Wednesday, August 23, 2006

One law for high school football players, another for the rest of us.

This is horrifying. Apparently, a few high school football players nearly killed someone with a stupid practical joke. One would expect a severe sentence in order to teach them a lesson, correct? One would be wrong: sixty days in juvie, to be served after the football season is over, and then write an essay. Seriously.


Anonymous said...

Do you think they don't feel guilty about what happened? At what point does sentencing no longer "teach people a lesson" and become counterproductive?

Do you really think murderers learn their lesson after serving 30 years rather than 10?

ADHR said...

I'm not sure why whether or not they feel bad is relevant. Sentencing isn't solely about teaching a lesson; it's also a mechanism for rewarding behaviour. In a nutshell, if you do bad things, bad things will happen to you. I'm not unsympathetic to the consequentialist-style concerns, but desert considerations also have to factor in. And, clearly, nearly killing someone deserves more than 60 days in juvie, after the football season, plus writing an essay.

Keeping murderers in jail for 30 years could be justified on desert grounds, as well as rehabilitative grounds (e.g., it may just take that long to correct whatever messed them up in the first place). There's also preventative considerations: 30 years in jail is 30 years in which the murderer won't have the opportunity to kill again.

Punishment is a philosophically complex issue. H. A. Bedau is one of the recent figures I know of who wrote quite a bit on trying to justify punishment; Joel Feinberg is another.

Anonymous said...

Simply that the guilt may be some of the punishment, exacted without having to resort to throwing them in prison. (My cynical view on human nature tells me they prolly didn't feel that guilty.)

But certainly they should have received more punishment than that, and during football season. Heh.

ADHR said...

I'm not sure that shame is really part of punishment. It looks more like a moral concept than a political or legal one.