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A short email exchange with another BGG'er reminded me of how large this law professor features in defining what I have always felt about crime and punishment. I saw a documentary made about him a few years ago, checked a few of his columns out and then read his recent book about how America no longer actually punishes crime.

The professor is Robert Blecker and the recent book is "The Death Of Punishment".

I am convinced, and have been for years, decades even, that crime and punishment isn't inherently a left/right ideological battle in America. It has been adopted and perverted... twisted and warped into a polarizing issue along political lines when honestly it's only polarizing along lines of what I suppose is morality. Some people, no matter their politics, object to harsh punishment and view it as a violation of the 8th Amendment. Others view actual p-u-n-i-s-h-m-e-n-t as a societal moral obligation and believe that a society that fails to punish does further harm to the victims, some of which were cruelly and horribly raped, tortured and murdered.

The weird thing about Blecker's recent book is how he reveals that the reason we no longer punish is that nobody actually has that job now. How did that happen? The same way many erosive things have happened in America... it's The Rule of Nobody. Which happens to be the title of another book I recommended here in BGG on an entirely different subject. Bureaucratic inertia.

So what Blecker has proven, time and again, usually to no avail, is that America's worst, most horrible criminals live lives of relative luxury and safety. Plenty of exercise, good food, privileges, internet, game consoles, law libraries and access to the very best in public health care. The worse the crime, the better the conditions. Especially if you were sentenced to die.

Read the book, it's worthy.

So to the OP - Red Collar Crime. That's a new phrase, to me anyway. I read it when I was reading an article about a financial adviser embezzling money who apparently was found out and he killed the couple whose money he was stealing. So Red Collar is White Collar that ends up violent. That linked me to a new, relatively speaking, interview with Blecker on the subject of the recent GM ignition switch death scandal. In my personal view I'd see every clearly responsible individual (who worked for GM in a capacity to prevent those deaths) in jail, right now. Not good jail, with TV's and X-Box's and a buffet to eat from, but a jail where they are cut off from pleasures and from the contact and activities that bring pleasure to them.

Same goes for Bernie Madoff and the hundreds or thousands of other criminals who rob and steal and cheat and scandalize and who never, ever, ever, pay any real tangible price except perhaps having a few of their rights suspended for a brief interlude.

This is about 12 minutes. At no point does Blecker say a single thing I disagree with - although in his book and some of his columns I came across things I didn't agree with. I think he is right and I do not believe America or really "the world" will ever stop abusing the common man and woman until there is actual, painful punishment based on the severity of the crime.

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I see it this way. The US justice system has become about the prison industry and filling its beds. In other words, the goal is no longer justice but making money. Therefore the outcomes are warped. Some are punished far too cruelly, some not at all and innocence or guilt is largely beside the point except as legal abstractions divorced of any real meaning.
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This is the sort of Tripp thread I'm delighted to encourage. I've no idea about the issue, and would like to hear polite disagreement (ideally with factual bases, graphs, and links for further information) before coming to even tentative conclusions, but the oresentation is great.
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rinelk wrote:
This is the sort of Tripp thread I'm delighted to encourage. I've no idea about the issue, and would like to hear polite disagreement (ideally with factual bases, graphs, and links for further information) before coming to even tentative conclusions, but the oresentation is great.


I appreciate the GG Kelsey.

This isn't a "graph" subject. It's a subject where people disagree philosophically and you can't do up some stats that make sense there. Blecker talks about how ineffectual data point gathering is on the subject of crime/punishment, especially capital punishment. If you ask someone do they agree that it's the state's obligation to execute a murderer you have done nothing but muddy the water. Because all crime is not like all other crime and all murder is not like all all other murder.

The reason I admire this guy is he's willing to not only say, "Kill this horrible person for the brutal, terrible horrible things they did, the lives they took", but he's also willing to reveal why he says that. And when he discusses it he does it in a manner that clarifies it for me.

I had one friend who was horribly and brutally murdered. It's weird, even though it happened in the 60's, but I still get pangs when I think about watching that guy walk out a door and then finding out two days later the disgustingly brutal and inhuman fashion he was murdered in. It's not like I miss him now, that was a long, long time ago. But the person who killed him lived a long life and that is a burr, a thing, a sour note and a reflection of how wrong it is for an entire culture to just not punish and attain retribution against the brutes who do the worst of crimes.

Can't graph that shit. But it's a good thing to talk about.
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I agree our prison system is fucked. The wealthy buying their way out of trouble is someting that predates the US of A and will be around long after mutant cockroaches rise up in our post nuclear waste to rule the land. I'd like to see it change, but with money well entrenched in the system and only sinking it's fangs deeper into Lady Liberty's neck with every passing decade I begin to believe it'll take a reset button to alter our course. Things will get worse before they get better.

A few things have brought us to where we are now. An entirely unexhaustive list would include things like the fact black folks were locked up predominantly for being black for a long time, and even as recently as.. well, now a days, are more likely to get a harsher jail time for the same crime. It was use of the system to enforce racism in the past, now it is more simply what the system is used to. A double standard so ingrained as to not be deliberate or willful anymore. It's still a problem, and without the honesty and balls to really address it, we just keep it up and pretend it isn't happening.

Another would be the complete and total failure of the War on Drugs. and Three Strikes concepts. The former stocked the jails with small time dealers without achieving much in the way of stemming the tide. The later tied judge's hands in sentencing and treated a very broad set of crimes (All the various things we consider a felony) all equally after a point.

Moshe's right about the for-profit industry making incarceration a higher priority than any sort of social justice, punishment, or rehabilitation. And what do we do if we decide to change the rules? Do we let people out? Do we buy out the for-profit prisons just to shut them down and engage in more efficient punishments?(I think forced labor and public service is a good idea) These are serious and hard issues to tackle and there's not much stomach for it.

Our system is also way out of date in how to deal with the scope of modern crime. 'White Collar' crime when one might embezzle or defraud a small group of people for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars was one thing. The ability to siphon off millions or billions of dollars through modern methods and fully crush the lives of hundreds of people in a fell swoop is a crime on a scale simply not covered in the original intent.

Lastly(on this particular list) is the outright decriminalization of things we used to consider crimes on the white collar end. A whole slew of things from price fixing to embezzlement(or what constitutes it) and others all so that the rich can use shenanigans rather than honest work and economic success to redistribute the wealth upwards.
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I've read the book.

He makes a good argument- there is something deeply compelling to the idea of an 'eye for an eye'. There are reasons that humans still go back to that.

My only problem with that concept of justice is that it depends upon being certain- certain that we got the right criminal, certain that we truly understand why he or she did what they did. And I don't think that our legal system is currently set up to handle that type of justice- lawyers, on either side, aren't motivated to discover the truth, they want to WIN. The idea is that the better argument will come out of the combat of the trial, but we both know that that isn't always the case. Anyone who's been divorced or been on the receiving end of a domestic lawsuit understands that.

But he is right on his point that in prison, its no one's job to punish. It's also no one's job to help inspire to be better. That's most certainly the case. I have several friends who have worked in various positions for the Texas prison system- either as parole officers, to prison guards, or as police officers. And their entire job effort is spent upon 'get in, get out, keep order, spend as little effort on stuff as possible'. This is true, from the lowest guard all the way up to the Governor. Perry doesn't want to spend time on these issues- he just wants to look like he's hard on crime and be able to make good photo-op in Dallas. No one, except for the families of those incarcerated or the victims, gives a shit about those we put into the giant maw that we call the Texas Prison system. Its just a giant concrete block of industrialized apathy.

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Couple things in response mainly to Dar, the mighty hater of all things Tea.

* The book directly addresses any concerns anyone may have about doubt in a capital case. So factually, that really ought not be a concern if our society was to advance (or regress) to a point where there is actual punishment and it actually suits the crime. he specifically proposes a system for those cases where doubt remains or where the crime, though perhaps brutal, doesn't merit retribution in the form of execution.

He offered up that PPS system. Man, forgot the exact title, something about the prisoner being segregated and denied any contact visits, being fed highly nutritional but tasteless nutraloafs, allowed only 2 hours per week of exercise and one shower a week and being made to do the lowest of jobs for no commissary credit.

And why not? Who has been murdered in your family or circle of friends? Who was killed by a repeat offender drunk driver? Who lost their life savings or business to embezzlers or scams and ended up committing suicide? This shit happens daily, many times daily. So what about the dead people? The raped and dead children and the once thriving productive humans reduced to taking their own lives after being devastated by crime?

Why should the criminal enjoy even a single day in prison? A single tasty meal? Why shouldn't this wretch and coward and monster have to lie down night after night in his own stink?

Many would say "Well, harsh punishment makes us no better than the criminal"

Really? Prove it. Harsh punishment for harsh crimes, that's what the professor is suggesting, not some idiotic 3-strike lunacy that, if anything, steps up the level of violence by the 2-striker.

* Secondly, Dar, you're falling into the trap of politicizing this by adding in your own hatred of Rick Perry. Who cares if you do or don't like what he does, that's a fucking distraction. This monstrosity of a criminal justice system we are burdened with wasn't created along partisan lines and won't be solved by political ideology. That's really the thing that's keeping it afloat if you give it some thought.

No beast will ask a little girl or a teen broken down on a lonely road whether she's democrat or republican before he commits his atrocities and then kills them. This isn't about anything liberal or conservative except that those factions are why it stays in place.

It'll happen at the state legislature level, if it happens at all. And then it will be challenged and hopefully the appeals will go to a circuit court that isn't already so politicized that reform will be overturned.

*edit*

Man, I could have just done the Google search while writing the post, but nooooo... I had to "think" about it. Anyway, here's the PPS I was referring to:

PPS = Permanent Punitive Segregation
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DWTripp wrote:
Couple things in response mainly to Dar, the mighty hater of all things Tea.

* The book directly addresses any concerns anyone may have about doubt in a capital case. So factually, that really ought not be a concern if our society was to advance (or regress) to a point where there is actual punishment and it actually suits the crime. he specifically proposes a system for those cases where doubt remains or where the crime, though perhaps brutal, doesn't merit retribution in the form of execution.

He offered up that PPS system. Man, forgot the exact title, something about the prisoner being segregated and denied any contact visits, being fed highly nutritional but tasteless nutraloafs, allowed only 2 hours per week of exercise and one shower a week and being made to do the lowest of jobs for no commissary credit.

And why not? Who has been murdered in your family or circle of friends? Who was killed by a repeat offender drunk driver? Who lost their life savings or business to embezzlers or scams and ended up committing suicide? This shit happens daily, many times daily. So what about the dead people? The raped and dead children and the once thriving productive humans reduced to taking their own lives after being devastated by crime?

Why should the criminal enjoy even a single day in prison? A single tasty meal? Why shouldn't this wretch and coward and monster have to lie down night after night in his own stink?

Many would say "Well, harsh punishment makes us no better than the criminal"

Really? Prove it. Harsh punishment for harsh crimes, that's what the professor is suggesting, not some idiotic 3-strike lunacy that, if anything, steps up the level of violence by the 2-striker.

* Secondly, Dar, you're falling into the trap of politicizing this by adding in your own hatred of Rick Perry. Who cares if you do or don't like what he does, that's a fucking distraction. This monstrosity of a criminal justice system we are burdened with wasn't created along partisan lines and won't be solved by political ideology. That's really the thing that's keeping it afloat if you give it some thought.

No beast will ask a little girl or a teen broken down on a lonely road whether she's democrat or republican before he commits his atrocities and then kills them. This isn't about anything liberal or conservative except that those factions are why it stays in place.

It'll happen at the state legislature level, if it happens at all. And then it will be challenged and hopefully the appeals will go to a circuit court that isn't already so politicized that reform will be overturned.

*edit*

Man, I could have just done the Google search while writing the post, but nooooo... I had to "think" about it. Anyway, here's the PPS I was referring to:

PPS = Permanent Punitive Segregation

When did I mention either of those points in my response?

My problem with his theory of justice is that its predicated upon the idea that the authorities can, in fact, actually know the facts of any given case well enough to be able to justify a 'punishment that fits the crime'.

I think his idea works in an 'ideal world' situation, but I'm less sure about it in the real world, where the truth seldom ever fully comes out. I'm also afraid that it could be easily politicized and turned into a monstrosity of justice as well.

But in theory, I think that everyone likes the idea of a punishment that fits the crime. The difficulty is in making sure that that the person being punished did, in fact, do that crime.

Darilian
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If crime is falling is this not evidence that the system you have in places is doing it's job, reducing crime?

 
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slatersteven wrote:

If crime is falling is this not evidence that the system you have in places is doing it's job, reducing crime?


No.
 
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sfox wrote:
slatersteven wrote:

If crime is falling is this not evidence that the system you have in places is doing it's job, reducing crime?


No.
Well it certainly is not making the situation any worse.
 
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Darilian wrote:
I've read the book.


Prove it.

 
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Darilian wrote:

When did I mention either of those points in my response?


Here:

Quote:
My only problem with that concept of justice is that it depends upon being certain- certain that we got the right criminal


And here:

Quote:
Perry doesn't want to spend time on these issues- he just wants to look like he's hard on crime and be able to make good photo-op in Dallas.


So anyway..

Quote:
My problem with his theory of justice is that its predicated upon the idea that the authorities can, in fact, actually know the facts of any given case well enough to be able to justify a 'punishment that fits the crime'.

I think his idea works in an 'ideal world' situation, but I'm less sure about it in the real world, where the truth seldom ever fully comes out. I'm also afraid that it could be easily politicized and turned into a monstrosity of justice as well.

But in theory, I think that everyone likes the idea of a punishment that fits the crime. The difficulty is in making sure that that the person being punished did, in fact, do that crime.

Darilian


The facts can be known. RSP ought to be proof of that because the Hive Mind here knows for-a-certainty the things it knows. And crimes are pretty easy to collect facts about. Often the criminal just admits it. You read the book, half of it was about Daryl Holton who clearly, concisely, and in great detail confessed to the mass murder of his four children.

Your objection here is pointless in the many cases where the facts are irrefutable. But in the cases where circumstantial evidence is the prosecution case I'd never agree to execution either. because in those cases there is doubt.
 
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slatersteven wrote:
sfox wrote:
slatersteven wrote:

If crime is falling is this not evidence that the system you have in places is doing it's job, reducing crime?


No.
Well it certainly is not making the situation any worse.


Reducing crime is another subject. Blecker is on a mission to get our justice system in America to "punish" criminals appropriately for the crimes they have committed. It's possible that actual retribution against the criminal by a society that feels it's morally responsible to punish might have the effect of deterring crime. I think it will, especially non-capital crimes like the Red Collar variety he addresses in the video.
 
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DWTripp wrote:
slatersteven wrote:
sfox wrote:
slatersteven wrote:

If crime is falling is this not evidence that the system you have in places is doing it's job, reducing crime?


No.
Well it certainly is not making the situation any worse.


Reducing crime is another subject. Blecker is on a mission to get our justice system in America to "punish" criminals appropriately for the crimes they have committed. It's possible that actual retribution against the criminal by a society that feels it's morally responsible to punish might have the effect of deterring crime. I think it will, especially non-capital crimes like the Red Collar variety he addresses in the video.
So deterring crime does not mean reducing it?
 
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I lean more towards rehabilitation over punishment as a goal of the legal system for many crimes based on antisocial behaviors. I haven't read the book, but I always wonder just what value actual punishment has. Is it a deterrent? Is it supposed to make victims feel better? Is meting out suffering to the perp on behalf of the victim actually something society should be doing? Does it actually do anything but damage a perp even more and make them even more difficult to reintegrate into society?

As far as capital crimes, do we have a solid grasp on the mechanics of what causes people to commit capital crimes to say that they should just be put down as opposed to segregated from society? If some brain chemistry breakthrough happened next week that could fix antisocial behaviors, wouldn't it be a travesty for anyone executed tomorrow?

For a country that values freedom so much, we sure don't seem to see restricting it as much of a punishment for all the talk of how good jail is.
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Anyone that thinks jail is a pleasant experience should spend a few days in jail. I spent a night in jail once due to an unpaid speeding ticket and it was very unpleasant. Being stuck there for years is something I just can't even imagine. Anyone that values the ability to control their own life is going to find jail an awful and highly demeaning experience.
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sfox wrote:
Anyone that thinks jail is a pleasant experience should spend a few days in jail. I spent a night in jail once due to an unpaid speeding ticket and it was very unpleasant. Being stuck there for years is something I just can't even imagine. Anyone that values the ability to control their own life is going to find jail an awful and highly demeaning experience.

That is true but only if what you face on the outside is better than prison. When you have no food, no place to sleep and face violence and abuse,...
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sfox wrote:
Anyone that thinks jail is a pleasant experience should spend a few days in jail. I spent a night in jail once due to an unpaid speeding ticket and it was very unpleasant. Being stuck there for years is something I just can't even imagine. Anyone that values the ability to control their own life is going to find jail an awful and highly demeaning experience.


That's the local county lock-up, not prison. Blecker has thoroughly documented (with video in some instances) the relatively pleasant experience death row inmates have as opposed to those in a normal super-max environment. County jails, especially large urban ones, are frightening and extremely dangerous. And Blecker addresses this as well in his book by contrasting the worst of the worst receiving better care and safer environments that many people have outside while people who really ought not even be in jail are routinely subjected to terrible conditions and extreme danger.

I spent the night in the Dallas City Jail when I was 17 for the same offense and it was scary. I also spent 5 hours in the LA County lock-up for (as it turned out) a violation that wasn't mine) and the cop who arrested me was so concerned for my safety that he actually had the jailers keep me out of the general population while he went off duty and then came back and took custody of me personally until the bail money arrived. The fact that he was worried that much scared the hell out of me.

Do a little research on the federal system that houses people like Bernie Madoff, he ought to be breaking rocks as far as I'm concerned, until he is physically incapable of it. But he lives very comfortably and is afforded many freedoms, exercise opportunities, and other benefits that just defy decency and morality when you consider how many people's lives he destroyed.
 
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It seems to me that a big problem here is that imprisoning people really isn't a move in the direction of justice. Crimes are committed against people, but by imprisoning someone you send the message that crime is mostly committed against society- and you impose costs on everyone, including the criminal's victim, to care for the criminal during their prison term.

Obviously crime does have costs to society (here I'll add the caveat that I think the concept of "society" as is usually assumed needs some critiques, but that's another discussion), but I feel like in many cases we've lost sight of the fact that the primary people harmed by crime are the victims.

Thus, to my mind, justice should focus primarily on restoring the victim in cases where that is possible- at the expense of the criminal, of course. In cases where the thing taken is intangible (for instance, rape), it still seems to me that compensation of the victim at the criminal's expense is still a preferable solution. And for murder, the death penalty, of course.

The other thing that has to happen is we have to have a justice system which encourages the finding of the truth over all else. Until we do that, we'll continue to have lawyers more interested in winning and racial bias in sentencing and conviction. I know of no way to do that without a society made up of just and moral people. National mortality cannot be separated from national justice. Justice in our courts starts with justice in our daily lives, and where possible, the system should be designed so as to minimize the damage unjust and immoral people can cause, no matter which side of the bench they're on.
 
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Darilian wrote:
My problem with his theory of justice is that its predicated upon the idea that the authorities can, in fact, actually know the facts of any given case well enough to be able to justify a 'punishment that fits the crime'.


Isn't this really an argument that we can't know the past well enough to ever make moral judgements about it?
 
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Good news! I've spoken with several politicians, they've understood our concerns, and are responding by adding 3 more years on to the minimum charge for simple possession of controlled substances, and introducing Two Strikes legislation. Mission accomplished.
 
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Escapade wrote:
Good news! I've spoken with several politicians, they've understood our concerns, and are responding by adding 3 more years on to the minimum charge for simple possession of controlled substances, and introducing Two Strikes legislation. Mission accomplished.
, it's the only way to have a 100% success rate.
 
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