The Conditions for Sentencing a Rapist to the Maximal Punishment - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
The Conditions for Sentencing a Rapist to the Maximal Punishment|
It is my unresearched impression (from most rape cases that come to mind) that most convicted Israeli rapists are sentenced to between 2 and 6 years of imprisonment. The law specifies a maximal imprisonment term of 16 years for "plain" rape, or up to 20 years for "aggravated" (is that the legal term? I wonder) rape (אונס בנסיבות מחמירות). Many have wondered what it would take for Israeli courts to sentence convicted rapists (many of them repeating offenders) to terms approaching the maximum set in the law.
Today, this item
(Hebrew) (English here
) caught my eye -- 25 years of imprisonment to a man who repeatedly raped, beat, imprisoned, and threatened a woman. The woman not only suffered wounds and had to undergo surgery, but also needed psychiatric hospitalization, and ultimately died
of her wounds, not before testifying against him in court.
Is such a horrific saga really the only extreme that would move the court to apply the maximal sentence the law provides? Hasn't a "plain", first-offence rapist proven he's a danger to society and is unfit for unsupervised human company? Are five years of imprisonment sufficient as long as the victim ultimately lives? Truly, I don't understand the reasoning behind the general attitude of the Israeli court.
Current Music: David Bowie -- How Lucky You Are
|Date:||February 14th, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)|| |
Linguistically, "aggravated rape" sounds reasonably correct. In the U.S., each state has its own criminal code, though, so you may find variations.
The general attitude of the court reflects, I think, the general attitude of the society: boundaries are negotiable, not inviolate. I am not sure how to resolve or change that. Some flexibility is probably a good thing. Only - not in that matter.
Is imprisonment a good thing, in general? Is there a better way? Can sex offenders be rehabilitated?
|Date:||February 15th, 2007 02:14 am (UTC)|| |
Hoping for rehab is not sympathy; it is practicality. While you and your ilk are shouting for punishment that fits the crime, the offender has to offend more than once in order to be a repeat offender - which means that your method actually guarantees more victims than a rehab program.
Because what happens after your first-time offender leaves prison? Or when they go out for vacations in mid-sentence?
Fixing the problem is more important than punishing the criminal. Punishment to fit the crime is a sort of "an eye for an eye" notion; its logical culmination is a cycle of imprisonment which is neither productive nor protective of the vulnerable parts of society. See (sigh) the U.S., which is both vindictively vengeful and consistently dangerous. And also, has imprisoned a huge percentage of its population - more than any other country in the history of the world.
, in fact, be approrpriate to use methods of rehabilitation far more extensively, but that is a conjecture
, without decent empirical foundation.
The consistent dangerousness of the United States is a result of many
things, including an extended history of heterogeneïty not matched by the rest of the industrialized world. (Note that, as other First World nations become more heterogeneous they become likewise more dangerous places.) Heterogeneïty brings some substantial benefits, but it is also corrosive to the social infrastructure.
Further, while the UK
is notably less severe in its treatment of criminals that are the United States, it is with respect to almost every crime other than homicide a significantly more
dengerous place than is America. (People who count apples as oranges might not be aware of this, as the UK
uses different, often perverse accounting methods.)
|Date:||February 15th, 2007 09:14 am (UTC)|| |
I propose rehab as an alternative to waiting until an offender becomes a repeat offender. Since there is another victim in a repeat offender, I put it to you that fewer people will be hurt in a scenario that includes rehab.
Also, what I said is that the vengeful punishment system has not made the US safer. It is dangerous. Not that rehab would definitively make it safe. What's in place in the U.S. right now is not very effective. I think it needs to change. I have no opinion about the UK.
And I put it to you that you're presuming that some programme that could meaningfully be called
rehabilitation would in fact lower rates of recidivism. You simply don't have the empirical evidence for that.
It is tautologically and vacuously true that the present regime doesn't make the United States safer than it makes it. There is no worthwhile empirical support for the claim that the present regime makes things less safe than would some hypothetical therapeutic regime, nor is the present regime the only possible alternative to a therapeutic regime.
|Date:||February 15th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)|| |
Let's use shorter words.
We are considering two options. Option one: really-harsh punishment for repeat offenders. Option two: a program that is called "rehabilitation".
In option one, you have removed the criminal from the streets for a certain period, then returned them to the streets. Permanent or semi-permanent removal requires a repeat offense. The required repeat (without which you can't have the desired removal of the really-bad guys) means that the pool of victims, whose life has been broken must
In option two, you have an attempt at rehab. There are *some* forms of rehab that have been demonstrated to reduce recidivism. What does this mean? Fewer victims - which means the society would be safer-for-potential-victims than it is right now.
Which is why I say that option two is preferable to option one, and that it would improve safety in the U.S. (not just with regard to sex offenses but most crimes). Any regime that is demonstrated to by therapeutic has that effect - the effect of not requiring recidivism for effective treatment (not to mention, not defining lifelong imprisonment as the only possible effective treatment). Here is report
that you might find interesting on this subject.
Shorter words aren't going to make an inadequate case better.
We are not considering just two options. The question of whether
rehabilitation would be superior to the present system is interesting, but showing it to be as much wouldn't itself show
rehabilitation to be a practicality (which is what you declared it to be), because the present system and therapeutic regime do not jointly exhaust the possibilities. A contest between just two of the possible systems can make a definitive case against one, but not for the other.
It is not in the sense of a deductive proof that under the present system the pool of victims must increase; rather, this is an empirical observation. We should, therefore, not compare this short-coming merely against those which arise within your proposed alternative as a logical necessity, but against those that would arise as a practical matter. As a practical matter, a therapeutic regime might not always succeed in rehabilitation. (Indeed, would you be so bold as to claim that one could?) Those failures would increase the pool of victims in exactly the same sense as does repeat offense under the present regime. Further, it is quite improper to assume that reducing the rate of recidivism would necessarily reduce the rate of victimization, because a regime superior with respect to recidivism may be inferior with respect to deterrence.
Rather than any forms of
rehabilitation to having been demonstrated to reduce recidivism, researchers are left with contradictory results and blips in the data that cannot be distinguished from statistical noise. The bar for empirical evidence here is frustratingly high, but it is set so by human circumstance.
In the last paragraph:
to having been
|Date:||February 16th, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC)|| |
Thanks for your long and thought-out response.
I use "you and your ilk" to describe "people who think that longer sentences are better than shorter sentences".
I think that is a dangerous fallacy. Dangerous, specifically, to me - I have fended off two attemtped rapes (both by people studying for Ph.D.s in physics. Go figure.And no, I never made a formal complaint - in Israel, in the 1980s, it was clear that I'd be blamed and they'd be venerated - THEY were bright doctoral students, I was "just a teenage girl"). I take the threat very seriously.
But I also take the solution seriously. Prisons are not set up to help people change their habits of thought and action. Quite the reverse. But we (the human race) have the technology to help people change. Why we don't apply it to criminals? I can't figure that out. Probably, because revenge is very much more emotionally satisfying to think of.
But it is lazy thinking. "He raped - he's behind bars for 20 years" is a nice closure, but it does not really give closure. What about the victim's rehab? What about the environment the rapist came from? What about his wife and kids (if he's got them) or parents, siblings, peers?
People are individuals - but are also part of a network of relationships, and that network is ruptured by rape. The fix-it-up action cannot be as simplistic as "put man behind bars - now everything is back to normal".
When you think of rapists, you think of the relatively rare case of stranger-rape. I think of date-rape, acquaintance-rape, classmate-rape - a society that puts every rapist into prison for twenty-five years will run out of people rather early.
I am in no way justifying rape. But trying to stop it by locking away all perpetrators in the sort of prisons we have nowadays won't stop it. And if locking the perpetrators away for six months or two years or eight years isn't enough to stop rape, I don't think that locking them up for twenty is somehow better. My reason for this is the U.S. prison system - we've got a higher percentage of the population behind bars than any other culture in history. This has not made this country safer.
And also - please consider this comment to be an invitation to join my ilk. It's a nice ilk, and would be delighted to have you.
Interestingly enough, in the United States part of the pressure for shorter sentences came from alleged feminists such as Susan Brownmiller. They had demanded a lowering of the standard of proof, but this strongly suggested that there would be increased convictions of the innocent; part of the response of Brownmiller &alii was to encourage brief terms.
Ceteris paribus, I would be perfectly in support of lengthy sentences for those proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I do think, however, that we need to try to avoid an incentive structure that would increase the number of rape victims who would be subsequently killed, in order to eliminate them as potential witnesses.
|Date:||February 15th, 2007 08:11 am (UTC)|| |
I will point out, however, that the man was sentenced for 3 different crimes (even if they were carried out with the same victim). As far as I know, (and I am no legal expert), It is the court's prerogative to sentence him to a maximum total of 75 years. Each of the crimes, separately is horrifying, and deserves a high punishment, perhaps even the highest.
However, it is not popular to do this in Israel: to set punishments that are carried out consecutively. So while he is going to spend 25 years behind bars, in the end, one can also consider that he was sentenced for about 8 years for each of his crimes.
Still, this is an improvement.
This (alleged rapists getting sentenced to relatively short times) is a symptom of a more profound problem with our justice system. In short – Courts in Israel do not acquit. If you get to a trial, you have a 95%(!) chance of being found guilty. That’s a staggering number, which makes a mockery out of the "innocent until proven guilty" principle.
So, we have judges who do not believe in acquitting, but know that the person in front of them might be innocent. And so, the number of years you get is in direct correlation with how likely it is that you are guilty. In most cases, the judges believe the person probably did it, but since they are not absolutely sure, they sentence him to a couple of years at the most.
In a better functioning justice system you will see more acquittals, with those that are convicted being sentenced to more time. The same average "years per charge", with a different distribution (more zeros and high numbers, less small numbers).
Than again, it could be worse. At least we are not Japan (a conviction rate of more than 99%). An interesting movie on the subject:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0794350/
|Date:||February 16th, 2007 07:58 pm (UTC)|| |
I refuse to be impressed by the conviction rate of the Israeli court without some complementary data -- without such data, we have no way of interpreting that raw number.
For instance, it is at least conceivable that police practices and/or the particular demands and categories of evidence set down by Israeli law are such, that many cases that would have resulted in acquittal in some other country are never even brought to trial in Israel. If this example is in fact the case, then there is nothing very surprising about a 95% conviction rate.
I'm sure some other explanations are possible, and yours is another possibility. But without more data, you mustn't wave this number as if it definitely indicates what you suggest it does.
Of course the number can be explained in many ways. However - if you talk to criminal lawyers, as well as various people in the judicial establishment, they will tell you the story of a system where these numbers are the result of a court system that does not acquit, and reasonable doubt be damned.
And stories like this are the unfortunate result:http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3365020,00.html
|Date:||February 17th, 2007 05:25 am (UTC)|| |
Your theory (police only pursues people it is certain are guilty) is actually just as bad as the other (police pursues people, courts sentence them accordingly). The principle of separation of powers is a crucial piece of democracy.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts policemen.
|Date:||February 17th, 2007 01:43 pm (UTC)|| |
You attack a strawman. The strawman is "ijon
thinks that the police only pursues people it is certain are guilty". I never said that, and do not think it.
First, I did not propose this theory at all, and certainly did not deem it true
. I made a point of method
's comment, namely, that the conviction rate in and of itself does not
prove anything, and that interpreting it the way he did was only one possible way of looking at that datum, giving a counterexample for the sake of the argument.
I do think the second paragraph of my comment above is very clear about what I claim and what I do not.
My actual opinion of the police happens to be pretty low, and I'm sure they botch many a case, and commit many an injustice. It is not for the police to decide whether someone is guilty. It is
for the police to apprehend suspected offenders, pass the evidence to the state prosecution (הפרקליטות), and that's that.
|Date:||February 16th, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC)|| |
I'll will kindly post the link on my journal as well. I read about this yesterday in Maariv...I was horrified. Of course, I don't have answer for this Phenomena in our courts and I think the only reason this one was jailed for 25 years, is b/c it becausem a murder case and for murder you get life. I feel that the punishment did not fit the crime, since what he did was purely sadistical and he should have been put away till the day he died, this person is obviously a menace to society and probably with a serious mentel problem...perhaps a sociopath ? what amazed me is that he actualy sent her to the hospital the 1st time...but turns it was just to abuse her later.