I figured that since this blog was going to be closer to a summary of some of the points from Resist Not Evil by Clarence Darrow rather than new ideas formed from within my own brain, I might as well plagiarize Megadeth for my title. Working title: the blog where I use meaningless but flowery prose to distract from the fact that this is a wholly unoriginal post.

We typically associate the successful use of the criminal justice system with the implementation of punitive measures used to disincentivize miscreants from following the glamourous and heavily lucrative criminal vocation so many of us are dying to pursue. It’s why many people shrug off prison rape; it is simply considered another variable to ponder over when your friend invites you to toke up in his van. If you didn’t want to be raped, maybe you shouldn’t have inhaled. You were pretty much asking for it.

Perhaps the reason that so many people end up in jail is because this disincentive remains only an abstraction in their minds. Why not have prisoners raped in glass boxes in the middle of the downtown, for all to see? If we want to use punishment as a means for sober second reflection, obscuring it in any fashion is really detrimental to that practice! Perhaps rape isn’t enough of a deterrent, and we ought to waterboard petty drug dealers, or flay them alive, or boil their testicles in hot oil. Quite frankly, if we wish to use punishment as a deterrent, the death penalty ought to be reinstated, brought back in a triumphant renaissance of the medieval period, so we can properly draw and quarter criminals the way that God intended.

We clearly don’t resort to such barbarity any longer. We are far more dignified, and prefer to hide our savagery in humble abashment. We lock people in tiny little boxes, far from the prying eyes of the public who may be quite reasonably repulsed by what they see, because we still prefer to feel self-righteous in our abstractions rather than agape in horror at our reality. The reality is that punitive “justice” has never deterred anyone, even less so the abstractions. People didn’t crowd around the gallows because they were eager students awaiting a lesson from their strict but beneficent schoolmaster. If anything, it was because they reveled in the show and cried out for more. Punitive measures, enforced by a brutal state, doesn’t deter crime; it degrades the value of human life, numbs us to shame, and ultimately dehumanizes us.

Darrow references the medical profession as a somber contrast to the legal one, “If our physicians were no more intelligent than our lawyers, when called to visit a miasmic patient, instead of draining the swamp they would chloroform the patient and expect thus to frighten all others from taking the disease.” When we consider how many illnesses and mental conditions were ignorantly attributed to demons and wild spirits back when we believed that public hangings were good for social order, and then compare how we perceive criminals today as being possessed by equally malignant souls, Darrow’s metaphor is quite apt. This is especially illuminating in regard to the contemporary research that shows striking resemblance between violence and a contagious outbreak. Vilifying the criminal element ignores the social, economic, and environmental conditions that lead to its spread, and is just as dangerously obtuse as a doctor not washing their hands after finishing up in the washroom.

The thing is, to continue my theft from Darrow’s work, “The parent who would teach his child to be kind to animals, not to ruthlessly kill and maim, would not teach this gentleness with a club.” At what point did we decide that abuse was the best option toward rehabilitation? By clinging to this obsolescent relic, we maintain an irredeemable and futile paradigm that fails in every task it sets out to achieve, and succeeds only in destroying the foundations of our moral legitimacy.

Advertisements