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Life Or Death?

Mon Jan 28, 2002 1:42 pm

Don't worry, fellow intellectuals, this isn't an attack on anything as big as the topic makes it sound like - instead, it's this question:

In terms of simple ethics or basic humane treatment, which is better/worse - Life in Prison, or Death?

I'll be completely honest with you, I think that Life in Prison is by far the crueler of the two punishments. I submit, therefor, the "Futility of Life-in-Prison Clause". It is heavily worded as part of a "if you could change the constitution" project in school, so negotiate that and then tell me what you think:

The indefinite keeping of human beings in sterile environments being wholly unnatural, unproductive, and not proven to behoove them in their manner or keeping as evidenced by repetitions of crimes either general or in specific for which they were originally contained, and a tax upon the welfare of the general populace rather than a benefit to them as intended by said containment; a punishment-cum-ignorance wherein no active method of deterrent is inflicted upon those whose crimes are judged by a court to be worthy of penalization in form of justice –
The keeping of man in a fashion not detrimental to his immediate well-being or advantageous to his general lifestyle wherein he may wither vainly away, such that no productive or gainful make of his life may be of his choice brought about being generally acceptable as being considerably greater in cruelty than the termination of his life –
The reduction of a being capable of aspiration and attainment of wholly worthwhile dreams despite evidence to the contrary, to a state of neutrality wherein control of said being’s own destiny is from him removed being nefariously vile and incriminating of those allegedly endeavoring to enact justice and absolutely inhumane –
– no human being shall by any other(s) be, as retribution for infringements against the rights or liberties of his fellow man committed, within a prison kept or otherwise confined for a period of years greater than one decade in length; but rather wherein such punishments might be enacted, kept and considered for said decade, whereupon completion thereof, executed painlessly lest said human shall request a continued duration within quarters such, and then granted said continuation of endurance only upon majority vote of those whose funds shall support him.


If the point is to punish, it does no good because punishments are meant to convince people not to do bad things, to change them, and this does not do that. Even if it did, if they spend their entire life in prison, then what good do those changes do? So, instead of having them spend more than a decade or some other reasonably-timed period of time uselessly withering away in jail, give them that short primary detention and see if their behavior has improved. If so, let 'em go. If not, execute them painlessly as that is the only humane thing to do.

And to put it yet another way, don't you think that it is truly cruel to let people grow old completely vainly like that (and we pay for it, too!). Seriously, the typical "prison" image is of some hulking 25-year old 250-pounds-of-muscle rapist/murderer dude, but those guys grow old and if it's "life in prison" become fragile, stale old characters who sooner or later die. What's the point?!
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RE: Life Or Death?

Tue Jan 29, 2002 8:36 am

>>give them that short primary detention and see if their behavior has improved. If so, let 'em go.

You're joking, right? People that are in jail for life are serving time for MURDER not petty burglary. They should rot in jail. They deserve to pay the consequences which, by some, are not harsh enough. The least the law system could do is make the inmates suffer at least HALF as much as the victims family did (aka life in prison).

As for capital punishment...it's never straight to the chair, so to speak. They spend time in awful facilities for YEARS before they are eventually put to death.

Personally, I would probably rather die...I guess.

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RE: Life Or Death?

Tue Jan 29, 2002 1:12 pm

A purely philisophical question until one has been in that position. I used to say that I would prefer death over being in a cage for 60 years. Now I'm not so sure. As the deadman gets closer, I tend to think that the one last glimpse of love, the last sight of joy, the last smile might just be more important than I used to think.

Anyway, certain life forms, in my opinion, should be locked in cages with the doors welded shut. Charles Manson comes quickly to mind.
The day you stop learning is the day you should die.
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RE: Life Or Death?

Tue Jan 29, 2002 1:57 pm

American, no I'm not joking. Your point is mine - you make it sound like it's all for revenge. The "imagine how you'd feel" argument doesn't work in government systems like that. It has to be unbiased, dictatorial, and unquestioned. It needs to be firm and solid (and stolid). Alright, so we shouldn't let them go. But nothing deserves pain. It's wrong to hurt someone no matter how they've hurt you. Need I state the cliche (two wrongs don't make a right)... so the argument is moot. It's not about what they did, it's about what we're doing to them, which I think is cruel.

And Piedmont, nothing deserves to be locked in cages like that. Kill them if they're in your way, take them out of this world, but it is just wrong to keep them like that.

And as for that last smile or glimpse of, what was it you said, love?! Just where would that last glimpse come from in a jail cell?

RE: Life Or Death?

Tue Jan 29, 2002 4:29 pm

Nothing deserves pain.

I guess the relevant intuition is this: love is good and hatred bad, or that helping is good and harming bad.

This intuition can lead to no action until it is limited in some way or another. You can't do SIMPLY good to SIMPLY man; you must do THIS or THAT good to THIS or THAT man. And if you do THIS good, you can't at the same time do THAT ; and if you do it to THESE men, you can't also do it to THOSE. Hence from the outset this intuition of beneficience involves not doing SOME good to SOME men. For example, We help someone we promised rather than another, a benefactor rather than one who has no special claims on us, or a compatriot more than a stranger, or a kinsman rather than a mere compatriot. And this fact, most often means helping A at the expense of B, who drowns while you pull A on board. And sooner or later, it involves hepling A while doing some degree of violence to B. But when B is up to mischief against A, you must either do nothing (which disobeys the intuition) or you must help one against the other. And certainly no one's conscience tells him to help B, the guilty. It remains therefore, to help A.

The lesser violence done to B is always preferable to the greater, provided that it is equally efficient in restraining him and equally good for everyone concerned, including B, whose claim is inferior to all other claims but not nonexistent. This does not mean that to kill B is always wrong. Sometimes death may be the only efficient method of restraint. The communal effect of this is not only valuable as a deterrant through fear, but also as an expression of the moral importance of certain crimes.

Read that, it's paraphrased from C.S. Lewis, I think it is a pretty good explanation. But like he says later, this doesn't mean that capital punishment is certainly right, it just means that it is certainly not wrong. It is a matter on which good men can legitimately disagree.

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