Global View - Capital Punishment(0144)

Professor:  That's all for today's class. We will continue our lecture on crime and punishment tomorrow.
A:  Do you think we should be tougher on crime?
B:  Well, it depends on what you mean.
A:  For example, we could bring back the death penalty for murder, give longer prison sentences for lesser offences and lock up juvenile offenders.
B:  Those really sound like Draconian measures. Firstly, what do you do about miscarriages of justice if you've already put innocent people to death?
A:  You'd only use capital punishment if you were absolutely sure that you'd convicted the right person.
B:  But, there've been many cases of wrongful conviction where people have been imprisoned for many years. The authorities were sure at the time, but later it was shown that the evidence was unreliable. In some cases, it'd been fabricated by the police.
A:  Well, no system of justice can be perfect, but surely there's a good case for longer prison sentences to deter serious crime.
B:  I doubt whether they could act as an effective deterrent while the detection rate is so low. The best way to prevent crime is to convince people who commit it that they're going to be caught. It doesn't make sense to divert all your resources into the prison system.
A:  But if you detect more crimes, you'll still need prisons. In my reckoning, if we could lock up more juvenile criminals, they'd learn that they couldn't get away with it. Soft sentences will merely encourage them to do it again.
B:  Yes, but remember that prisons are often schools for criminals. To remove crime from society, you really have to tackle its causes.
A:  Well, if I were president, I would impose tougher laws and punishment. I would have a peaceful society based on fear of punishment, not consciousness of doing the right thing.
B:  You sound like a dictator!
A:  Well if it works, why not?

Key Vocabulary

death penaltyphrasethe punishment of death
prison sentencecommon noun, pluralthe amount of time to keep criminals in jail
juvenile offendercommon noun, pluralunderage criminals
DraconianAdjectivevery strict and severe
miscarriage of justicephrasean unjust legal decision
capital punishmentphrasepunishment of death
fabricateverbto make something up to trick people
deterrentcommon noun, singularsomething that prevents people from doing something
divertverbto move resources from one thing to another
dictatorcommon noun, singularsomeone who rules with absolute power

Supplementary Vocabulary

diversioncommon noun, singularthe act of changing the direction or use of something
authoritarianAdjectiveexpecting or requiring people to obey rules or laws
divisive topicphrasean issue that causes disagreement between people and causes them to separate into different groups
recidivistcommon noun, singulara person who continues to commit crimes even after being caught and punished
rehabilitateverbto teach (a criminal in prison) to live a normal and productive life