on to say, "But instead of going to prison, low-risk offenders should stay in the community. This emphasis on results over retribution would bring many benefits." The "results" being rehabilitation.

As for my contention two, he says that the article never states that locking people up is a direct cause of the negative effects listed. Yet the first line says "Perhaps the most harmful result of needlessly incarcerating low-risk, nonviolent offenders is what it does to families, especially children." I would like to point out the word "result." Another word for result could be effect. And what is to blame for an effect? A cause.

Now on to my third contention. The major attack is that I only focus on one crime, in one state. However, we can assume things aren't much different elsewhere in the country. He goes on to say "Rehabilitation may work in the case of drug use because people on drugs want to get off." The idea that someone on drugs wants to quit is laughable and quite frankly, very naive. While it's a beautiful concept, drugs are addictive. Most people on drugs are hooked. I'll get a bit personal here and say my uncle has been on heavy drugs for the past 20 years. And now no one in the family speaks to him and we have no clue where he is because he ran off to a drug house and chose drugs over his family. I highly doubt he's going to jump at the chance to fix himself. And as for the major crimes listed, as I said earlier, harsher crimes will be handled differently then a drug charge.

My opponent says this debate is a question of whether retribution or rehabilitation should be emphasized. And I think it's safe to say that with a rehabilitation policy, people get what they deserve, we are helping the society, and we are saving the country money. I used utilitarianism as a value because I love how simple and effective it is. Everything is right if it helps the greater good. And quite frankly, if something truly helps the greater good, it is right. And rehabilitation does just that.



Since Pro's case for rehabilitation over retribution presupposes utilitarianism, Pro needed to give a defense of utilitarianism. That is, she needed to explain to us why we should think it's true. She still hasn't done that. All she has done so far is respond to an objection I raised. It's not enough to respond to objections to utilitarianism. She needs to defend its truth.

In her response to my counter-example, she agreed with me that killing off old dependent people would relieve tax payers and help get the country out of debt. But she thinks the benefits are outweighed by the harms and that killing those people would still be wrong on utilitarian principles. So let's look at her reasons. She gives three reasons: (1) killing off old people will leave families grieving, (2) the government may come up with a reason for new taxes, and (3) funerals are expensive.

With regard to 1 and 2, these old people are going to die anyway. The whole reason a lot of them are using up tax money is precisely because they're on their death beds. They're being treated for terminal illnesses. So 1 and 2 don't make any difference. With regard to 2, that is speculative. In any event, if the government comes up with some other way to spend money so that the debt and high taxes continue, surely that money will go to something with more ultilitarian value than prolonging the lives of people who are a drain on society.

Besides that, 2 could be turned against Pro. She argues rehabilitation against retribution on the basis that rehabilitation is cheaper. It's a smaller burden on tax payers. I could answer just like her and say that if we save tax payers money by not sending people to prison, the government will just think of something else to spend the money on.

Does rehabilitation work

Pro quotes a source (without a good citation) saying that in Demark, rehabilitation seems to work because the re-offending rate is lower in Denmark than in England. I grant that rehabilitation sometimes works. As I said in the last round, it doesn't have to be rehabilitation or retribution. We can have both. So saying that rehabilitation works is not enough to say that rehabilitation should be emphasized over retribution.


Pro seemed to not understand my argument from fairness. i argued that retribution should be emphasized over rehabilitation because it's more fair. Under retribution, people get what they deserve. More sever crimes merit more sever punishment (usually in the form of longer sentences). But with rehabilitation, it doesn't matter how serious the crime is. What matters is what it takes to rehabilitate somebody. If a rapist can be rehabilitated more quickly and easily than a marajuana smoker, then a marijuana smoker will have a longer sentence, which is unfair. Pro responds by saying that people who are dangerous to society can be locked up, which is irrelevant to my point.

Pro also misunderstood my argument from the 8th amendment. I argued that the purpose of the amendment was to protect people from cruel and unusual punishment, which means that the punishment should fit the crime. It assumes retribution. But rehabilitation can undermine the 8th amendment because the severity of the punishment/treatment would have to be proportional to whatever it took to rehabilitate the person rather than proportional to the severity of the crime. Her response is that we can't rely on the 8th amendment since some people get cruel and unusual punishment anyway (e.g. the death penalty). But that is irrelevant to my point.

Pro's contentions

1. Rehabilitation can help our community.

I pointed out that the article she quoted said nothing about rehabilitation, but only mentioned keeping people in prison to keep the public safe. She didn't bother to defend that quote or explain how she got rehabilitation out of it. Instead, she refers to her "card" as saying, "This emphasis on results over retribution would bring many benefits." I have no idea what's she's quoting or whether it's a reliable source. It sounds like the source, whatever it is, is just restating Pro's opinion. It's not offering an argument for it.

2. Retribuation has strong negative effects on children and families

I said that the article quote didn't show causation; it only showed correlation. Pro responded by re-quoting the first line, which uses the word "result." However, my argument isn't that the article never claims causation. They surely do in the first line just as Pro said. Rather, I pointed out that the article failed to show causation. In the evidence produced in support of the first sentence in the article, all they showed was correlation. My claim is that the author of the article made an unwarranted inference by assuming causation where there is only correlation.

3. Rehabilitation is more cost effective

Pro basically gives no response to my argument here. While she had quoted an article saying that drug rehabilitation works, I responded by saying the fact that drug rehabilitation works doesn't mean rehabilitation works for other crimes. I suggested that drug rehabilitation works because the parties are willing. Her response, amazingly enough, was to say that people on drugs are not willing. But that leaves her third contention undefended. She hasn't made a case for why we should think other crimes could be rehabilitated as effectively as drug crimes. She even says that the harsher crimes I listed would be handled differently than drug crimes, which seems to me to concede my point.


I recommended retribution in the name of fairness--people get what they deserve. Pro claims that under rehabilitation, people also get what they deserve. But "desert" doesn't really fit in with utiltarianism. There's nothing about rehabilitation that entails that people get what they deserve. If she advocates a program where people get what they deserve, then she is advocating retribution because that's what retribution is--giving people what they deserve.

Debate Round No. 2


To start, I'd like to go over my value a bit better since the Con seems to think I haven't defended it enough. I chose utilitarianism because as I stated earlier, I like it's simplicity. If it helps society, it is good and morally acceptable. In my original case I say my job as the Pro is to prove that the criminal justice system ought to value rehabilitation over retribution. By rehabilitating people, we are creating a better society, which is why I chose utilitarianism as my value.

As for the elderly people example, my opponent basically says old people are a drain on society anyways, so let's put our tax dollars to something better. But if we're going to be simple-minded and say old people are a "drain on society" it's only fair that I be simple-minded and say that taxes are taxes and no U.S. citizen is going to want to pay any kind of tax. This elderly people example is an unrealistic and a very simple way of looking at things. I stick by my original argument which is, the cons outweigh the pros in this scenario so it isn't a good example in regards to utilitarianism.

I would like to apologize for my poor citation on the Denmark evidence. I was a bit rushed. While the Con is arguing we can have both, I am saying we need rehabilitation and retribution is ineffective. And I feel like I've offered enough evidence to prove that not only does rehabilitation work, it is better than retribution.

The Con says I misunderstood his fairness argument. However, I fully understood it. Perhaps he didn't understand my arguments about other crimes. My opponent continually goes back to the argument that punishment won't be dealt fairly and harsh crimes like rape will be let off easy. Again I will say, criminals such as murderers and sexual offenders will be put in prison as a safety precaution. For drug-related crimes and things like traffic offenses, rehabilitation should offered. What the Con fails to see is retribution is just too much in some cases. If your 22 and get caught drinking and driving late one night, you get put in jail for the evening and that stays on your record for quite a while. That is unfair. On the opposite end of the spectrum, maybe two 19 year old's murder someone and get caught. One could get the best lawyer around and get 6 months in jail. While the other can't afford a good attorney and winds up with 25 to life in a maximum security prison. Retribution is unfair.

As for the 8th amendment argument, I suppose I don't fully understand what the Con is trying to say. However, rehabilitation does not undermine the 8th amendment. Rehabilitation will serve as a better alternative to jail time and people who really deserve to be out of society will be. I fail to see how this undermines the 8th amendment.

I apologize. In my attack against the Con for my contention one I mentioned a "card." Perhaps my opponent is unfamiliar with debate terminology. By card, I meant my contention one. My debate coach is a bit old school and refers to them as such. So if you refer back to my contention one, you will see I offered a quote from my evidence. It is not simply my opinion. I'm sorry for the confusion.

The Con stands by his argument that there is only correlation in my contention two. Yet that evidence offers specific statistics, stating more then one-third of children with a parent in prison drop out of school. The cause of the drop out rate is clearly the parent in prison. I believe it's pretty clear the causes are obvious.

For my third contention, please refer to my other attack in which I clearly stated the types of crimes that would be receiving rehabilitation. I am not at all conceding with my opponent. I've made it clear I am very anti-retribution.

In conclusion, I'd like to point out I made it very clear why retribution is unfair and rehabilitation is fair and effective. People will be safe and they will get what they deserve. Someone with one DWI shouldn't have to be severely punished.


It didn't come out until the last round, but Pro's argument for rehabilitation is circular. She has been arguing for rehabilitation by appealing to utilitarian morals. But why does she subscribe to utilitarian morals? In her own words: "By rehabilitating people, we are creating a better society, which is why I chose utilitarianism as my value." So she chooses utilitarian values because rehabilitating people creates a better society, and she thinks rehabilitation is better than retribution because of her utilitarian values. It is hard to come up with a more clear example of circular reasoning.

The only non-circular defense she gives for utilitarianism is its simplicity. But this is no defense. How does it follow that because utilitarianism is simple that it's therefore true? And I would question whether it really is simple. It sounds simple until you actually try to apply it to real world decisions. Then you've got to weigh utilities, which can be highly subjective. That's not to mention the difficulty of predicting the short term and long term consequences of a course of action.

Pro's only response to my elderly people counter-example to utilitarianism is that it's "simple-minded" and "unrealistic." But the fact of the matter is, there are old people who are a drain on society. I'm not saying that I personally would want to kill them. As I said in the first round, that would obviously be wrong. What I'm saying is that it follows from utilitarianism that there are innocent people we ought to kill for the good of society. That's precisely what's wrong with utilitarianism! There are many without close family who we could kill without causing any (or many people) grief, too. They don't need funerals. We can just have them cremated, which is cheaper than paying their medical expenses.

Pro is being a bit inconsistent in this debate. In the first round, she defined retribution as "punishment that is justly deserved." Giving people what they deserve is the very meaning of fairness. Yet she claims that (1) under rehabilitation, people get what they deserve, and (2) retribution is unfair.

I agree with her that sometimes people are given punishments that they don't deserve. That is the basis upon which she says retribution is unfair, but that is contrary to how she defined retribution since she defined it as giving people the punishment they deserve. When people get a punishment that goes beyond what they deserve, that isn't retribution. That's going beyond retribution, and I don't think either one of us is advocating that.

Pro still seems to misunderstand my argument from fairness. She says, "My opponent continually goes back to the argument that punishment won't be dealt fairly and harsh crimes like rape will be let off easy." My concern isn't that harsh crimes like rape will be let off easy. My concern is that under rehabilitation, the punishment does not have to fit the crime. I used rape and drug abuse as hypothetical examples to illustrate my point. If the primary focus is on rehabilitation rather than retribution, then the length of imprisonment, punishment, sentence, or whatever is done to the person will depend on the psychology of the person and how long it takes or what measures it takes to rehabilitate the person rather than on what the person deserves. If (emphasis on the 'if) it happens that some severe crime, like rape, is easier to rehabilitate than some lesser crime, like drug abuse, then the person guilty of drug use will suffer more severely than the person who commited rape, which is unfair. Fairness dictates that the punishment fit the crime. And that is precisely the purpose of the 8th amendment. A cruel and unusual punishment is a punishment that does not fit the crime but rather goes beyond it.

I misunderstood what Pro meant by "cards." Apparently, she was just quoting what she had originally quoted in the first round in support of rehabilitation. My objection stands. The quote says nothing about rehabilitation. Pro emphasizes the use of the word "results," but the benefits it mentions are not the rehabilitation of the person, but redemption of America's image abroad, restoration of communities who regard prison as a rite of passage (whatever that means), and the enablement of offenders to pay restitution to their victims. Even if this quote mentioned retribution, it's just an opinion piece. It doesn't offer an argument.

Sending dangerous criminals to prison is not rehabilitation; it's protection. Pro seems to be all for that. She said, "Again I will say, criminals such as murderers and sexual offenders will be put in prison as a safety precaution." She apparently only advocates rehabilitation for lesser crimes, like drug abuse and traffic offenses. But remember the resolution of the debate: "Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system." That resolution is more general and sweeping than, "Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in cases of miner crimes, like drug abuse and traffic violations."

Pro was unable to defend her second contention. After I pointed out that her quote only showed a correlation between parents going to prison and their kids dropping out of school, and even offering an alternate explanation than one causing the other, her only response is to use the words "clear" and "pretty clear" in regard to causation. That's not an argument. That's only an expression of Pro's conviction. The quote she offered as evidence did not show causation, and neither did Pro. They only showed correlation and asserted causation. Adding the word "clearly" to what you already said before doesn't advance your argument.

Pro claims that she is "very anti-retribution," but then turns around in the next paragraph and says under rehabilitation, people will "get what they deserve." This is an inconsistency since giving people what they deserve is how she defined retribution in the first round. If she is all for people getting what they deserve, then she is all for retribution since that's what retribution means. If she is not all for people getting what they deserve, then she has not adequately responded to my fairness objection. Either way, Pro has not carried her burden of proof in this debate.

I said at the beginning of this debate that I'd concede if Pro convinced me, but she hasn't.

Thank you for coming to tonight's debate. Thank you for reading it. Thank you to my opponent.

Debate Round No. 3
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by ilovechocolateitrocks 5 years ago
You should use societal welfare as your value and utilitarianism as your value criterion because you can achieve utilitarianism, but societal welfare is just a means through which you can achieve utlitarianism.
Posted by Lil_bit 5 years ago
litfuse55, Wow. Tournaments like that are no fun. But you did what you could. And yes, I am.
Posted by litfuse55 5 years ago
You'd be surprised to find out that I either did really badly during that debate, or mediocre (two judges didn't disclose). I either went 1-5 with my only win coming from an absentee ballot, 2-4, or 3-3. I kind of think that my judges were biased against me for some reason, as when they would give us critiques, they only really were speaking poorly of my case. That being the only thing that they would say, I didn't feel that great leaving. I improved my Speaker points from the last debate, I'm sure. The last one, my opponent (in the last round) and I were close to fighting in the CX. We were yelling at each other, and the judge had to get us to stop. She even changed her paradigms after that round. The next round I had a bye, so I watched my partner (I know, I'm in LD but my debate team has 2 Novice-LDs and an Open-LD) had a round with the same judge. It was hilarious! Anyway, I digress. My LD partner advanced to the Quarter-Finals in the debate I was in today, but lost there. Meh, whatever. Honestly, in my last round of the day (of which I lost), I really should have won. I bogged down one of my three and two of my opponents three contentions down, and shut them out of the round. (I was on Aff). They neglected to mention their third, which I pointed out. I made a decent attempt to shoot down their Value/Criterion (Justice/Proportionalism). I backed up my Value/Criterion (S. Wellbeing/Util) well, and still had a functional 2nd and 3rd contention (I rebutted my opponents attacks). I really don't know, that judge must have been watching a different debate.
And thank you Lil_bit. BTW are you an active Open LD Debater on this topic?
Posted by Lil_bit 5 years ago
Thank you Americasian. I feel dumb now for not using those arguments. Oh well. Now I'll know for next time.
Posted by Americasian 5 years ago
Pro should have used her value criterion, societal welfare, in response to the value attack, because killing seniors would not uphold societal welfare, on balance, since protecting the lives in the society outweighs economic growth. Not to mention, many seniors are productive and taxpaying.
For contentions one and two, seemingly obvious links should be explicitly stated! e.g. Parentless children turn to crime themselves because they lack love, go to gangs... clich" links work (though probably not suffice).
Fairness issue: she could have used the old cross-ex. tactic: Why does fairness matter? If people are healed and society is better, the value is upheld. Societal welfare and changed lives outweigh the abstract concept of "equality" or "justice."
She also should have capitalized on her equality argument (richer folk get lesser sentences).
For the above two points though, she needs to change her Retribution definition.
Lil" Bit, hope you see this and good luck! Going to Berkeley?
Posted by Lil_bit 5 years ago
You define utilitarianism as doing the most good for the most amount of people. I defined it as something is right as long as it helps society. So under your definition, I can see why it would be a better criterion. Well done. As for the Kantianism argument, you did good by saying it isn't valid. And you seem to have a great case. Since he didn't attack anything else, I'm sure you won that round. For a novice, you have really good, strong arguments. I'm impressed.
Posted by litfuse55 5 years ago
Neg. case Value+Criterion:
Since "ought" indicates an evaluation of moral obligations, the clear value for the round is morality. Observe that the state is the actor in the resolution, and so we are concerned in particular with the moral obligations of the state.

The criterion for the state fulfilling its moral obligations is respecting the moral worth of its citizens.

There are two reasons for this:

1.The state is an organization of individuals that acts on behalf of the community generally. It is justified in doing so because the moral worth of the citizens demands that the state act benevolently towards them. The state cannot undermine its own justification for acting by disrespecting the moral worth of citizens, the very moral worth that it exists to serve.
2.Any state action must ultimately be carried out by individuals employed by the government. Those individuals have personal moral obligations not to disrespect the moral worth of others, as this shows disrespect for the foundation of their own moral value and cannot be consistent with a moral action.

Therefore, my criterion functions as an absolute moral constraint on state action. We cannot affirm unless rehabilitative approaches to criminal justice can be shown to respect the moral worth of all citizens.

Please advise. Also, tell me if you need me to post any more of the case. Thanks.
Posted by litfuse55 5 years ago
Lil_bit, I am actually currently at a debate tournament. Utilitarianism has come up quite often here, and is the criterion for my value of Societal Well-being (I try to not go like everyone else, but S. Wellbeing=S. Welfare in reality) for my aff. case. I figure that by providing the most amount of good for the greatest amount of people would provide societal well-being/welfare (S.W.). To have a good society, you need to provide a good environment, and by providing the greatest good for said environment/community/society, you can do this using Util. Now it is entirely possible to have Util as a value if it works for the topic, or the criterion works to support the valued utilitarianism, but you would need a topic something like: The U.S. government ought create a law stipulating that people must act to the common good for others and themselves (More of a policy case, and you will probably never find one like it). You could say, I value Util under some crazy criterion like instilling Buddhism, or something more normal like respecting moral worth, and how others should feel inclined to help the weak. Question: Last round, my opponent said that my criterion followed a principle of Kantianism and said that it is invalid. He said under K.ism, if an angry armed man goes to your house and demands that you bring them someone from said house, that you must bring them. I said that this attack could not be valid as the Kantianistic approach was in reference to the state, and not an individual level. I'll post what my Criterion was in another comment. Keep in mind, I was on Neg. and I was debating Morality under respecting moral worth, on the exact same topic of your debate. (Also note, he did not attack any of my contentions, nor my criteria directly. He just claimed them invalid with no real warrant or impact).
Posted by Lil_bit 5 years ago
Dale.G, perhaps I can offer a sufficient answer. Rehabilitation, as it is presented in this topic, would be an alternative for minor offenders in jail. There is no jail and rehabilitation. Someone who is "in jail forever" obviously committed a more serious crime and wouldn't even be offered rehabilitation due to the risk involved.
Posted by Lil_bit 5 years ago
litfuse55, I was a bit harsh. I apologize. It seems we were taught two different things. Yet you still failed to prove how utilitarianism supports societal welfare. So no, I haven't agreed with you. All I'm saying is, maybe you should take into account what a 3rd year debater is saying. Especially since everything I told you comes from a national qualifier and you're only a novice. But if you can prove to me that utilitarianism makes a better criterion, please do so. I'd admire you for supporting such an off statement and offering a decent case with such a criterion.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by likespeace 5 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: With respect to Utilitarianism, Pro agrees it's wrong to euthanize senior citizens, but Con showed that logically followed from that value system, and Pro could not successfully rebut that. This puts that choice of value system as a measuring stick for evaluating policies in question. With respect to rehabilitation vs. restribution, Pro speaks out about unfair punishment, which is not retribution as Pro defined it. Con points out that rehabilitation-based punishment may be unusual and unfair, for example if a minor crime requires longer/harder rehabilitation than a major crime (rape vs. drug use). Overall, while Pro makes a compelling case that there is room for reform within the criminal justice system, and that rehabilitation should be part of that system, he has not met the burden of proof for showing that valuing rehabilitation over retribution is the answer. I thus vote for Con. Kudos for a good effort on both sides.