The Entropy in Crime and Punishment

Punishing Consequences or State of Mind: An Examination of the Driving Force Behind the Criteria Used for Criminal Punishment – PART 2

This post is a hugely delayed continuation of a discussion that I began several months ago here:  Do We Imprison People Randomly? If you have not read that earlier post, this post may lack context.

The Reality Equation

randomcrimeThe intuitive response to the hypothetical presented in Part 1 is that it takes place under circumstances that can only exist in a fictional world. In reality, it is virtually impossible for Driver A and Driver B to have identical states of mind. Perhaps Driver B was driving a smidgen faster than Driver A. Perhaps Driver A had a car that was capable of handling faster speeds safer. Perhaps the wind was blowing against Driver A but with Driver B making it easier for Driver A to halt his car in an emergency. There are countless factors that could bear on the safety of the driver’s conduct. It is the action of the driver under the precise unique circumstances of the moment that give rise to the state of mind of the driver. Thus, there might never be a real situation where two individuals truly have an identical state of mind.

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Two Face’s Take on Punishment: Dish it Out By Chance

twofaceA couple of days ago I posted part one of my article examining whether our method of punishing criminals leads to imprisonment based on what are seemingly random events. If you haven’t read that article and you have some time, you can check it out here:  Do We Imprison People Randomly? Without having read that article, what follows may lack context and may make little sense.

Last night I was watching the recent DVD release “The Dark Knight”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must see. It’s about as good as it gets if you like action or super hero movies. But if you fall into that category, you’ve probably already seem this film, so the point is moot.

Towards the end of the movie, the rookie villain Two Face holds a gun to a young boys head and prepares to flip a coin to determine the boy’s fate. As he holds the coin in his hand he says:

“The world is cruel. And the only morality in a cruel world is chance. Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.”

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Do We Imprison People Randomly?

Punishing Consequences or State of Mind: An Examination of the Driving Force Behind the Criteria Used for Criminal Punishment – PART 1

On a pleasant spring day, two men go out hunting. They both have a history of heart problems and have both had a heart attack within the past year. As they are walking through the forest a loud bang from another hunter startles them and triggers another heart attack in each hunter. Their fingers involuntarily clench the triggers of their rifles. One of them fires a stray bullet into the dirt. The other fires a bullet that travels two-hundred feet to where another hunter is hiding the bushes. The stray bullet strikes this third hunter in the head. Should the hunter responsible for discharging the bullet that ultimately killed a person be punished differently from the hunter that shot the bullet into the ground? Stated differently, as a society, how do the mere consequences of a defendant’s actions bear on our punishment of his crime?

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