Justice or Vengence

What form of Legal system would you prefer?

A system that has a focus on vengeance where any particular crime has a proscribed punishment: basically the worse thing you do the more time you get.


A system where the focus is on justice where the goal is to deal with the person that is the accused and if he is truly dangerous keep him locked up until he is not, but if there are better ways deal with them in whatever way seems the best for all concerned?

Reminds me of the Dukakis-Bush debate. Dukakis was an outspoken opponent of capital punishment and during the debate the moderator asked, “If your wife was raped and murdered would you favor the death penalty?” His answer was an unemotional wishy washy bull-shit stew of drug prevention programs, for him the correct response should have been, “I would have wanted vengeance, but that is not justice and I would hope that even my opponent could tell the difference.”

SB: Since you’re new, allow me to suggest that you do more in your OP than just ask a question. Generally, it’s expected that the OP makes some kind of case for one position or another, and then a debate ensues. I think you’ll find you get more and better responses when you do that.

Show us yours, and then we’ll show you ours. :wink:

Thanks for the suggestion. I never thought of it that way.

For me I prefer Justice, I prefer to look at the system with the intent to make tings better rather than simply say crime X = 5 years.

IN some cases a crime we might give only 2 years I would want the person locked up until we were reasonably confident he would not recommit and the focus on that would be to rehabilitate not simply the thought we need to lock him up for 2 years.

I would want the system to try to be constructive.

Define “justice”.

That is the crux of your question. Anybody who prefers vengeance will think it is synonymous with justice anyway.

Just to be nitpicky - proscribed=forbidden. You meant prescribed.

Do you really think any amount of time in prison will be “constructive”? How do you tell whether or not a particular former criminal is “dangerous”? What if I brutally murder somebody but your system tells you I’m not dangerous anymore and will never do it again – do I go free without punishment?

What about things that are against the law but aren’t necessarily moral character defects? Such as drug use or speeding? How do you “rehabilitate” an occasional speeder or that guy who built a tool shed without the proper license?

Two massive problems with your OP.

  1. You are using the word “justice” incorrectly. Justice is about doing what is just. In simplified terms that means assuring everybody gets what is coming to them. Keeping someone locked up until they are no longer a threat to society is not just in any sense of the word. To use the cliched example, imagine that a man who has been a model citizen all his life murders his unfaithful wife in a fit of passion when he walks in on her and her lover. That man would pose absolutely no threat to society the very second he finished killing his wife. None whatsoever. According to your concept of justice, the police should attend the scene, put the corpse in a body bag and let the man walk free. Can you lease explain to us how that would be just? Which brings us to the next massive flaw in your post

2)False dilemma much? A legal system has to either be about vengeance and mandatory sentencing, or it is about “justice” and rehabilitation. That is, not to put it to finely, bullshit. What about deterrence? What about closure and compensation for victims? What about the protection of society? What about the avoidance of moral hazards? Your entire OP is a massive false dilemma. Every justice system in the real world takes into account all these things and much, much more.

I suspect that, like many young liberals, you are overlooking the role played by deterrence in our society. Contrary to the theories popularised in the 60s and 70s, people really do make decisions about which crimes to commit based on the likely punishment. That breaks down at the upper ends to be sure. Life in jail vs death penalty probably isn’t all that relevant. But at the lower ends its a major factor for most criminals. If you simply punish people until they no longer pose a threat, then you have effectively removed all deterrence from the system. People will not be punished for committing a crime, they will only be punished until they are rehabilitated. As such a person may as well commit a dozen crimes as one, since they will be judged as posing no threat to society at exactly the same time. For example, two men want some beers. One breaks into a liquor store after hours and steals a six pack. The other robs a liquor store at gunpoint and steals the beers and empties the till. According to your concept of justice, they will both serve the same time, since both had the same motivations and hence will both be rehabilitated at the same time. In the real world armed robbery is a much more serious crime for various reasons and deserves a harsher punishment. A large part of the reason for the harsher punishment is deterence. The law wants people to commit burglary to get their beer, rather than armed robbery. But your system actually encourages armed robbery.

Your whole approach to the problem needs to be rethought, with more attention payed to the nuances of the law as it affects actual human beings, rather than hypothetical idealism.

Thanks - spelling is not my strong point.

I don’t thin any time in prison is going to be constructive no. I didn’t mean prison when I said locked up. I mostly meant if someone is dangerous they would need to be treated but kept out of society.

Well I am not a psychologist, but it is the ideal. It obviously going to be perfect as it would be a very new concept.

I am talking about criminal law here not traffic violations. As for drugs that would be another issue as I don’t think they should be criminalized.
Also the shed thing is not criminal.

Actually I know what justice means and I agree it means they get what is just which is obviously too vague. In terms of locking someone up forever that would be if they can not be treated to be safe. What is just for society as a whole is a person who endangers it would be stay locked up.

I would say the man who killed his wife in a fit of anger needs some help as he could become angry again and obviously something is not right - anger management?

I am open to other suggestions but personally I have not seen any convincing evidence that deterrence works. As fr closure and compensation for the victims well it is not available if it is an accident and I don’t feel than harming another is really going to help them - they currently just expect it as that is now what we do.

I already spoke to societal protection.

I am not young.

Show me evidence on deterrence. I am not suggesting we punish people until they change. I don’t think punishment will work at all. I think currently if someone rehabilitates it is because they want to, not because of any punishment. Punishment dehumanizes and makes people bitter in most cases.

You misunderstand me if you think they serve the same the time. They don’t serve time - the system should try to work with them to make them better citizens.

Trust me I have a good understanding of the justice system from multiple points of view.

Fair enough, but they are part of the “Legal system” you spoke of in the OP. And what, then, is the purpose of fines levied in the cases I listed? Is it punishment, deterrence, vengeance? Why is this okay for lesser infractions but not for graver offenses?

I have not really thought about non-criminal offences in this regard.

I really don’t see an alternative in those cases. I don’t think trying to rehabilitate people for parking infractions is viable. It would be hideously expensive.

So your definition of justice doesn’t allow society to extract compensation or deter future acts? All that you require for justice is that the person is kept locked up?

How is that just?

How did you ascertain this? A person who has never had so much as a speeding ticket before, how did you ascertain that “obviously something is not right”? As with all these idealistic schemes, there’s a massive problem with the little detail of who decides these things. What are your grounds for saying that this man poses any risk at all to society?

So you are seriously arguing that if stores could not prosecute people for shoplifting, the rate of shoplifting wouldn’t increase at all? That if anyone could grab any item off the shelf of any store and openly walk out of the store without paying for it with no penalty whatsoever, then the rate of shoplifting would remain exactly as it is now? You are also arguing that if it weren’t illegal to drive an unsafe vehicle, or drive drunk or any other act at all, then the rates of such crimes would not increase?

If you honestly believe this then you are so far detached from reality that I doubt that anybody here will have much to discuss with you when it comes to justice. This idea that there is no deterrence doesn’t work is real Peter Pan stuff.

Once again, how can you believe this? If someone steals my car, and as a result I lose my $80, 000 a year job and spend a year looking for another, you don’t see how I can be helped by taking $80, 000 and the cost of a replacement car off the perpetrator?

If you really don’t see how that is really going to help then once again, I doubt that anybody here will have much to discuss with you when it comes to justice.

No, you spoke to one small aspect of it. Or don’t you believe that an ability to deter crime and an ability to compensate victims of crime protect society?

That is somewhat scary

It’s surprising that someone over the age of 25 needs to see this, but anyway.

So you seriously believe that when anybody at all can walk into any store in the country and walk out with whatever they like with no punishment at all, there would be no increase in theft?

While I have heard such views expressed by young people before, it astounds me that someone could cling to such beliefs after the age of 25. It is just so obviously incorrect in addition to contradicting all the research and all the examples in world history. The very idea that you could remove all punishments for criminal activities and see no increase in criminal activity borders on lunacy.

No, I don’t misunderstand you. You said they would be locked up until they posed no threat. That is serving time. You may not like that, but that is the fact, and serving time is the correct descriptor.

And you still didn’t answer the question. Since both men had the exact same motivations and will be rehabilitated at exactly the same time, why would one be locked up for longer?

Your belief that without any punishments at all for any crimes crime rates would not rise belies that claim.

Your belief that victims of crime would gain nothing from being compensated for the losses caused by crime belies that claim.

Your belief that punishing people for committing crimes does not reduce the arte of commission of crimes belies that.

All those beliefs are just bizarre and they certainly don’t speak of even an intuitive understanding of the justice system.

A lot of modern people pooh pooh the concept of an eye for an eye as being barbaric but they’re really missing the point. The basic idea behind an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth found in the Code of Hammurabi is that the punishment for a crime must be doled out in a manner proportional to the crime committed. While we might not all agree on the particulars (death penalty, drug laws, etc., etc.) I believe almost everyone here would agree that there is no justice if the punishment is excessively harsh or excessively lenient.

Except for smileybastard, who believes that punishment doesn’t do anything, and who believes that people should only ever be prevented from committing more crimes, never punished for committing crimes or forced to provide compensation for the damage their crimes cause.

But it isn’t about finding an alternative. We’re discusssing the very purpose of the justice system. What purpose do fines and jail time serve in the case of minor traffic violations and infractions? Perhaps they create a disincentive of sorts? Can we agree the fines at least serve at as a revenue source for the municipality? Can we apply these concepts to felonies?

Does the justice system need one overarching goal, or will a set of goals suffice? Can we conclude that recouping costs on society and creating disincentives for undesirable behavior are good goals for a system of “justice” to have? Even if that’s not an exhaustive list? I agree, rehabilitation whenever possible should be somewhere on that list. But it is not the sole defining aspect of justice.

Why must the punishment be doled out in proportion to the crime?

The point of “eye for an eye” in Hammurabi’s Code (later adopted into Mosaic Law) was to draw back from the punishment being WORSE than the crime. It was an eye for an eye instead of a life for an eye. It wasn’t amping punishments up, it was pulling them back and saying they should not be disproportionately severe.

Why can’t you answer my questions?

I have already provided the answer to yours, complete with a reference. By making punishment proportional to harm it provides a disincentive to harm. Not real complex.