“Crime and punishment grow out of one stem. Punishment is a fruit that, unsuspected, ripens with the flower of the pleasure that concealed it.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882),
U.S. poet, essayist and lecturer)
a) Before reading the text think of the possible purposes for the state punishment of criminals. Are they really achieved? In what way could the situation be improved?
b) Read the text and fill in the gaps with the given words or phrases:
THE PURPOSE OF STATE PUNISHMENT
crime doesn’t pay
What is the purpose of punishment? One purpose is obviously to (1) _________________ the offender, to correct the offender’s moral attitudes and anti-social behaviour and to (2) _________________ him/her, which means to assist the offender to return to normal life as a useful member of community. Punishment can also be seen as (3) _________________, because it warns other people of what will happen if they are tempted to break the law and so prevents them from doing so. However, a third purpose of punishment lies, perhaps, in society’s desire for (4) _________________, which basically means revenge. In other words, don’t we feel that a (5) _________________ should suffer for his/her (6) _________________? The form of punishment should also be considered. On the one hand, some believe that we should “make the punishment fit the crime”. Those who steal from others should be deprived of their own property to ensure that criminals are left in no doubt that “(7) _________________”. For those who attack others, (8) _________________ should be used. Murderers should be subject to the principle “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” and automatically receive the (9) _________________. On the other hand, it is said that such views are unreasonable, cruel and (10) _________________ and that we should show a more (11) _________________ attitude to punishment and try to understand why a person commits a crime and how the society has failed to enable him to live a respectable, (12) _________________ life.
Task 2. Work with a partner and discuss the following questions.
1 What purpose do prisons fulfil in current society? What purpose should they fulfil?
Comment on the points in the list below.
- re-educating and rehabilitating criminals
- acting as a deterrent to would-be criminals
- isolating dangerous individuals from the rest of society
2 What kinds of problems do prisoners face, both while they are in jail and after they are released?
3 Why are people sometimes tempted to take the law into their own hands? Are there any circumstances in which this is justifiable?
Useful words and phrases
Task 3. You will hear a conversation between two friends, Tom and Kate, who are discussing how murderers should be dealt with. For questions 1-8, write YES next to those views which are expressed by either of the speakers, and NO next to those which are not expressed be them.
Note that you are asked to identify opinions expressed by the speakers. Do not confuse these with other people’s opinions which are reported by the speakers.
1 A life sentence should mean that a criminal spends the rest of his/her ________________1 life in prison.
2 No criminal is beyond redemption. ____________________________2
3 Judges should be more open-minded. ___________________________3
4 Prison sentences fail to rehabilitate criminals. ________________________4
5 Serial killers should never be released from prison. _________________________5
6 Murderers are not released if the authorities think they pose a risk to the public. _______________________6
7 Protection of the public is more important than individuals liberty. _____________________________7
8 The death penalty should be re-introduced. _____________________________8
Task 4. Look at the crimes listed below and say:
a) What you think would be the most appropriate form(s) of punishment for crimes?
Shoplifting (first offence)
Assaulting a police officer
imprisonment (light prison sentence/ long prison sentence)
other (your ideas)
Committing a foul in sport
b) What reasons can you give for choosing the punishments above? Use the following prompts and useful expressions to talk about your choices.
To make the punishment fit the crime
To teach them a lesson
To make them pay for their crimes
To give them a second chance
To deter others
To provide an opportunity for rehabilitation
To ease the burden on tax payers
To set an example
e.g. If someone is found guilty of an assault, I would like to see them given a prison sentence to teach them a lesson and to deter others. Of course, the length of the sentence would depend on...
A. You are going to hear an English teenager, Neil, speaking on a sense of punishment. Before you listen, think about what you would say to comment on the statements below. Which of the views of punishment below would you agree with? Give reasons.
1. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
2. We need punishment as a deterrent to refrain people from offending.
3. The legal justice system should aim to rehabilitate offenders, not take revenge on them.
B. Listen to the recording. Which view of punishment does Neil argue for? Is your opinion the same as his?
C. Now listen again and tick the expressions Neil uses from the list below.
I think (that) ...
So let’s look at the alternatives ...
It seems to me that ...
Another related point is that ...
The main argument for ...
Finally, the idea that ... seems to ...
However, the argument against this ...
Some people think that ...
As well as that ...
All in all, I suppose ...
Notice how Neil deals with each point.
He gives opinion.
He gives argument for and against.
He discusses the alternatives and gives reasons for rejecting them.
He summarises – by restarting his original opinion.
Task 5. Comment on the ideas expressed in each of the following statements in relation to the theme of crime and punishment. What is your reaction to each statement?
Task 6. Here are some examples of crimes, and the penalties chosen by particular judges. Read through them and try to answer these questions:
1. Was justice done?
2. If you had been the judge, would you have given a different sentence?
3. Would you have chosen a lighter sentence or a more severe one?
4. How would you have felt if you had been the victim of the crime?
5. How would you have felt if you had been the defendant?
6. If you had been the judge, what other facts and circumstances would you have wanted to know?
a) Here is the story of a very unfortunate, irresponsible man called Mr. N.E. Body. Imagine that he was stopped by the police at each and every point of the drama. Read about what happened and, after each piece of information you receive, decide what punishment he deserves. Here are some of the sentences you might wish to study:
You might feel the death penalty is in order, or life imprisonment, even solitary confinement. You could put him on probation, give him community service or impose a fine – anything from £ 10 to £ 1,000. You might consider corporal punishment (a short, sharp shock), a shortish prison sentence or, of course, you could make that a suspended sentence. You might make him pay compensation, or would you like to see him banned from driving? No? Well, his licence could be endorsed. Or would you dismiss the case, find him not guilty of any crime, acquit him, find the case not proved?
1. Mr. Body drank five pints of beer and five single whiskies in a pub, got into his car and drove away.
2. He did not drive dangerously but exceeded the speed limit as he wanted to catch up with a friend who had left his wallet in the pub.
3. As he was driving along, a little girl ran into the road and he knocked her down.
4. There was no way he could have stopped, drunk or sober.
5. The little girl suffered only bruises and superficial injuries.
6. Mr. Body’s wife had left him two days before.
7. Six months later, it was clear that the little girl was to suffer from after-effects of the accident and would stutter for many years.
8. Mr. Body had never previously received any summons for traffic offences.
9. The little girl admitted that it was all her fault.
10. The passenger in Mr. Body’s car was killed outright as he went through the windscreen.
b) Below you see the story of an extraordinary case in British legal history. The affair started in 1949 and was finally closed in 1966.
At the moment, there are a number of gaps in the story. Use the words below to complete it.
enquiry (x 2)
The story began when a man called Timothy Evans was ______________ for the murder of his wife and baby. He was ______________ with the double murder, but a short time later one of the charges was ______________ and he was ______________ for the murder of his daughter only. During the ______________ Evans accused the man whose house he had been living in, John Christie, of the crimes, but no attention was paid to him. The ______________ found Evans ______________ and he was ______________ to death. An ______________ was turned down ______________ and he was ______________ in 1950.
Some time later, more women’s bodies were discovered in Christie’s house: two, three, four, five, six. John Christie was the police’s chief ______________ and they started a nationwide ______________ for him. He was soon ______________. Alleged ______________ by Christie while he was in ______________ cast doubt on the Evans’ hanging. When he went to ______________, Christie ______________ that he had murdered Mrs. Evans, but in private it was said that he ______________ to that crime. His ______________ of insanity with regard to other murders was rejected and he was ______________ of killing his wife. Soon afterwards there was an ______________ into the ______________ of Timothy Evans. The ______________ decided that justice had been done and Evans had been rightly hanged. It was only in 1966 that another ______________ was set up. This time it was decided that Evans had probably been ______________ and he was given a free ______________. Better late than never, as they say.
c) Now a quiz on some points of law – English style. The answers may well be different in your country. Simply answer the questions Yes or No. The answers according to English law are printed at the end of the quiz.
1. Is it a crime to try and kill yourself?
2. Is it illegal to help somebody to commit suicide?
3. Can you be executed for murdering a policeman?
4. If, after a murder, all the victim’s relatives plead: “Please, don’t prosecute!” can charges against the suspected culprit be dropped?
5. If two armed thieves break into a house, guns in hand, and one of them shoots and kills the house-owner, is his accomplice guilty of murder?
6. If I surprise an intruder in my lounge at night stealing my millions, have I a legal right to assault him with a weapon?
7. If I set a trap – a fifty-kilo weight just above the front door – for any burglars who might try and enter the house, am I breaking the law?
8. After a divorce or legal separation, can a wife be required to pay alimony to her ex-husband?
9. If I promise to marry my girlfriend and then change my mind shortly before the wedding, can she take me to court?
10. If you said to your teacher in the middle of one of his lessons: “You don’t know the first thing about teaching!” could he bring a civil action against you?
11. Would I be in danger of committing an offence if I put an advertisement for my school in the paper saying: “Mail white teacher required”?
12. If, as a defendant (or the accused), I am not satisfied with the way my barrister has handled my defence, can I sue him?
13. If you were in my house – uninvited – and the ceiling, which had had a large crack in it for some time, caved in and broke your leg, would it be a good idea to consult your solicitor?
14. Can a person suspected of and charged with rape be allowed bail?
1. No, not any more.
2. Yes, even mercy-killing (euthanasia) is against the law.
3. No. Capital punishment was abolished in the 1960s.
4. No. Murder is a crime against society (this involves criminal law) and not just a civil matter between individuals.
5. Yes. Joint guilt. In the eyes of the law, both are guilty.
6. No – at least, only in self-defence.
9. No, not now. Some years ago she could have sued me for breach of promise.
10. Yes, he could claim it was slander (or libel, if you wrote it in a newspaper). He probably wouldn’t, though, because of the legal costs.
11. Yes, because of the Sex Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act.
13. Yes. You could sue me for negligence and I would probably have to pay damages.
Task 7. Work in groups. Look at these cases. If you were a judge, what sentence would you give to these people? Give full details (e.g. a £ 1,000 fine / 3 years in prison / one year on probation) and discuss your decision(s).
1) 18-year-old Miranda worked in a shoe-shop. She lost her job when she stole £ 92 from the shop.
2) Nigel is 38. He drank a bottle of wine and then drove home. He had a car accident and killed a 13-year-old boy.
3) Kevin, 15, was caught travelling on the train without a ticket. The correct ticket would have cost £ 1.75.
4) Stacey, aged 22, was caught selling marijuana at a disco. At her flat about 50 grammes of the drug were found (value: around £ 250).
5) Dean, 17, broke the window of a new Mercedes and stole a mobile phone and four CDs.
6) Samira is 32. She killed her husband with a knife while he was asleep. He had been very cruel and violent with her for more than 10 years, and he often had girlfriends.
7) A teenager hacks into an airline company’s computer system and deliberately introduces a virus.
8) A man is attacked by muggers on the subway, defends himself with a gun and shoots his assailants dead.
9) A small business is caught selling pirated DVDs.
Task 8. Give your views on the purpose of prison and say whether certain crimes could be better dealt with in other ways, in your opinion. Write an essay (150-200 words).
“The concept of prison as society’s punishment of the offender is both barbaric and ineffective.”
Task 10. Think about the fooling issues concerning capital punishment. Comment on each of them.
1. Is the death penalty a cruel and unusual punishment to impose?
2. Can capital punishment be humane? Think of all possible ways of executing the death penalty (euthanasia, gas chamber, electrocution, hanging, shooting etc.)
3. What are the realistic alternatives to the death penalty?
4. It is easy to condemn capital punishment as barbaric, but is spending the rest of one’s life in prison so much less cruel to the prisoner or is it merely a way of salving society’s conscience and removing the unpleasantness for the staff and officials?
Task 11. Study the following statistics and decide which of the data could be used to support or to condemn the death penalty.
The rates for unlawful killings in Britain have more than doubled since abolition of capital punishment in 1964 from 0.68 per 100,000 of the population to 1.42 per 100,000. Home Office figures show around unlawful killings 300 in 1964, which rose to 565 in 1994 and 833 in 2004. The figure for homicides in 2007 was 734.
Convictions for the actual crime of murder (as against manslaughter and other unlawful killings) have also been rising inexorably. Between 1900 and 1965 they ran at an average of 29 per year. There were 57 in 1965 – the first year of abolition. Ten years later the total for the year was 107 which rose to 173 by 1985 and 214 in 1995. There have been 71 murders committed by people who have been released after serving "life sentences" in the period between 1965 and 1998 according to Home Office statistics. Some 6,300 people are currently serving sentences of “life in prison” for murder. Figures released in 2009 show that since 1997, 65 prisoners who were released after serving life were convicted of a further crime. These included two murders, one suspected murder, one attempted murder, three rapes and two instances of grievous bodily harm. The same document also noted that 304 people given life sentences since January 1997 served less than 10 years of them, actually in prison.
In most states, other than Texas, the number of executions as compared to death sentences and murders is infinitesimally small. Of the 1099 executions carried out in the whole of the USA from 1977 to the end of 2007, Texas accounts for 406 or 37%.
Interestingly, the murder rate in the U.S. dropped from 24,562 in 1993 to 18,209 in 1997, the lowest for years (a 26% reduction) - during a period of increased use of the death penalty. 311 (62%) of the 500 executions have been carried out in this period. The number of murders in 2003 was about 15,600.
As stated above, Texas carries out far more executions than any other American state (between 1982 and 2007 it executed 404 men and 2 women) and there is now clear evidence of a deterrent effect. According to official FBI homicide figures. between 1980 and 2000 there were 41,783 murders in Texas
In 1980 alone, 2,392 people died by homicide, giving it a murder rate of 16.88 for every 100,000 of the population. (The U.S. average murder rate in 1980 was 10.22, falling to 5.51 per 100,000 by the year 2000.) Over the same period, Texas had a population increase of 32%, up 6,681,991 from 14,169,829 to 20,851,820. There were only 1,238 murders in 2000 giving it a rate of 5.94, just slightly higher than the national rate which had dropped to 5.51/100,000. In the base year (1980), there was one murder for every 5,924 Texans. By the year 2000, this had fallen to one murder for every 16,843 people or 35.2% of the 1980 value. If the 1980 murder rate had been allowed to maintain, there would have been, by interpolation, a total of 61,751 murders. On this basis, 19,968 people are not dead today who would have potentially been homicide victims, representing 78 lives saved for each one of the 256 executions. The overall U.S. murder rate declined by 54% during the period. Therefore, to achieve a reasonable estimate of actual lives saved, we must multiply 19,968 by 0.54 giving a more realistic figure of 10,783 lives saved or 42 lives per execution. Even if this estimate was off by a factor of 10 (which is highly unlikely), there would still be over 1,000 innocent lives saved or 4 lives per execution. One can see a drop in the number of murders in 1983, the year after Charlie Brooks became the first person to be executed by lethal injection in America.
In 2000, Texas had 1,238 murders (an average of 23.8 murders per week), but in 2001 only 31 people were given the death sentence and 17 prisoners executed (down from 40 the previous year). This equates to a capital sentencing rate of 2.5% or one death sentence for every 40 murders.