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Is lifelong imprisonment inhumane?

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GTASAddict
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#1

Posted 19 May 2013 - 02:53 PM Edited by GTASAddict, 19 May 2013 - 02:57 PM.

People frequently debate the ethics of capital punishment, though I never see anyone debate the ethics of lifelong imprisonment. That really baffles me.

While it may come as a surprise to many people, there are some countries that have not only abolished capital punishment, but have also abolished lifelong imprisonment as well. Below are some examples with the "harshest" penalty imposable in parenthesis:

Norway (21 years), Ecuador (25 years), Portugal (25 years), Uruguay (30 years), Honduras (40 years), Dominican Republic (30 years), Brazil (30 years).

Some cases to put these examples into context:

-Anders Breivik was convicted of 77 murders and is currently serving a 21 year sentence in Norway.

-Pedro Alonso Lopez was convicted of 57 murders (though he confessed to more than 300) and served 16 years in Ecuador (instead of the 25) for "good" behavior.

-Daniel Barbosa was convicted of 150 murders in Ecuador; however, he was killed in prison (by the cousin of one of his victims) before serving his sentence.

-Pedro Rodrigues Filho was convicted of 71 murders (though he confessed to more than 100) and is currently serving a 30 year sentence in Brazil.

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#2

Posted 19 May 2013 - 03:56 PM

QUOTE (GTASAddict @ Sunday, May 19 2013, 14:53)
People frequently debate the ethics of capital punishment, though I never see anyone debate the ethics of lifelong imprisonment. That really baffles me.

While it may come as a surprise to many people, there are some countries that have not only abolished capital punishment, but have also abolished lifelong imprisonment as well. Below are some examples with the "harshest" penalty imposable in parenthesis:

Norway (21 years), Ecuador (25 years), Portugal (25 years), Uruguay (30 years), Honduras (40 years), Dominican Republic (30 years), Brazil (30 years).

Some cases to put these examples into context:

-Anders Breivik was convicted of 77 murders and is currently serving a 21 year sentence in Norway.

-Pedro Alonso Lopez was convicted of 57 murders (though he confessed to more than 300) and served 16 years in Ecuador (instead of the 25) for "good" behavior.

-Daniel Barbosa was convicted of 150 murders in Ecuador; however, he was killed in prison (by the cousin of one of his victims) before serving his sentence.

-Pedro Rodrigues Filho was convicted of 71 murders (though he confessed to more than 100) and is currently serving a 30 year sentence in Brazil.

They're not going to ever let Anders Breivik out. They're just going to keep renewing his 21 year sentences until he dies.

As for lifetime imprisonment, I think it should only happen to those who are way too dangerous to be let back in to society. In general I think prison sentences are dramatically harsh, and 90% of prisoners shouldn't have been put in jail in the first place, both because I believe forcibly detaining people should only be for the worst crimes and because sending people to jail makes the crime problem worse in the long run as it perpetuates criminality and violence.

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#3

Posted 19 May 2013 - 04:49 PM

I agree with the above. There are some cases- albeit quite rare cases- when people have demonstrated that they would be a danger to others in society regardless of any other factor. I don't support the idea of mandatory life sentences for particular crimes, because I feel it should be assessed based at least partially on the risk an individual poses to wider society. Someone who conducts a bombing campaign targeting a particular demographic, for instance, for a religious or political motivation, probably will continue to pose a risk to society regardless of the length of his prison sentence. The same is true of certain sexual predators. I do however draw a distinction between people who pose a danger to society because of a mental illness, psychological condition or other factor, and those who pose a danger to society through a wilful decision to act aggressively towards it. The former deserves medical and psychological care that may be permanent through practical requirements; the latter has the potential to show themselves to be open to change and societal acceptance and in my view should only be freed once they have achieved this.

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#4

Posted 08 July 2013 - 12:40 PM

I feel that any imprisonment in general is inhumane. Though I can understand it being reasonable up to 20 years. Anything more does seem pretty much wrong.

Though it always and only depends on the crime. Physical harm/abuse and murder should only have that possibility.


The main problem is that because of how humans have expanded and grown in numbers dramatically, you can no longer just banish someone or kick them out of your city. Every piece of land is owned by someone. If it were practical and possible (which it is not) it would really just be better to drop these people off on some island furthest away from anyone else. But this won't ever happen. So prisons facilitate that need.

Though the concept of a prison in general is pretty inhumane. Sure some people need to be contained, but having larger more open facilities that people can actually live in a non confined enviroment would be ideal but I just don't think government's are going to build bigger prisons. They are more likely going to save space and squeeze it as tight as they can, just like anything.

I have the biggest problem is with jailing people for non violent crimes, ones with no direct impact on anyone else. So the sentence needs to be extreme to deter these crimes, which I think is wrong among all else.
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#5

Posted 08 July 2013 - 11:08 PM

QUOTE (Daz @ Monday, Jul 8 2013, 06:40)
I feel that any imprisonment in general is inhumane. Though I can understand it being reasonable up to 20 years. Anything more does seem pretty much wrong.

are you insane?

I'm pretty sure that if you rape and strangle a child, you deserve life in prison.
there's not a lot we can offer in the way of rehabilitation for people like this.

they NEED to be kept off the streets.
permanently.

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#6

Posted 09 July 2013 - 04:07 AM

QUOTE (El_Diablo @ Tuesday, Jul 9 2013, 09:08)
there's not a lot we can offer in the way of rehabilitation for people like this.

Why is that exactly? Why is exactly is someone's propensity to being rehabilitated inversely proportional to the severity of their offense?
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#7

Posted 09 July 2013 - 06:41 AM

QUOTE (Melchior @ Monday, Jul 8 2013, 22:07)
QUOTE (El_Diablo @ Tuesday, Jul 9 2013, 09:08)
there's not a lot we can offer in the way of rehabilitation for people like this.

Why is that exactly? Why is exactly is someone's propensity to being rehabilitated inversely proportional to the severity of their offense?

lemme put it another way.

if you think you can rehabilitate a murderous pedophile enough to let him be your neighbor around where your kids go to school, be my guest.
but most of the psychology I've studied on rapist/murderers doesn't allow much room for confidence.

if you're a grown man who's into sodomy and death, odds are you've got severe (and likely multiple) undiagnosed mental deficiencies that are virtually incurable.
this is why we have mental hospitals and max-security prisons.

some people are literally beyond help because their mind is damaged or their psyche is broken.
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#8

Posted 09 July 2013 - 08:03 AM

So in your study of psychology you've come across the word "incurable" multiple times? I find that hard to believe.
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#9

Posted 09 July 2013 - 12:34 PM

that's not what I said lol.gif

please try again.
you completely ignored the point.

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#10

Posted 09 July 2013 - 04:08 PM

QUOTE (El_Diablo @ Tuesday, Jul 9 2013, 12:34)
that's not what I said lol.gif

please try again.
you completely ignored the point.

I believe Melchior is saying that what you might call incurable, or have seen being called incurable, actually is curable.

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#11

Posted 09 July 2013 - 08:53 PM

Inhumane if it puts a tax burden on the shoulders of those who work hard to support themselves. Otherwise, depending on the crime, may the person rot in prison. Some people are just bad.

I'm all for rehabilitating if there's a possibility of so, if the crime wasn't so terrible. Someone who stole a loaf of bread to feed itself is more likely to be rehabilitated than someone who raped and murdered another person. For rehabilitation, you'd need improved prison facilities, which would attempt to instill the values and morals that the person would need. For the ones with life sentence, put them to work in a farm or something. Make them be productive, since they won't ever be able to repay the crime they did, make them work.

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#12

Posted 09 July 2013 - 09:10 PM

As an interesting aside to the thread, a recent (judgement today) legal case in the ECHR involving British quintuple-murderer Jeremy Bamber has ruled the whole life tariff to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Not because people don't deserve, or don't need, to be imprisoned for the rest of their lives, but based on the idea that denying people the prospect of parole is cruel and degrading.

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#13

Posted 09 July 2013 - 09:15 PM Edited by Ziggy455, 09 July 2013 - 09:19 PM.

Just heard on the news that three convicted serial killers have won a landmark case against this. They stated that lifelong imprisonment is inhumane and parole should be a viable option within the future. They won it for Christ sake. And these people killed more than one person. I find this lack of authority in the UK a f*cking disgrace. We focus so much on human rights that we can't enforce bloody imprisonment!

What the hell is our God-damn government doing up there? Serial killers. I believe that if you take a life, you deserve to spend a life in prison. Why is such a thing considered to be an infliction against human rights? If you've been allocated to a legal establishment because of such a crime that the judge gives you life, then you need to take your imprisonment as a result of your actions. If you kill more than one person and continue to do so, you've made your own bed to lie in, unfortunately.

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#14

Posted 09 July 2013 - 09:37 PM

I kind of covered this above. I'm not sure where in the hell you got your information from because a great deal of it is wrong. Firstly, this isn't a British ruling, it's a European one. Secondly, it's a mistake to say that this ruling doesn't mean that people can be imprisoned for the rest of their lives- it says nothing of that nature. It merely says that the principle of lifelong imprisonment without the prospect of review or parole is inhuman. Finally, the vast majority of life prison terms in the UK are not whole life tariffs- they're set limits with a release at the discretion of the parole board. There's no reason that the same restriction could not be applied to serial killers who do and still continue to pose a serious threat, and them just be refused the prospect of parole every 25 years or so. That's exactly how the system worked before Labour implemented the Criminal Justice Act 2003, and introduced the concept of an unlimited whole-life tariff without parole. It isn't hard to just deny people who remain a threat to the public parole, is it?

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#15

Posted 09 July 2013 - 09:47 PM

QUOTE (sivispacem @ Tuesday, Jul 9 2013, 21:37)
I kind of covered this above. I'm not sure where in the hell you got your information from because a great deal of it is wrong. Firstly, this isn't a British ruling, it's a European one. Secondly, it's a mistake to say that this ruling doesn't mean that people can be imprisoned for the rest of their lives- it says nothing of that nature. It merely says that the principle of lifelong imprisonment without the prospect of review or parole is inhuman. Finally, the vast majority of life prison terms in the UK are not whole life tariffs- they're set limits with a release at the discretion of the parole board. There's no reason that the same restriction could not be applied to serial killers who do and still continue to pose a serious threat, and them just be refused the prospect of parole every 25 years or so. That's exactly how the system worked before Labour implemented the Criminal Justice Act 2003, and introduced the concept of an unlimited whole-life tariff without parole. It isn't hard to just deny people who remain a threat to the public parole, is it?

I only heard half of it on the news and strolled in without thinking it through. Obviously I was wrong. But I know the UK imprisonment isn't an actual life-sentence. Yes, it's a European ruling. Yes, I understand that this was implemented before. However, it's something that has failed this time around.

QUOTE
It isn't hard to just deny people who remain a threat to the public parole, is it?


Apparently not by this ruling.

QUOTE
The European Court of Human Rights ruled there was a “lack of clarity” in the law on the tariffs - or minimum jail terms - handed to Bamber and two other murderers who brought the appeal.
It opens the door for further appeals by other prisoners serving life tariffs, including some of the most notorious killers in modern British history.

The judges’ decision means the Government will now have to amend the law to ensure it complies with human rights legislation, or face challenges for release by the killers.


Of course, no imminent release is on the cards, but still, I think it's a crazy ruling in the first place. I find the entire thing unnecessary even though a case with the parole still means nothing but it's the fact that this is a possibility. I'm not saying that Bamber would get released after a 25 year sentence but the fact there's a possibility even with so much conviction and evidence against him just makes me think they've accomplished absolutely nothing. But, knowing how such people have played victim before. What is not to say people -morons- wouldn't empathise with him and others. It's a silly notion to think of but it's still possible.

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#16

Posted 09 July 2013 - 11:02 PM

QUOTE (nlitement @ Tuesday, Jul 9 2013, 10:08)
I believe Melchior is saying that what you might call incurable, or have seen being called incurable, actually is curable.

I understand what he's getting it.
but he's confusing my point.

I didn't say that murderous pedophiles or serial killers or rapists couldn't be rehabilitated as a law of nature. sure, there's exceptions to every rule and some people really can change for the better. but it really depends on the nature of their particular crime and it's still very rare.

what I said is that the evidence suggests that rehabilitation is lost on most of these people once they reach adulthood and have fulfilled their sick urges.
someone who makes it past the fantasy stage and gets to the point of carrying out serial rape or murder has basically destroyed their normal functioning human psyche.

once you've physically attacked and molested someone or carried out premeditated murder, there's not a lot of room for improvement.

there's a reason why these people RARELY (if ever) make parole.
there's a reason why these people usually die in prison instead of making it to retirement surrounded by their grandchildren playing in front of their white-picket fence.

it's because people who are capable of such atrocity are usually broken.
that's the simple reality of the matter.

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#17

Posted 10 July 2013 - 12:02 AM

Well would you care to prove it? Find a country like Norway with a rehabilitative justice system and see how many sickos are repeat offenders.

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#18

Posted 10 July 2013 - 12:41 AM

I'll say it again.

if you think you can rehabilitate a murderous pedophile enough to let him be your neighbor around where your kids go to school, be my guest.
if you're so confident that they can be re-integrated into society, then go ahead and let one into your home to crash until he gets back on his feet.

you won't do it.
but you'll sit there and claim that they're just fine... as long as they're "rehabilitated."

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#19

Posted 10 July 2013 - 12:46 AM

So you don't care to prove it?

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#20

Posted 10 July 2013 - 01:27 AM

you're terrible at this lol.gif

you realize I could ask you the same thing.
prove to me that serial pedophile/rapist/murders can be successfully reintegrated into society with a recidivism rate below 50%. anything less is too dangerous to trust these people outside of mental health hospitals and prisons.

and I haven't seen those results anywhere.
but this is all beside the point.

the OP is asking if we still need lifelong imprisonment in the 21st century.
prove to me that we don't. prove to me that any criminal can be 100% successfully rehabilitated and THEN I'll agree that we can reconsider our prison system.

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#21

Posted 10 July 2013 - 01:52 AM

Countries like Norway have the lowest rates of repeat offenders, so we know that rehabilitation works. You're the one who is claiming that a certain type of offender is exceptional and somehow immune to being rehabilitated. You don't even have to provide evidence (though you should have to) you can just explain the reasoning behind it- something you haven't done.

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#22

Posted 10 July 2013 - 02:57 AM

QUOTE (Ziggy455 @ Wednesday, Jul 10 2013, 07:47)
Of course, no imminent release is on the cards, but still, I think it's a crazy ruling in the first place. I find the entire thing unnecessary even though a case with the parole still means nothing but it's the fact that this is a possibility. I'm not saying that Bamber would get released after a 25 year sentence but the fact there's a possibility even with so much conviction and evidence against him just makes me think they've accomplished absolutely nothing. But, knowing how such people have played victim before. What is not to say people -morons- wouldn't empathise with him and others. It's a silly notion to think of but it's still possible.

I don't think it's crazy because in the context of sentencing within the criminal justice system, rehabilitation is viewed as just as important as punishment and as deterrence. The role of having a life sentence reviewed occasionally is to ensure an independent and objective assessment of whether the prisoner has sufficiently rehabilitated him/herself or not. This is largely dependent on the actual efficacy of the respective prison and prison authorities in trying to rehabilitate the prisoner, so, the utopic ideal of the process is for the prison to be as effective in rehabilitation as possible so that those who do have a possibility of reforming their personalities will be eligible for parole and can blend back into the community, and those who genuinely are nutcases and pose a significant threat to the community (the number one factor taken into consideration when assessing whether someone should go up for parole) will continue to remain in prison. It's similar to the assessments being made when determining whether someone should be released on bail prior to sentencing, or whether they should be held in remand.

This has its own failures, such as this recent case in Melbourne where a guy who was on parole for rape, and on bail of an assault, raped and killed a woman walking home from a nightclub. I think these failures, though, lie in those making the assessments and the quality of their judgement, rather than in the principle of reviewing cases itself.


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#23

Posted 10 July 2013 - 04:24 AM

I believe the way to reduce crime lies not in harsh punishment, but in rehabilitation, social programs and enforcement. Locking violent criminals (Exception: Pedophiles) up and letting them spread memes and keep gang spirit alive in communial physical activity settings among themselves is just asking to worsen lighter cases is asking for trouble. Those who commit violent crimes should be isolated from one another as much as possible during their jailtime and undergo mandatory rehabilation programs. It also puts the guards more at ease as violence will be much less orginized, nor will jailbuilt weaponry be as available.

Melchior dude, if you're insinuating that pedophiles are curable if they're subjected into proper rehabilitation programs then I gotta disagree with you there, pal. I don't see how you can "cure" someones attraction to a type of person.

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#24

Posted 10 July 2013 - 04:40 AM

QUOTE (Melchior @ Tuesday, Jul 9 2013, 19:52)
Countries like Norway have the lowest rates of repeat offenders, so we know that rehabilitation works.

lol.
you missed the point again.

I'm not talking about blokes who jacked a car, stole a television set out of Radio Shack, or sold some cocaine. we're not talkin' about bar fights or stabbings.
we're talking about pedophiles, rapists, and murders. serial offenders. premeditated.

because the topic is about lifelong imprisonment.

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#25

Posted 10 July 2013 - 06:52 AM

QUOTE (El_Diablo @ Wednesday, Jul 10 2013, 05:40)
we're talking about pedophiles, rapists, and murders. serial offenders. premeditated.

I'm afraid it's you who really seems to be missing the point here. These kind of people are successfully rehabilitated in Norway- and the other Nordic countries for that matter- and even amongst serial murderers there is an extremely low rate of offending. Take the case of Arnfinn Nesset, who was convicted of 22 murders and may have killed as many as 138 people. He was given a new identity and released in 1995 (after only 12 years of a 21-year-prison-plus-ten-year-preventative-detention sentence) and hasn't returned to his pattern of serial offending. By your logic, he should be "incurable" but it's evidently the case he wasn't.

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#26

Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:06 AM

QUOTE (sivispacem @ Wednesday, Jul 10 2013, 00:52)
I'm afraid it's you who really seems to be missing the point here.

I never said there weren't exceptions to the rule.
in fact, I explicitly said that there would be exceptions to every rule.

but we're talking en mass. in general.
that's what a prison and/or prison hospital is for. and in general, the majority of these people are beyond help due to severe mental trauma.

I'm not saying we shouldn't be attempting rehabilitation while in prison.
you guys can relax on that point tounge2.gif of course they should be being offered treatment at every opportunity during incarceration. but they have to be incarcerated for as long as that process takes... even if they never overcome it. that's what lifelong imprisonment is for and it's NOT inhumane.

shouldn't that be obvious??

that is the point of this topic.

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#27

Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:20 AM

The problem with your argument is that you seem to imply that there is an arbitrary "point" at which rehabilitation becomes an exercise in futility. This clearly isn't the case. I'm not denying the fact that there are people who are incurable and will never perform a functional role in society; my point is that you can't arbitrarily decide who these people are based on the pre-sentencing reports, therefore mandatory life sentences with no possible hope of re-evaluation don't take into account the fact that some criminals who would otherwise be pigeon-holed as "incurable" have been demonstrated to be capable of reformation into functioning members of society.

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#28

Posted 10 July 2013 - 11:44 AM

QUOTE (sivispacem @ Wednesday, Jul 10 2013, 02:20)
mandatory life sentences with no possible hope of re-evaluation

is that what we're talking about?
no really, I'm confused then. the OP of this topic mentions Anders Brevik and his "20 year" sentence. but most of us understand that it's functionally a life sentence based on the review process, so it's slightly misleading.

of course I agree that every case deserves the opportunity for review. I didn't realize I had implied otherwise.
as long as someone takes to rehabilitative services and shows progress in counseling etc, I have no problem with sentencing reevaluation.

again, it also depends on the nature of the crime.
as a matter of principle (for example), I personally would be hard-pressed to release John Wayne Gacy from prison. regardless of his (potential) displays of remorse or (potential) appeals for leniency in old age on the grounds that "I ain't gonna' do it again, honest."

in some cases I feel that their personal rehabilitation and emotional comfort is beside the point.
this sacrifice is a small price to pay for the unconscionable and unimaginable level of anguish and pain he caused to (at least) 33 different people over the course of his depravity. I guess that's what I was trying to say. sometimes there really isn't any room for forgiveness. in some cases, you know, f*ck em'.

[Dark humor]
you know? f*ck em'.
sick bastards. I'm sorry. I mean, I'm not the one who raped, tortured, smothered, dismembered, and buried children in my basement. I'm not the one who is burdening the justice system with deciding what in the hell we're supposed to do with people like that. sometimes, even being alive in prison (for life) is really more than they deserve. you know, waking up in the morning. enjoying some breakfast. getting some fresh air. enjoying some dinner. watching a little TV. going to sleep. having a dream. meanwhile their victims lie buried in pieces, in horror.

no, I'm sorry.
if it were up to me, we'd still castrate you in public and then put your head on a spike in the town square.
[/Dark humor]

but I guess lifelong imprisonment will have to do wink.gif

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#29

Posted 10 July 2013 - 12:58 PM

It's what we're talking about in relation to the ECHR judgement, yes. You appeared to be making the argument that life imprisonment without the prospect of parole was acceptable when addressing categories of offender which might be deemed high risk. The point is that a minimum sentence or a life sentence with a prescribed term isn't really a life sentence because it is indeterminate. My understanding is that you were referring to "whole life" tariffs, not the prospect of life imprisonment due to dangers posed to the public.

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#30

Posted 11 July 2013 - 09:26 AM

We ought to abolish long term punishments in all cases except where it is significantly likely that the person will commit extremely serious crimes again (mostly murder and rape). Even something like five years in jail is cruel. I don't care what someone did I care about what they might do. I hold the extremely unpopular opinion that judicial systems ought to rely on things like corporal punishment and fines (for minor offenses). There's no perfect system out there, but corporal punishment is a damn lot more fair and much less cruel than long term imprisonment.

As a side note, solitary confinement is also a serious issue. It is shameful that even civilized nations subject people to decades in a room no more big than a closet.




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