A Not So Sensational Article in the Sunday Mail

In their most recent edition the Sunday Mail ran a sensationalist piece entitled “Crims Gone Fishing”. The sensation was that criminals in the care of the states prison officers were given time outside of the walls of the sunshine states prisons. If this was not enough for such a story it was also compounded by the fact that these criminals were also engaged in activities, which included surfing and fishing – hence, the title of the article. The report filled out the 200 or so words that he was given with comments from the states new Attorney General Cameron Dick – a man lauded for his wealth of experience drawn from a stint as a voluntary iterum Attorney General of Tuvalu. It is thanks to Mr Dick’s comments that the report is able to present the sensational argument which runs something like this:
Prisoners should be kept in prison for the term of their sentence because this is the “community’s expectation” and this is not being done in the Queensland prison system!(I have paraphrased most of this but the words community expectations as the reason behind harsh treat are Mr Dick’s own.).

Now although the report did not make this more complex I think it is probably worthwhile doing so. Specifically by the inclusion of a few points:
1. These programs are designed not primarily to fulfil the desires of the prisoners but to mould them. That is, by involving them in activities such as fishing and surfing they may develop a taste for activities other than stealing or other unmentionables and commitments that mean that there is motivation to ‘straighten-up and fly right’.
2. That prisoners isolated to the prison community tend to return to prison after they have been released. That is, they tend to be moulded into criminals.

Now Cameron Dick’s argument should be clarified as being something like:
Prisoners should remain within the prison system. If they are outside a prison they are criminals on their way to prison and if they are in prison they should remain in prison until their term is served. This is the community’s expectation.
The community’s expectation here is, of course, that justice is to be done.
So Cameron now repeats Plato’s definition of Justice as everyone doing what one is supposed to do. Prisoners should remain within the prison system because that is just.
Now what happens if we mix this with another argument that circulates regarding this issue:
Prisoners should be trained to cease engaging in criminal activities because it is a community expectation that the amount of crime in society be reduced.
This when combined with the clarifications from Cameron Dick’s argument creates something like:
Prisoners should be removed from the prison system because that meets community expectations.
Now what we have is two contradictory arguments and their difference is the difference between community expectations of the elimination of crime and Platonic justice. It is perhaps worth noting here that in Plato’s notion of justice here the role of prisoners appears specifically as being outside of the community.
So now the contradiction appears to decrease as both positions hold that prisoners need to remain on the outside of the community. For Cameron this is what prisons do and should do while for others, lets just call them humanists, this is also what prisons do and should do. The difference lies actually in what happens outside of the walls of the prison. In one case prisoners should be looked after by police and in the other by departments of human services.
So Cameron Dick’s concern is one of jurisdiction – prisoners outside of prison are being surveyed and controlled by human services people. Instead of being kept out of trouble by a vigilant police force that harries the criminal with chases, interrogation and other such forms of harassment the person is being harried by an endless stream of activities provided by human services.
In this light the arguments appear petty at best. In all cases the community expectation is for justice and that criminals will remain in their place – either in prisons or human service programs.
One last point will serve to truly show the flat nature of this conflict. What makes humanists put forward the argument that human services are better are two notions. Firstly it is categorically better to ‘punish’ people with activities that others generally deem positive then to ‘punish’ people with activities that others generally deem negative. That their activities are better because they are more likely to result in the elimination of the criminal by their integration into ‘mainstream’ society. Now I feel that the first argument is about as motivating as the various declarations of human rights even if the problems of understanding desire could be set aside. This leaves the second point. Here it seems the humanists are right. It is the most extensive elimination of the criminal – gone is the criminal, gone even from his own body, which has now been transformed into that of a worker or perhaps even minor celebrity. Not even the highest level of the move brutal side – execution – can reach this level of elimination.
But as an occurrence it is not something that the humanists can guarantee. In fact it remains something strictly indeterminate and thus remains at the level of achievement met by Cameron’s men when a criminal through some chain of occurrences goes straight (or straight enough) becoming a worker, minor celebrity or perhaps an ‘entrepreneur’.
And so the difference between the two positions and the content of the sensational piece rests on the context in which a strictly indeterminate occurrence occurs. It would appear then that the Sunday Mail needs to do some more work if it wants to find something more sensational


About barkingcoins
This author is just another fucking dickhead.

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