schmiggen wrote:Deterrence, not retribution, is the (original/philosophical) basis of our legal system, as far as punishment goes. The motive in enforcing laws is sometimes retribution, of course.
The Great Hippo wrote:A system that exists primarily for the sake of retribution is perverse, and ultimately more about fetishizing our morality rather than constructively applying it.
Retribution is a bug of our legal system--not a feature.
I know I'm late to the party, but I wanted to comment on this. I think that one of (possibly even the
) main motivations behind the justice system is the prevention of vigilantism and blood feuds. When someone is wronged, they tend to seek a sense of 'justice' that allows them to maintain a positive sense about their safety and status in society ('You can't do that to me/my family and get away with it!'). I think this urge for justice is instinctual and probably predates modern humans. Just think of how easily and effectively it is used by screenwriters to manipulate audiences. We reliably respond to injustice on an emotional level, even when we know we are being manipulated. This explains why being 'tough on crime' is such an effective way of increasing electability, despite the probability that this toughness makes things worse (eg a minor offender goes into prison and comes out a hardened criminal), and explains the numerous cases of prosecutors and police pinning crimes on innocent people (as long as someone goes to jail, the public will be satisfied and they can all keep their jobs). I think it also explains why so many of us want to see the girl in this story punished for the harm she caused.
Prior to the existence of institutionalized justice, the appropriate response to being wronged was personal revenge, which tends to lead to counter-revenge, and counter-counter revenge, etc. until you get a blood feud where nobody can remember what the original offense was. Institutionalizing justice allows people to satisfy their justice instinct while (hopefully) reducing future violence/societal destabilization. In this sense, modern justice is simultaneously aimed at retribution and deterrence, just not in the way that we usually think: it prevents future crimes against
the perp instead of by
To be clear, I personally feel that we should also try to rehabilitate offenders and give them a way back into society, instead of simply digging their hole deeper and deeper the way the current justice system seems to. But justice system reform is difficult for the reason I just mentioned in addition to the previously discussed profit motive (private prisons run as businesses, etc.). The public wants to feel that offenders are being punished (not relaxing in a country club) in order to satisfy their justice instinct. We might rationalize it as deterrence, and maybe it even is to some extent (probably not), but it seems more instinctual than that. On a practical level, any attempts to reform the justice system will have to account for this in order to have any chance of success. If we want to reduce the rate of false convictions and increase actual rehabilitation, we must do so while continuing to satiate the justice instinct of the public.