On Human Rights Violations And Punishing Criminals

December 18, 2008 at 12:43 pm (injustice)

I’m been reading some posts about a disturbing recent incident. In Iran, a woman was attacked by her scorned suitor turned stalker: he threw sulfuric acid on her face, blinding and permanently disfiguring her. He’s been sentenced to a punishment of having five drops of acid put in each of his eyes. The victim specifically sought this symmetrical retribution; she wants to make sure no other woman is attacked as she was.

Both the linked posts discuss the fact that this is cruel and unusual punishment, a human rights violation. They’re very right. This man has been sentenced to torture.

What struck me, though: cruel and unusual punishment relative to what? It’s very easy to sit here in the United States and say it’s barbaric to put acid into this attacker’s eyes. But what would happen to him here? He’d be thrown into a prison, where, chances are, he would be raped for years with absolutely no consequence.

Our courts don’t sentence convicts to torture. (Not that this stops our government from torturing!) No, we just let them be tortured by other convicts instead.

I’m not saying that Jill and Shaker Leigh (the authors of the linked posts) condone this. I’m sure they don’t. I’m just saying that we don’t exactly have a better system. So, I repeat: cruel and unusual relative to what? Would you rather be blinded with acid or repeatedly raped?

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2 Comments

  1. Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Daisy on Prison Rape and Human Rights said,

    […] Daisy at Our Decent Into Madness writes: In Iran, a woman was attacked by her scorned suitor turned stalker: he threw sulfuric acid on her face, blinding and permanently disfiguring her. He’s been sentenced to a punishment of having five drops of acid put in each of his eyes. […] This is cruel and unusual punishment, a human rights violation. They’re very right. This man has been sentenced to torture. […]

  2. grendelkhan said,

    I suppose the difference is that we don’t like to think about what prison consists of, and so people are sent off to prison with all sorts of high-minded pronouncements about justice. That, or it’s accompanied by middle-school jokes about soap-dropping, because prison rape is both hilarious and moral. I can think of no more effective way to undermine any vestige of respect for the high and mighty principles of the judicial system.

    Prison rape exists in a sort of perfect storm of ignorance. Nobody wants to advocate for criminals, “these people should be punished, but not in this fashion” doesn’t exactly have a thunderous moral ring to it, and there’s enough tacit support for the practice among everyone from the law enforcement community to mildly-disinterested citizens that it just doesn’t get traction.

    Incidentally, is there any prison system in the world which is renowned for not sending its inmates to a never-ending hell of rape and stabbing?

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