Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cutting Spines, the logical terminus of "Getting Tough"

A Saudi judge is reported to have asked hospitals if it is possible to cut the spinal cord of the man, found guilty of paralysing another man in a fight -- BBC

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has passed legislation that reflects his "get tough" position on crime. Getting tough would imply that there is some ultimate standard that we are not applying, some perfect punitive goal that would constitute ultimate justice. So what is the logical consequence of getting tough? Stop me if you see anything on this list that Harper or Vic Toews would not approve of.
Death penalty for murder? Check.
Death penalty for 'rape'? Check.
Life sentences for serious crimes? Check.
3 times you're out? Check.
No parole? Check.
Harsh conditions in prison? Check.
Prison rape an acceptable part of the punishment Check.
Forced labour - check Corporal punishment? Check.
Bad food, starvation diet? Check.
No tv's. Check.
Severing someone's spine because he paralyzed a man in a fight? Check?

Severing spines, eye for an eye, = getting tough? Shocking yes, but how far off the mark is it from Harper's 'dream' system? I don't think that Harper would go so far as that, nor would most Canadians. But this is the logical consequence of path we are on. If Harper gets his American style justice system we might not be severing spines but we will be executing people.

The illustration used for this story is an official US government image of
the gurney used to perform executions at Terre Haute Penitentiary by lethal injection. Lethal injection is a perfect example of the medicalization of punishment.