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Join the conversation! There are now 13 comments on this chapter's page 28. Retaliation: Striking Back. What are your thoughts?
  1. Copy+pasted from my share on Fasebohk:
    This and the following page are what bother me about those who outcry like they’ve torches and pitchforks regarding the executions of perpetrators of particularly nasty crimes (typically rape, torture, and/or brutal death).

    The bottom line is: That person(s) shall be dead.

    Unless you’re of the mind that their means of lethal punishment will carry on beyond this life (such as certain views on reincarnation), there is no POINT in their death being particularly nasty, because they will not be around to carry that punishment through their life. So, if the end result is to just be rid of this person, it only shows a nastiness and sadistic side of those wronged by that person to want the visceral satisfaction of knowing (or witnessing) such a death.

    Point blank: No matter how badly you were hurt, wanting someone killed painfully reflects badly on you.

    Now, some argue that such a brutal death sentence can act as a deterrent. The threat of torture, yes, I could see that being viable for this argument, but if the perpetrator knows they’ll die if caught, the “how” of it likely doesn’t matter. They won’t be around after it’s over.

    “Cruel and unusual”. That’s what we’re to avoid. Let’s just bring back (or proliferate) the firing squad. Someone injects the poison, someone pulls the switch, so regardless SOMEONE has to live knowing they carried out a lethal sentence. Let’s make sure it’s just as hard and fast as our legal system should be.

  2. Jackson says

    Yeah, this pretty much goes back to “an eye for an eye”..

    • Careful — the old “eye for an eye” laws were all about proportionality. The harm done to the offender had to be roughly equal to the harm he himself had done.

      Vengeance/retaliation has nothing to do with proportionality. There’s no reasoned thought-out balancing going on. It’s emotional, raw, and precisely what the criminal justice system is supposed to civilize out of society. (Though, as I briefly hint here and go into more detail later, it really only just internalizes it while imposing a state monopoly on it.)

      • I almost asked for the difference between retaliation and retribution. You nailed it nicely. Retaliation is why prosecutors (and cops) go after innocent parties instead of actual perps. Because this was a vicious crime and _someone_ has to pay, and if we didn’t get the right guy I’m sure this guy was a criminal and deserved it anyway. (I guess I’m just assuming that the number of promotion-driven or election-driven miscarriages of justice are small: mostly it’s honest people just cutting corners, not crooks lying and cheating all around. Of course, without an audit process, how can we know for sure?)

        • No police force would knowingly go after an innocent person except in cases of blatant corruption. No one thinks that any crime could be so bad that unrelated third-parties should be punished for it in real life. The truth is that there is no algorithm for differentiating guilt from innocence. So the police, prosecutors, and juries are just guessing whether someone is innocent or guilty much more often than anyone wants to admit.

          • Maybe not go after completely innocent people. But they do go after people clearly innocent for the crime they are charged with because they couldn’t get them for some other crime they supposedly committed.

            • That is not evidence that retaliation is a motive for punishment. Rather, that is evidence that prosecutors are willing to make false charges to get convictions regardless of what the motive is. In the situation you described, the motive could just as easily be removal or deterrence. I am sure that there have been prosecutors throughout American history who charged people with crimes that they probably did not commit not to attain vengeance, but to prevent the defendant from committing different crimes in the future or to serve as a warning for others.

      • Heck, weren’t those laws about LIMITING retaliation? “Eye for eye, life for life, and NO MORE”. It’s not outright stated, but given the predominant culture (‘I killed a man because he wounded me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times’, to paraphrase the same source the ‘eye for an eye’ comes from) it can be inferred quite reasonably.

  3. WJS says

    I’m not seeing a strong distinction between what you call retribution and retaliation; it seems to me that “retribution” is just an attempt to make “retaliation” more proportional, rather than a separate motive like the rest.

    • Retaliation is mere harm for harm, without regard to fairness or proportionality, an emotional reaction. Retribution reflects a sense of justice, that the punishment be tailored to fit the severity of the crime and the “badness” of the criminal, a thought-out response. Retaliation is an explanation of why we hit back, retribution is a reason to do it.

    • Retribution is when you think, “He stole from me. How much did he steal? What does he deserve in return?”

      Retaliation is “He stole from me?! From me?! I’ll smash his face in!”

      A bit extreme but also less extreme examples can be distinguished like that.

  4. I’m a bit confused here. For the previous motivations, you seemed to provide some argument as to why a further motivation must be at play (i.e. it can’t just be about deterrence, so it could also be about removal). But I don’t see any support for the idea that it extends to retaliation. How would you know that distinction? What indication do you have that there is retaliation that goes beyond retribution? Perhaps ‘nobody ever brings it up as a factor at sentencing’ because it isn’t one.

    I’m not trying to be willfully naive here, it just seems like the idea would merit some support. Otherwise, if you want to simply say it must be a natural human part of the punishment process, then as easily you should include ‘sadism’, which surely exists in at least some human beings and could be a factor in punishment. But clearly that’s not a ‘part’ of our justice system, just an aberration.

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