Morning Links

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Digg it |  reddit | |  Fark

52 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  albatross | 

    Les #31:

    We want two things here: deterrence and quarantine. Floggings and executions do deterrence pretty well, but they end quickly, which means they don’t do quarantine–the criminals go back onto the streets, and if the deterrence doesn’t work as intended, they’re liable to do more harm.

    For low-level violent crime, quarantine works pretty well, because that’s overwhelmingly a young man’s game–mugging people is a rotten way to make a living at 18, but it’s an amazingly bad way to make a living at 50.

    The problem with locking people up is that its expensive. It costs the state a lot of money, and it also costs the convict years of his life which he can never get back. The advantage of using flogging, or some less damaging form of torture as a deterrent is that the expense drops, but that’s also a problem–it means you can impose the punishment even more widely–you have to be a very rich society to lock up as many people as we do, but plenty of societies can afford to flog or brand 1% of their population per year.

  2. #2 |  albatross | 

    I suspect the ideal system would mix deterrence and quarantine differently for different crimes. For embezzling or premeditated financially-motivated murder (knocking off your rich uncle), you want deterrence. In the case of embezzling, you’ll probably never have another chance at doing it (who’s going to give you a job as a bookkeeper after your embezzling conviction?), but we want to convince most people to keep their hands out of the till for fear of the consequences.

    For career criminals that don’t seem to be deterred by normal punishments, you need quarantine. We surely lock way too many people up, but some folks will keep robbing, raping, and killing their neighbors as long as they’re not locked up, and those folks need to stay locked up forever. Others who are terrors at 18 will not be such terrors at 38, though it may be hard to decide whom to release and whom to keep locked up.

    The hardest case is for something like hot-blooded murder–the classic version is where the guy murders his wife and her boyfriend the day he comes home from work a couple hours early. You really want to deter that, but once it’s done, quarantine is probably not all that important–it’s not all that likely the murderer is going to find himself in that situation twice in one lifetime, after all.