Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eye for an eye?

What should be the penalty for murder? Bear in mind this applies to me, please!


  1. Commonly restitution is accepted by the victim as a fitting penalty for an offence. In the case of murder this is not fully possible. The best a killer can do is to try to assist a healing process in whatever way he can.

    Then there is repentance. In my belief, a truly repentant offender is returned to innocence.

  2. I think it is very difficult to give firm, universal answers to that question. Especially since we have only category of murder and you can get locked up for longer on a manslaughter rap than some do for murder.

    What we need to avoid is overly prescriptive sentencing thus removing the ability of judges to ensure the punishment fits the actual crime, not some ideal of the crime.

    Also remembering that you can appeal a sentence separately from the verdict which introduces checks on overly campaigning judges.

  3. I stand by the motto 'An Eye for an Eye and We All Go Blind'.

    If a society is saying that the taking of a human life is wrong and has to be punished, then surely it always wrong and to say anything else is hypocrisy.

    There are so many reason's a person ends another life, from a heat of the moment action that leads to an unintentional death to the assisted suicide of a chronically sick person, which IMHO is not wrong.

    If someone has killed because they are suffering from a dangerous mental illness and can never be released then they should be asked to take part in ethical research into their condition to try and avert similar tragedies in the future.

    But what really scares me is the number of people who have been released recently because new scientific evidence proved they did not commit murder (particularly women who have been convicted of killing their children). You can't release a corpse. Humans make mistakes, and where there is even the slightest chance of error in a conviction, the price of an innocent human life is far too high to pay IMHO.

  4. The punishment should be as varied as the crime. Murder is not a single crime - it occurs in wildly varying circumstances, with wildly varying states of mind and motives.

    The only thing I would rule out is death, for a reason Tolkein expressed best. There are people that live who deserve to die; there are also, however, people who die who deserve to live. Just another way of saying life is unfair, and killing someone is not going to make it fair.

  5. Depends doesn't it? On many things. One of which is probably what you are trying to achieve with the penalty. Punishing the perpetrator? Providng revenge for the victim? Public safety? Rehabilitation for the offender? Deterrent? All of the above apply to certain degrees depending on the crime and the individual concerned. When setting the penalty, I say start with the crime.

    I'll give you one example Ben: the crime of murder by a weapon designed for murder. For that, you must set the penalty as a deterrent as these crimes must (presumably) require a degree of pre-meditation. Then, the individual can be considered in mitigating or increasing the penalty. Finally, over time, the penalty can be adjusted.

    Of course, this might all be pie in the sky. To me it seems logical, but maybe it is impossible (or too expensive) to implement.

  6. What an impossible question.

    Ideally, I believe there shouldn't be punishment for any crime. I believe that if someone is committing crimes something has gone wrong with societies care of them and/or with their mind. We should fix that and then return them to a productive life. If they can't be rehabilitated then protective custody in a secure residence is necessary, but it should be comfortable.

    Obviously, that insanely lefty liberal approach isn't going to take off any time soon.

    In the meantime I would stick with what we have with some adjustments. I agree wholeheartedly with Ben's call for better attempts at rehabilitation and training and there should be a firm release date given at sentencing. It could be rolled back for the most extreme bad behaviour but should NEVER be left undecided. Not giving a release date is such a cruel practice.

    We should care for victims but not at any cost. The net result of current revenge based policies is more crime and ultimately more victims.

    It may sound as though my ideas are very prisoner centric, but actually they are not. They are society centric and aimed and reducing the numbers of future victims. I think we need some sort of public education to get across the message that acting on revenge just cuts of or own noses to spite our faces. Until we can get some sort of public understanding of that prison reform cannot happen.

    By the way, in Japan (where I currently live) they still have an enthusiastically applied death penalty. Prisoners live in a bare room with a bed and a chair, when they are not in bed they must sit motionless on the chair. They are not given an execution date or any warning - one day, usually after many years, a man comes and takes them away. This doesn't add anything to the debate except to say we have at least a better system than that.

  7. Hi

    I think we have a better system too than other countries, but it is well known that England just loves putting people in prison for minor issues.

    But if it was murder, I sit on the fence because;

    If you killed my child, husband, or my mother. I'd want you dead. I'd want you to have a terrible death.

    On the other hand if it was my child, my husband, or any others of my family that had killed someone I wouldn't want them to get the death penalty.

  8. Hi Ben,

    A bit off topic but since others have mentioned the death penalty I just wanted to point out Dostoyevsky's take on it:
    Although i'm sure you will have read it before!

  9. "An eye for an eye" is from the Old Testament, and as a rule for dispensing justice was pretty much superseded by Jesus' teaching on compassion, mercy and forgiveness, and Paul's later letters about how to settle disputes. To quote "an eye for an eye" in a predominantly Christian society such as Western Europe or the US is as out of context as promoting genocide based on the story of the flood.

    That all said, Giana's comment that all taking of life is hypocritical is overly simplistic - the state always has powers that individuals don't have, from detention and confiscation right up to declerations of war.

  10. The response should be remedial. Punishment? Overrated and often counter-productive. Deterrence? The only deterrence is the certainty that you won't get away with it. But how do you weigh remorse? How do you gauge repentance? How do you heal the hurt? Huge problem, Ben. Possibly bottomless. Possibly you regard yourself as your angriest and most effective punisher?

  11. I'm tempted to say "Lock 'em up and throw away the key" :-)

  12. You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

    But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

    If we still suposedly live in a christian society and not a fully secular one then surely we should do the above as acording to the bible? Can any one object other than from selfish motives?

    Christian Sam

  13. Of course, if its redepmtion you are talking about then how can we know if anyone is ever truly sorry? it is far easier to say sorry than to say 'I Forgive You'

  14. Andy S I agree with you, it is overly simplistic - as are 'right and wrong'.

    I don't believe in 'right and wrong' personally because a given act isn't always wrong depending on the circumstances and context in which they take place. If however you are going to buy into notions of 'right and wrong' then you should be consistent about it. And there's the rub - you can't. They are noble notions that we do well to aspire to, but they are artifical and unworkable all the time in real life.

    For example, if someone is trying to harm a person I love, I WILL kill them and as I have said before I support assisted suicide (it's never wrong to end the suffering of a living being), if you are hungry and peniless, then you should steal food. If telling the truth will cause more harm than good to a person, I see no problem with lying. If however you needlessly lie, steal or kill then we have a problem.

    As for deterrent? When someone is in the heat of the moment, they don't think 'Oh, I better not do X because I once saw someone get punished for it'. If something is going to happen, it will happen.

  15. i do think you should be able to fight in a Colosseum, voluntarily, against tigers and stuff.

    I think all inmates should. Infact anyone should - and anyone could become a hero.


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