Monday, January 07, 2008
Intuition and Sentencing
Interesting to find two posts in two different blogs today dealing with the role of intuition rather than reason in sentencing and punishment decisions. Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy links us to a paper on the generally common views of just punishment across cultures and borders while The Situationist talks about (and links to research on) the importance of "just deserts" and punishing intent (how "wrong" something is) before actual harm and punishing hardest when both are combined. These are exactly the kinds of presentations that we need to be having, to get our minds off only the economic irrationality of what we do. As we've said before here, most people are willing to pay a "justice premium" beyond actual damage in order to enforce their sense (or "intuition") of what's right and wrong and to show those who disagree who their daddy is. That's why corrections sentencing changes cannot be based on a "cost-effectiveness" basis for most people. They have to be based on a "victim-effective" basis and they have to show how public safety AND values are better served by the new policy than by the old. Prisons are supported because they add a solid whacking to that message. The only way to get us off prisons as the "default" policy, especially when scare messages are prominent, is to frame our message in terms of better justice and safety for victims and the prevention of the crimes the inmates will commit after and because of being in Crime College any longer than they absolutely should be to get the message across. And that alone should tell us all (including me) just how hard it will be and why we're not really succeeding even in the face of the conspicuous failures of incarceration.