paying ones debt to society…reality or an empty dream?

blind_date__geno_and_souseiseki_by_cyberscythe-d4sh7mkHow many of you remember the recent news story concerning the events that occurred at a Turkish T.V dating show called Luck of the Draw.It began, as so many of such show s do, quite normally but then one Sefer Calinak, 62, had his moment on the screen

What’s so wrong about that, you might ask? Here is a guy in his early sixties looking for a partner on  a T.V Dating show. How sweet, how romantic; but then things turned a little sour, for in the interests of honesty and openness he admitted that –

1/Had killed his first wife out of jealousy and because he was “irritated” by her behaviour, and

2/ He had then killed his subsequent lover when she had attacked him with an axe, using the weapon that she had thoughtfully provided

As you can imagine this caused a bit of a stir within the episode,and he was asked to leave the set and the programme, and I am sure that most of us upon hearing this story would have laughed incredulously before understanding why he was asked to leave.

I freely confess that I reacted in such a fashion when I first heard the story, but then I began thinking. The laughter was understandable, as even without an english subtext, the reaction of all concerned was truly wonderful, but was it  right to ask him to leave? What message did the news story send about about the re-entry- of sentenced law breakers into general society and what of the notion, held by so many of us, of an individual having paid their debt to society?

First things first, what do we mean when we talk about paying a debt to society? Definitions abound like confetti at a wedding, but how about this for size, gleaned from Debating

There are three separate overall types of goals that can be served by meting out justice:

  1. Restorative justice is concerned not so much with retribution and punishment as with making the victim whole. If the victim is society in general, then the phrase debt to society in this context, has meaning. This approach fails in the cases where restoration is impossible and is certainly not served by modern incarceration practices.
  2. Retributive justice dictates proportionate response to crime that is justly imposed, morally correct and fully deserved. Retribution is all about punishment, organized structured vengeance. Every parent has learned from experience that inflicting a punishment that hurts the punisher more than the punishee might not be the most effective approach. Here the idea of having paid one’s debt, is tied to the idea that a just punishment has been imposed on the offender, and no further consequences should be expected.
  3. Utilitarian justice where punishment is justified by the ability to achieve future social benefits, including crime reduction. In this mode of thought, the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome. The concept of a debt to be paid, is irrelevant. Sunk costs are sunk costs, what is important is how best to move ahead.

In reality, our justice systems are an ad hoc mixture of the above.

There you go, a very pleasant set of definitions, but, in the real world, what is an individual meant to do as regards the admittance of the error of hs ways once justice, in what ever form that may take, has been served. In the case of the dating show, the actions of the individual had, to the best of my knowledge few long term repercussions, except, I would imaging, a reluctance on the part of any suitors to warm to his advances, but what of those who desire to rebuild their lives or their careers

Honesty is the best policy, we are taught when we are children, and, as adults, we officially accept that, once an official punishment or sentence has been settled or completed, no further action should be taken and the event that resulted in such punishment should not hang over the individual like a Damoclesean sword.

Or do we, or is it a case of N.I.M.B.Y ism, or Not In My Backyard


If you are in any doubt of what I’m referring to, look at the photograph that goes with this portion of text

Photographed in 1875 it shows three chinese female offenders

Similar to the English stocks, the pillory was a wooden contraption designed to place criminals, generally, petty criminals on public display, and to quote Wikipedia

Rather like the lesser punishment called the stocks, the pillory consisted of hinged wooden boards forming holes through which the head and/or various limbs were inserted; then the boards were locked together to secure the captive. Pillories were set up to hold petty criminals in marketplaces, crossroads, and other public places.[2] They were often placed on platforms to increase public visibility of the offender. Often a placard detailing the crime was placed nearby; these punishments generally lasted only a few hours.[citation needed]

In being forced to bend forward and stick their head and hands out in front of them, offenders in the pillory would have been extremely uncomfortable during their punishment. However, the main purpose in putting criminals in the pillory was to publicly humiliate them. On discovering that the pillory was occupied, people would excitedly gather in the marketplace to taunt, tease and laugh at the offender on display.[citation needed]

Those who gathered to watch the punishment typically wanted to make the offender’s experience as unpleasant as possible. In addition to being jeered and mocked, those in the pillory might be pelted with rotten food, mud, offal, dead animals, and animal excrement. As a result, criminals were often very dirty by the end of their punishment, their faces and hair begrimed with the smelly refuse with which they had been pelted.[citation needed]. Sometimes people were killed or maimed in the pillory because crowds could get too violent and pelt the offender with stones, bricks and other dangerous objects.[

Oh how barbaric, we might say to ourselves, and thank God, how things are so different today. We accept offenders back into our communities, we re-educate so that recidivism does not occur, and having served their punishment we are happy to welcome them back into our little folds with open arms

I am sure that in many cases this does occur, but, if you were in their shoes, how would you feel if, filling in a job application form, you saw the lines

  1. Have you ever had any criminal convictions
  2. If the answer is “yes”, please give further details *failure to do so may jeopardise your possible contract

Would you be totally honest and write down what had occurred, and if you were to do so, would you be totally confident of a fair and balanced evaluation  by those viewing your application. You may do one, but I would question your belief in the viewing panels impartiality, for even if your conviction had been quashed through a official miscarriage of justice, what of the old maxim of no smoke without fire?

This is not a one sided coin however, as if the rights of such individuals are to be respected so must the rights of the victims ort the victims families be considered with equal care gravity, but it is insane to keep on building more prisons, just it is equally insane and impractical to hand out universal and unconditional forgiveness, so somehow and somewhere, an acceptable compromise, solution, and middle ground must be found.

Do I have answers to all the questions I have posed within this post? Certainly not, as to begin with I’m no expert in such matters, and secondly, I’m not to sure whether there are any real answers to such problems, but this seemingly comical story has made me look at the darker side of society in a way that I’d not really looked at it before.

So to end the post I’ve put in a video, and I’ll close by reiterating the following open questions that I’d advise anyone to look at with an open mind. As  a society, or as individuals, do we both practise and preach the following

  1. Paid debts to society
  2. Open re-integration of offenders into the community
  3. Acceptance and forgiveness of offenders
  4. complete evaluation of an offenders crime or actions
  5. The acceptance of such individuals into our own workplace, or into our own backyard
  6. Smoke with out fire

That’s all folks. I thank you for your time ion what I know is a difficult and contentious issue, and I hope you appreciate if not “enjoy” the video below


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Categories: Growing pains, Reality Checks

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