Monday, September 28, 2009

I once knew a man

A lifer woke us all up in the early hours by hammering dementedly on
his cell door. The next morning we found out why.
He had suffered a bleed in his brain as he slept, and woke up not
knowing who he was or how he came to be locked in a concrete box. As a
personal nightmare, I can't think of many that could be worse. It
raises the question- what are the ethics of continuing to punish a man
for crimes he can no longer remember?


  1. That's an interesting question which I'm sure has a complex answer.

    When does punishing a person with the goal of changing their behaviour for the better turn into serving your own desire for revenge?

    I remember being utterly outraged when Augusto Pinochet was being sheltered by our government and living in comfort THEN allowed back to Chile on 'compassionate grounds' due to ill health, only to suddenly get a spring in his step when he arrived back in his home country.

    When I looked at him all I could think about were the excerpts of the 'Torture Dossier' I'd read as a member of Amnesty International. I will be perfectly honest with you, I wanted to severely harm old man and show him no mercy whatsoever. But that was my illogical 'animal' self talking and I know that would not serve any purpose other that to make me feel better.

    My attitude to Ronnie Biggs and Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi's releases was totally different. They had done their time (though I'll always maintain that al-Megrahi was a scapegoat) and now is a time for humanity. The difference? I grew up and realised life wasn't as 'cut and dried' as it is when you're in your late teens and early twenties.

    If we forget how to get past our thirst for revenge and recognise when the time for humanity has arrived I think society is (pardon my french) utterly screwed and we'll just continue to treat each other with the total selfishness and an utter lack of compassion that already lands too many of our fellow human beings behind bars.

    I think Ghandi was spot on when he said 'You must be the change you want to see in the world'.

  2. I suppose this principle is the same - would we hold a dementia sufferer responsible? No. But that must be a horrible situation.

  3. Reminds me of the film 'Old boy'

  4. hi
    i amnot sure if Ben ever even sees the comments on his blog
    but this story so moved me i wrote a fictionalised account of it on my blog
    i have linked Ben's blog to the story
    let's hope more people read him