By now many of you have heard about the ruckus involving a Standford student convicted of raping an unconscious woman. The judge issued a fairly lenient sentence (as lenient as any sentence can be when one is required to register as a sex offender) and many are calling for both his head and the rapist’s head. The reasoning for the “light” sentence is that the convicted had no prior criminal record and was deemed to be with good chances of rehabilitation in prison. This logic combined with the outcry of many circles is what interests me. If prison is intended to be a tool of rehabilitation, then the system must be celebrated when it is successful. This would dictate that sentences be made proportional to the odds of successful conversion from criminal behavior to prosocial behavior. However, we are left in a world of bloodlust as the very people that decry the prison system are outraged that its power was not used in complete force with respect to the convicted. After all, it’s okay to empathize with the disadvantaged that wind up in the system, but for those in which it is agreeable to pile on crucifixion, it must be done so with great gusto.
The PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist Revised) is the primary tool used to assess psychopathy. It covers many facets that it’s junior, the PCL-SV (Psychopathy Checklist Screening Version) does not. The PCL-R has more elements of “delinquency” including criminality and reflects the more antisocial nature of the true underlying condition. However, I am not a fan of the PCL-SV. People who are given the PCL-SV are mathematically more likely to register as psychopathic than people given the PCL-R. Less components, less criminality, it’s a given that this is true. So then why do so many jump at the bit to give out the PCL-SV? Simple. Correlation does not equal causation, but there’s all the incentive in the world to create more psychopaths when one wants them isolated.
I’m a firm believer in the set exchange of a penalty for an action. That is, I believe that people should be able to do whatever they’d like so long as they are willing to pay the price. It is the job of society to determine a fair and reasonable price for a specific crime, a price that deters most but allows that that are willing to behave in a criminal fashion to have a set expectation for the price of their ways. So what do you have to lose, kid? It’s at most your life.
There is something fundamentally wrong with a society that refuses to honor the price paid by the convicted. What purpose is there in releasing a person from prison only for them to be devoured by the neurotypicals that refuse to acknowledge the possibility of rehabilitation? Sentences, in this sense, are for life. For a society that claims to be better than the antisocial, this seems awfully hypocritical.
Why are psychopaths punished disproportionately for the crimes they commit? Yesterday, I saw this post circulating around tumblr. It depicts a series of pictures of pit bulls and describes the heroic actions that each of the pit bulls are responsible for. At the end of the series of pictures, there is a single statement that says “punish the deed, not the breed.” This got me, of course, to thinking about the faults of many judicial systems that give disproportionate sentences to the antisocial. Should not the crime be punished solely in a vacuum? Why are previous patterns or existing diagnoses considered for the sole purpose of inflicting as much retribution as possible onto the convicted? Retribution is not justice.