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4/23/13 questions and discussion

From: Jon A.
Sent on: Thursday, April 25, 2013 7:57 AM
4/23/13/ questions and discussion

1-[Jon, your darling typist, got there late this night and missed the other questions. Andrew may still have his notes so contact him should anyone wish to read 'em]


death penalty?

Meg: is the death penalty just, given what the families of victims want, is it just for the families of the perpetrators? It even costs more to keep inmates on death row, how humane is it?

Andrew: would it be more just to kill those convicted immediately?

Meg: not if we really want justice.

Jon: is it Illinois where they recently ceased death penalties due to DNA evidence exonerating people on death row?

Meg: our justice system is some kind of cluster%^(#!

Andrew: what about the revenge aspect?

Meg: ought it really be up to the victim's survivors? 

Jeremiah: would it be sufficient to wipe the memories of a death row inmate? Or do we want them dead, gone both in body and mind?

Jim [to Meg]: how would you define justice with the death penalty and justice without the death penalty?

Meg: for the death penalty: horrendous level of harm, and obvious guilt. For crimes of passion or mentally ill criminals the death penalty would not be just.

David: but aren't crimes passion really crimes of of control -- loss of control?

Meg: I'm thinking planned crime is more serious vs. "in the moment" crime.

Steve: is the death penalty a deterrent?

Meg: I don't think so, and there seems to be good data that agrees with me.
Dick: the way we do it actually makes it more expensive than imprisonment.

Meg: if we did it more cheaply -- without all the opportunities for the convicted to be exonerated -- it would be less ethical, less just.

Jeremiah: what if we could erase memories? A couple years ago the TV show "Babylon Five" they used "death of personality" for serious crimes. Once a convict's memories/personality­ had been erased they were re-introduced to free society. The logic behind this is that the crime is caused by nurture, not nature, and once bad nurture is erased a person won't re-commit crimes. Further, killing is gain-less for society, a memory erased leaves us with a person able to make a positive contribution to society. One problem is that eventually those of us who remember crimes/criminals may well do bad things to the perpetrators in revenge.

Steve: what about punishment? Where's the punishment in that solution?

Jon: it's better to have a potentially useful citizen that an inmate/dead criminal.

Jeremiah: most of our arrests now are drug related anyway. Violent crime has been dropping dramatically. Modern news uses violence as a marketing tool, thereby encouraging (successfully) us to think crime is high and violent.

Meg: there's merit in seeing justice served but from my life's experiences I'm seeing more merit in forgiveness.

Andrew: should the Boston Bomber be put to death?

Meg: I suppose. 

David: we tend to see this penalty via our own sense of empathy but it's over non-empathetic criminals. I oppose the death penalty only because I think the death should be painful and presently it's painless. Our judicial system seems to prefer to keep them alive for the for-profit incarceration businesses. It's big business.

Jeremiah: I took a course on the mechanics of obsessions, addictions etc. Psychopaths are of a brain type that is constantly in search of stimulation. It's fundamental, "lizard brain" behavior. This is one of our evolved processes for learning. For Psychopaths it's so much more intense (they would be likely to do things like base jumping, or working on oil rigs, the "Top Gun" personalities). I argue that death isn't useful because the penalty doesn't address its causes.

David: the best punishment is to keep them alive. That would be more torture than dying.

Andrew: I come from the UK where there's no death penalty. I have never seen how it can be justified in the face of potential mistakes (DNA, for example). We're only talking about it for murder. I'm not sure that's right. Ironically, it's a tough combination being pro-life and pro death penalty, or pro choice (death) and anti death penalty. Fearing a tyrannical government is better placed [jeez I wish I'd gotten this idea typed! Sorry Andrew.]

Dick: doesn't our using a death penalty make us kind of psychopathic as a culture? It's because of a group of 12 jurors that death penalties are given. If those 12 persons were to witness a court's proceedings they wouldn't be as negative. I think they'd be less likely to choose death.

Meg: I think they'd be more lenient too.

Jim: presume we have a time machine that we could use for determining guilt, allowing us to witness the particular act, would we still be lenient?

Steve: we could also use it to see the lives defendants had lived up to that moment of crime. Might that make us more lenient?

Andrew: why is it assumed that not wanting to kill criminals means we have some kind of sympathy for their crime?

Jon: is this jury behavior a kind of "groupthink?"

Dick: it happens. All groups have individuals who want to take charge of the group. I was in a jury once where we used the group's pressure to change the vote of one hard-ass juror who wanted to convict an innocent man because he didn't like the guy's long hair!

Jolene: I serve recently on a jury and my experience was similar. I was the one who wanted to spend more time on the evidence and the group pressured me to speed up the process.

Dick: the death penalty should never be assigned for lack of access to a suspects' lives.

Eric: what if instead of just killing we just harvest their brains, making them an organ "contributor?"

Marla: I thought the death penalty was a separate process from a trial and a jury's decision?

Jeremiah: back to the biology. Looking at Norway, the approach to criminality there is built around rehabilitation. Their jails look a bit like resorts -- uncomfortable resorts. The problem with justice in the US is we effectively want to take criminals down for what they did -- take revenge. Also, the FBI has gotten into some trouble for convincing potential criminals to commit crimes they might not commit ("Agents Provocateurs") making the FBI guilty of aiding amd abetting. It's more likely that nurture is more causative than is any biological imperative. If it was a biological imperative we would have the children of fathers who kill would creating children who kill.

Jim: belief systems kill too.

Jon: belief systems are nurture, not nature.

Vivian: there are people born without conscience. Removing their memories would not change someone's lack of conscience.

Jeremiah: at this point we aren't able to erase memory anyway!

Meg: in that memory erasing circumstance, some people that may decide to commit crimes just to get their memories wiped.

Jeremiah: killing personality effectively kills a person.

Ken: if we could know someone is pre-disposed to violence, we might pre-empt the kind of nurture that would enable violent behavior from them.

Jeremiah: societies are different, it depends on where one goes. Genetics may permit/encourage this as well. If the drive is psychopathology and it can be weeded out then it's still the nurture.

David: the day will come when we can do that.

Ken: we now have people who already think they can do that.

Steve: [referring to data he's just found on the internet] there are currently 57 countries that use the death penalty (places like N. Korea). 22 of those actually killed someone last year. 2 are modern industrialized nations (the US and Japan). 

Marla: we killed 76 people last year.

John: I don't oppose the death penalty, but as a practical matter it's too expensive to implement. The number of false guilty decisions requires us to lengthen it, make it more expensive. 

Andrew: re: Steve's list: being on the same list those countries that permit the death penalty is not good for our image.

John: as to David's argument for torture, there might be a legitimate debate for sensory deprivation. Standards evolve. A society doesn't have unlimited resources, wiping out someone's memory would be quite expensive. Rehab is expensive, too.

Ken: no death penalty is just. Brain science is trying to understand the workings of our brains and can only say with conviction now that it's so hard to understand why we do what we do. Labeling doesn't help. The drugs given to the ill can cause more harm than good. It's easy ignore or minimize the importance of addressing the inadequacies of prevention.

Andrew: can you foresee a situation where we put anyone to death?

Ken: no.

Jim: my favorite saying is one needs to be a Harvard PHD to say something really silly. It's absurd to say that punishment doesn't deter crime. We in the US do have a disconnect between crime and punishment -- it's not made abundantly clear how committing crime can result in certain punishment. When I look at some crimes I say, yes, that's worthy of a death penalty.

Steve: what if he's mentally ill?

Jim: no difference. 

Andrew: what about the chance that innocent people could be put to death?

Jim; to me I see no difference. Killing innocents should be avoided at all cost but that potentiality must be tolerated.

Andrew: if you were in an Illinois jury 10 years ago you might have put an innocent person to death. Would that change your opinion?

Jim: no

Jon: that's an acceptable unintended consequence?

Jim; yes. It's sad, terrible, but I'd live with it.

John: what if we discovered that knowledge of deaths of those 142 falsely accused did deter crime? Would killing the innocent then become more acceptable?

Andrew: this is a violent society. Other countries are more peaceful and have the same number of guns. Why the difference?

Jolene: aside from the mental issues, for those who commit murder/suicide I feel dissatisfied because due to their suicide we will not get even a chance of speaking with them in hopes of learning why.

[Time once more for the Typist's Revenge! America's incarceration system has long been criticized for several easy to see reasons, yet no real reform ever occurs. The death penalty is one of those weak spots: it has no demonstrable effect on deterrence (one need not have a Harvard PHD to understand the consistent data supporting that assertion). Could our legal system in general be interested not so much in reducing crime as in maintaining labels? Labels were used to great success by Richard Nixon's campaign staff (what they termed the "Southern Strategy"). That labeling took advantage of how southern whites had labeled southern blacks (specifically as less than them). Perhaps the death penalty is a bright reminder of who -- which groups -- among us deserves death. As Sean Penn's character said in the movie "Dead Man Walking" (about a nun who works with inmates on Death Row), "there ain't no rich men on death row."

Convicted felon's lives are almost impossible to make successful. Could it be that miserable lives imposed on specific groups of people for having committed crimes is a way of maintaining an arbitrary structure? Done for the sake of some abstract idea about "the way things are"?]

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