Tag Archives: cruel and unusual punishment

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dunce: Fox News”

Bradley then, Chelsea now.

Bradley then, Chelsea now.

Responding sharply to a commenter’s expressed criticism of the argument that convicted classified data leaker Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning, sentenced to Federal prison and seeking treatment as a trans-gendered female, ought to have his treatment needs served by prison authorities at public cost, Ethics Alarms’ own expert on such matters (from Australia), provided this fascinating overview of U.S. law and medical ethics on the topic. Here is zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the recent post flagging Fox News’ juvenile mockery of Manning’s gender issues, Ethics Dunce: Fox News:

“There are two disputes here. The first is whether prisoners have a right to medical treatment, and if so, to what degree.I’ll deal with that first.

“Brown v. Plata 131 S.Ct. 1910 (2011):  “To incarcerate, society takes from prisoners the means to provide for their own needs. Prisoners are dependent on the State for food, clothing, and necessary medical care. A prison’s failure to provide sustenance for inmates “may actually produce physical ‘torture or a lingering death.’ ” ….Just as a prisoner may starve if not fed, he or she may suffer or die if not provided adequate medical care. A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society.” Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Quiz: The Harley Tragedy

I’m sure PETA thinks this is fair; I’m not sure that I do.

No goldfish for you!

No goldfish for you!

Tammy Brown,47, a disabled Moon Lake, Florida woman trying to make ends meet on her $508-a-month government check, argued that she was not able to afford veterinary care for Harley, her 14-year-old dog who had a painful ear infection as well as skin problems, periodic tumors, heartworms and ear mites. Because she did not get treatment for Harley, however—the fact that she tried to treat the dog’s problems with over the counter ointments wasn’t enough to mollify the judge— Brown was convicted of felony animal cruelty. She spent more than a month in jail awaiting sentencing, and then received six months of house arrest, 300 hours of community service, three years of probation, and $1,000 in court costs. Circuit Judge William Webb also commanded, “I don’t want you to own any animals. Not even a goldfish!” (Hartley had been euthanized.)

Apparently Harley’s physical condition was shockingly poor, so much so that jurors found photos hard to look at. An Animal Services officer testified that Harley couldn’t stand up without support. The prosecutor wanted Brown imprisoned.

Has society become so animal-sensitive that it has lost its priorities? Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is this: Assuming that Harley’s lack of treatment was due to lack of resources and neglect rather than malice…

Was Tammy Brown’s sentence fair, or was it excessive and cruel? Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Quizzes

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: New York State Senator Greg Ball (R)

Trust me, guys, you really don't want to vote for Greg Ball again...he's embarrassing your district.

Trust me, guys, you really don’t want to vote for Greg Ball again…he’s embarrassing your district.

Every now and then, a public official says something so brain-meltingly ridiculous that I wish I had a traditional blog and could write, “What an idiot!” and leave it at that.  This is one of those times.

Republican New York State Senator Greg Ball must represent the troglodyte section of New York—you know, that famous district heavily populated with prehistoric cave-dwellers who were discovered frozen in 1989, thawed out alive, and became politically active?—based on his unapologetic,nail-spitting, un-American tweet regarding the younger, surviving terrorist brother who engineered the Boston Marathon bombing:

Ball

What an idiot.

No, no, I can’t say that.

This is an unethical tweet. It’s an irresponsible tweet. Supporting torture “to save more lives” explicitly rejects the principles of the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitutional requirements of Due Process and the Bill of Rights prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and compelled testimony against self-interest. The “anything to save more lives” illogic, though recently adopted, to his shame and disgrace, by the presumably less idiotic President Obama in his quest for more gun regulations, is, of course, the open door to martial law and the permanent trade of liberty for security. I wrote about this at some length in the wake of the Abu Ghraib fiasco; reading “The Ethics of American Torture” again now, I would hold the same today, as would, I hope, most of you. (Don’t bother to read this, Senator Ball; it’s more than 140 characters, and you wouldn’t understand it anyway.) I wrote in part, Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Rights, U.S. Society

New Year’s Ethics Quiz: Is It Ethical To Order A Woman Not To Have Children?

(This is my favorite judge picture, and I like to use it every year)

(This is my favorite judge picture, and I like to use it every year)

Kimberly Lightsey, 30, was being sentenced on four counts of child abuse for leaving her four children, ages 2 to 11 at the time, at a hotel while she went out to play. She had an arrangement with another mother in the hotel to watch the children, but that woman also was partying hard, it seems—so hard that she forgot what room Lightsey’s children were in. Meantime, one of Lightsey’s children, who was confined to a wheelchair, rolled out into the hallway and fell over.

Prosecutors asked for a 32-month jail sentence, but Judge Ernest Jones Jr. offered Kimberly a chance to avoid jail time. He would give her two years of house arrest and 13 years of probation, provided this aspiring Mother of the Year agreed not to have any more kids during that period.

She took the deal, but now The American Civil Liberties Union and her lawyer are wondering if the sentence is legal. My guess: it’s not, but that isn’t the issue. Let’s say this is within a judge’s power, and the sentence is legal. Your Ethics Alarms Quiz Question, the first of the new year, is this:

Is it ethical? Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Bad Crime, Unethical Punishment, Ominous Sign

Here’s a pop quiz for you.

The topic: crime and punishment

“Off with his head!” Uh, Queen? Isn’t that just a tiny bit severe?

An attractive woman falls asleep on an airplane, and the stranger sitting next to her, a card-carrying, pig-man creepazoid, takes that opportunity to “feel her up.” He is caught in the act, and arrested when the plane lands. What should be the maximum penalty imposed for such a violation of the poor woman’s privacy, dignity, and person?

If you said “life in prison,” go to the head of the class. The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over  sexual abuse cases that occur on American airplane flights, and sets the penalties. A New Jersey man is currently awaiting trial after allegedly engaging in such in-flight molestation. How can such an extreme sentence be justified or even contemplated? What is this, “Midnight Express”? Rumania under the wise rule of Vlad the Impaler? Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Ethics Train Wreck In A Little Teapot

I don’t understand this story at all.*

Not THAT Larry Storch! That Larry Storch made sense to me.

Larry Storch is no relation to the late comedian of “F Troop” fame, but is a defiant, uncivil 89-year-old scofflaw who insists on driving around his North Carolina community with his sound system at eardrum-popping levels. “They’ve been giving me noise tickets for years,” Storch said. “I guess they thought their tickets would deter me, but every time I paid off a ticket I’d stop by the speaker place on the way home and add a little more boom to my zoom.” Good for you, Larry; by the way, you’re an asshole. His latest arrest for breaking noise ordinances brought him before a judge who was ready to throw the book at Storch, but who had a peculiar way of doing it. Lenoir County District Judge Robert T. Ironside—who is no relation to the wheelchair-bound Robert T. Ironside played by post- “Perry Mason” Raymond Burr in a CBS detective show—told him:

“You’ve come before this court many times over the years Mr. Storch. In the past I’ve fined you, sentenced you to community service, and at one point even forced you to watch the fourth hour of the ‘Today Show.’ Since none of those punishments have done anything to curb your jackassory behavior, I’ve decided to get medieval on where your butt — if you had one — would be.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Executing an Insane Killer: a Cynical Ethics Controversy

Let’s me get this straight: this is only a “macabre spectacle” if the guy strapped down to be poisoned isn’t crazy. Right?

In the case of Steven Staley, Texas has itself one of those periodic ethical/legal conundrums surrounding capital punishment that leave me feeling  cynical, puzzled, and worried that I am missing an important part of my compassion apparatus.

Staley’s problem, or his perhaps stroke of luck, is that he is a little more crazy now than he was when he committed the crimes that placed him on death row. In September 1989, Staley escaped from a Denver prison  and started robbing everything he encountered, looting nine businesses across four states. Finally he hit the Steak and Ale Restaurant in Tarrant County, Texas. Staley and his accomplices gathered the employees at gunpoint and forced the manager to hand over the contents of all the registers and the store safe. He then took the manager into the getaway car as a hostage, and executed him as Staley tried to elude the police. Continue reading

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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

The Right Kind of No-Tolerance Policy: Will Obama Get A Halo For Prison Rape Reform?

If backing gay marriage earns a rainbow halo, stopping prison rape at least warrants this….

The Justice Department just announced the first comprehensive federal rules aimed at “zero tolerance” for sexual assaults against inmates in prisons, jails and other houses of detention. The new policy has teeth in it, decreeing that states that don’t take adequate measures to prevent sexual assault on prisoners will lose federal prison  funds. This initiative was disgracefully long in coming, but begins the repair of the human rights atrocity going on in the nation’s prisons literally since the first cell door clanged shut. It is the right kind of “no-tolerance” policy, because allowing prisoners to rape other prisoners—it is estimated that at least 10% of all inmates experience sexual assault—-should never have been tolerated. That it has also been used by law enforcement and popular culture to enhance the deterrent power of imprisonment, essentially making rape a culturally and governmentally sanctioned element of the penal system, should weigh heavily on the national conscience for years to come. It was un-American, as vile a desecration of the principles of our country as torture.  Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

Not That It Will Do Any Good To Say So, But U.S. Acceptance of Prison Rape Is An Ethics Outrage

LOL?

I keep an informal score each television season of how often one of the heroes in a cop or other law enforcement drama will pointedly tell a finally-cornered criminal that he can now look forward to being raped in prison. Of course, this is only representative of the shows I actually see. Even counting only them, however, I have heard such a speech four times in 2011. (The all-time champs in this celebration of prison rape are Dick Wolf’s Law and Order dramas.)

Think about what this means. The scriptwriters are presuming that such a forecast of impending sexual abuse will be enjoyed by the audience, a case of just desserts for the wicked. The casual acceptance of prison rape in America’s penitentiaries is a continuing scandal, and an indictment of our society’s compassion and commitment to the Constitution. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Comment the Day: “Exposing America’s Dungeons…”

Maybe Tom Cruise knows how they stored the prisoners in "Minority Report"---that seemed to be a quiet and pleasent prison environment...

Dwayne N. Zechman makes trenchant observations and raises difficult questions in his comment to the post, “Exposing America’s Dungeons: The New York City Bar Report on Supermax Prisons.” The report to some extent answers Dwayne’s primary point by stating that the need for special high-security prisons to prevent violence to inmates and guards cannot justify an unconstitutional solution. If the conditions in the supermax prisons are as described in the report, there can be no doubt that it violates the prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” That is an absolutist position like the prohibition against torture: ethically, arguing that “it works” or “there’s no other way” or “oh yeah? What would YOU do?” won’t and cannot prevail…unless we conclude that when we have to choose the lesser of two evils, forcing violent and otherwise uncontrollable criminals to live in dungeon-like condition is preferable to having them kill people might be the winner. Continue reading

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