I am all for intelligent and not so intelligent debate, but I didn't think that the other thread about that poor man being murdered and the distress of the local residents was the right place for that to go down. So I am outlining, in simple format (I prefer simple and warn you that those of you who find typos offensive should look away now)what I know about punishment. I do teach and apply the subject in my work.
1. The timing of punishment has to be absolutely precise to be directly associated with the crime:
example - junkie robs house of TV to pay for drug- option 1. Whack junkie over head as he comes through window - very effective as he has not had any positive reinforcement for committing a crime and the punishment timing is direcly associated with the crime itself. Unfortunately in some countries there is little tolerance of protecting property in this way, so it may not always benefit the television owner.
option 2. Junkie successfully steals TV, sells it, gets fix. He has now been strongly reinforced for committing the crime. If he is then caught and whacked over the head, imprisoned, tortured (whichever you prefer)he only learns the punishment results from getting caught - not from committing crime.
option 3. Junkie steals TV, gets his hit, gets caught and killed. He learned nothing, but he won't do it again. This is not a punishment, just a final solution in respect to this individual's ability to commit further crimes and many would say that this is the best option.
option 4. Identify the cause of crime and prevent it from happenning. Not always the favoured method, but probably the best as it saves the person from having to whack the junkie or from having TV stolen.
Quite simply, most punishment of crime only punishes the perpetrator for being caught. Even worse than this, many low level criminals go to prison and leave with more criminal skills and better ideas about how not to get caught. Punishment may have a deterrent effect only if it's severity outweighs the direct reward the criminal perceives he will get. For the greedy, successful and persistent criminal, mentally ill or drug dependent - punishment has little effect as a deterrent, no matter how severe.
Having severe punishment can make victims of crime and society feel safer and it can also make people feel that at least something has been done. But in real terms, as long as crime isn't prevented, the whole thing is pointless. What everyone would prefer is no crime, rather than having to deal with the outcome of crime.
Prevention is better than cure. We can either fortify our homes and communities in the hope that we can outwit the criminals and catch them before they commit the crimes (which does not leave people with a very good quality of life) or we can identify the causes of crime and try to prevent them from occuring in the first place. This has nothing to do with liberalism but is more cost effective and saves more lives (potential lives of crime victims).
I am not personally opposed to capital punishment although I would hate to be someone falsely convicted. People do what they need to do to feel safe in their own communities and homes, but I am opposed to the incorrect belief that capital punishment is effective in the prevention of crime. If you would like to comment, debate, insult me personally, change the subject, correct my spelling mistakes or just talk rubbish, please do so here.