Join 3,499 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Shock the prisoner
May 31, 2001 11:47 PM   Subscribe

Shock the prisoner It's the details of this story that horrify me. This guy is a repeat offender. Still, it's seems extreme to send him to jail to die for stealing painkillers. Oh and by the way, while the judge is doing that she doesn't want him to talk back.
posted by rdr (31 comments total)

 
Still, it's seems extreme to send him to jail to die for stealing painkillers.

Sick people shouldn't have to do time? I think the health of the criminal should be irrelevant to sentencing.

Oh and by the way, while the judge is doing that she doesn't want him to talk back.

She didn't want him to interrupt her. Why do morons like this man insist on representing themselves?
posted by MarkC at 3:16 AM on June 1, 2001


Well, I haven't seen the guy's wrap-sheet, but in many cases the three-strikes law is a grotesque lunacy. Certainly stealing OTC pain killers does not deserve a quarter-century time-out.

As for the stun-belt - it's shocking. (PI)
Deliver us all from non-lethal agonies whimsically delivered by pushbutton. A non-violent captive in a controlled situation, lawfully defending himself, forced to wear an Acme torture truss that might burn, blister, blow piss and uncork ass if he mildly annoys a menopausal magistrate...anybody care to paint this one on the ceiling of the new Cistine?
posted by Opus Dark at 4:25 AM on June 1, 2001


_stealing painkillers - usually in bulk to sell to small time meth producers. A definite problem, I would say.
_However, for justice to be carried out in a court of law a person must be able to walk in presumed innocent before proven guilty.
_the belt sends an eight-second shock that, according to the court, immobilizes the prisoner and causes severe pain while activated. Prisoners may urinate or defecate involuntarily and suffer long- lasting welts
_If he shells out the dough for a competent lawyer on appeal then my money is on Mr. Hawkins.
_why don't we use concrete moats like in the zoo? Sounds crazy, but security could be enhanced while protecting the rights of the defendant.
posted by roboto at 5:03 AM on June 1, 2001


Forget stun belts - we should get those "painstick" things the Klingons have! Now that would make CTV a lot more interesting.

As for this guy, he was shown the tape, he was warned repeatedly, then he was zapped. What's he want? He knew what was going to happen if he acted stupid, and he acted stupid anyway. He's got a long history of acting stupid, so I can't believe anyone was even remotely surprised when he got zapped.

He should have been zapped earlier on, like when he said "I'll be representing myself." Perhaps, if a pre-emptive anti-stupidity zap had been administered at that point, all this ugliness could have been avoided.
posted by UncleFes at 7:17 AM on June 1, 2001


he was shown the tape, he was warned repeatedly, then he was zapped

children often have to be warned repeatedly not to do something. maybe we should be using these in our schools. that'd learn 'em!
posted by tolkhan at 7:31 AM on June 1, 2001


Har dee har. This guy wasn't a child in school, he was a criminal on trial. An adult, purportedly. Certainly capable of controlling his behavior. He chose not to. Subsequently, el zappo. I figure he likely deserved it. But I'm nearly certain he didn't learn from it. If years of prison time didn't teach him not to commit crimes, an eight-second zap isn't going to teach him proper courtroom etiquette.
posted by UncleFes at 7:40 AM on June 1, 2001


If an offender is genuinely dangerous, I would support trial via video-conference before I'd support torture devices.
posted by jpoulos at 7:43 AM on June 1, 2001


he is probably a junkie and is dying of aids. He is a criminal to boot. Take a miracle to redeem this guy. How bout a good suicide thread. This guy seems to be a candidate for The Durkhiem solution.
posted by clavdivs at 7:58 AM on June 1, 2001


Prisoners may urinate or defecate involuntarily and suffer long- lasting welts.

Charming. And people don't have a problem with this? How is this not cruel and unusual--or are you accustomed to shitting your pants while nursing your painful welts? State-sanctioned torture isn't quite cricket in my book.

he is probably a junkie and is dying of aids. He is a criminal to boot. Take a miracle to redeem this guy.

clavdivs clearly takes a Metallica-lyrics approach to justice, something devoutly to be admired. Kill 'em all!
posted by Skot at 8:24 AM on June 1, 2001


The offender should be allowed to sue the judge for assault.
posted by muppetboy at 8:54 AM on June 1, 2001


He is, effectively, that's the point :)
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 10:14 AM on June 1, 2001


Just as a counterpoint, I've always wondered why people think they have rights without concomitant responsibilities...? I was taught that our republic is based on a compact between individuals: we agree to give each other (and ourselves) certain rights, and in exchange we agree individually to certain responsibilities to the group. In all the boohoo about this fellow, where do I see any discussion of HIS responsibilities to us - his responsibility NOT to commit crimes, his responsibility to behave as an adult, his responsibility to treat a judge with the respect allocated her by virtue of the office she holds.

A lot of people discuss rights like they are some god-given blessing bestowed from on high. Rights are simply political assumptions that we give each other based on the further assumption that we will not shirk our responsibilities to the collective.

I don't necessary advocate widespread use of electric shock as a motivational tool; however, before we rush to defend his actions (and thereby condemn our own, as societal members), perhaps we should take a look at how well the zappee has fulfilled his obligations to us.

Perhaps that's the bigger question here.
posted by UncleFes at 11:41 AM on June 1, 2001


A lot of people discuss rights like they are some god-given blessing bestowed from on high. Rights are simply political assumptions that we give each other based on the further assumption that we will not shirk our responsibilities to the collective.

This would be a cogent point, had anyone argued otherwise. But I think you're just conjuring it up out of the ether to bolster your own argument. Speaking of which:

before we rush to defend his actions (and thereby condemn our own, as societal members),

Can you please point out who was defending his actions? I believe most of the dissent (like mine) is coming from the belief that this sort of action is morally indefensible and tantamount to torture.
posted by Skot at 11:58 AM on June 1, 2001


"This would be a cogent point, had anyone argued otherwise."

Most of the arguments here seem, imo, to presume the 'otherwise argument.' In any event, my conjurations do not undo the question.

"I believe most of the dissent (like mine) is coming from the belief that this sort of action is morally indefensible and tantamount to torture."

And my point was that, unlike, er, *normal* torture, he was (a) shown the effects of the belt on video, (b) told that he would be required to wear the belt, (c) warned repeatedly that, should he continue with his behavior, he would shocked, and then finally (d) shocked. Briefly. With none of the oogy bathroom effects that have been described, in loving detail, above, as far as I've heard. If that's "tantamount to torture," perhaps we should reconsider the lauds and medals given to, say, the guests at the Hanoi Hilton.

Anyway, I was just making a general point, regardless of other arguments.
posted by UncleFes at 12:16 PM on June 1, 2001


I don't see why the general course of actions you describe in steps (a) - (d) in any way diverges from activities that all the participants here would probably agree qualified as torture. It's actually a rather classic scheme, as illustrated by the following "normal torture" scenario: heretic is (a) shown the effects of the rack; (b) told that he will be required to put his arms and legs into the restraints; (c) warned repeatedly that if he continues with his heretical behavior, he will be subjected to a turn on the rack; and then, finally, (d) tortured. Of course, you may find that the specific painful experience delivered in this case fails to meet your criteria for torturous punishment, but I'm puzzled by the step-by-step stuff.
posted by redfoxtail at 1:08 PM on June 1, 2001


Well, my understanding was that this guy had a choice as to whether he would be "tortured" or not. A persecuted religious dissenter he's not - he's just some criminal who can't seem to follow courtroom instructions. Nor was the "torture" designed to kill or permanently harm him. It's barely temporary harm. The videos they make to demonstrate the effects feature law enforcement types who volunteer to have the thing strapped to them - can't be too injurious, if they volunteer. My little brother nailed me with a four-D-cell "dogzapper" when I was a kid. I didn't like it (he thought it was hilarious), but torture? No. I don't like getting up at 6 a.m. to go to work. Torture? No. I don't like cleaning the house on nice Saturdays when I could be golfing. But torture? Nah. Point being, not all things that are unpleasant are necessarily torture.

As far as I know, the religious types you describe didn't have much of a choice of avoiding torture, besides recanting, for which I believe they were killed anyway. Personally, it's hard for me to get too misty over medieval mythology arguments, and let's face it, the entire epoch was one of general unpleasantness with occasional localized severe pain and suffering, none of which have much application today.

If you have a problem with my format, I apologize - too much powerpoint :) But if you want to compare this mutt to Martin Luther or Joan of Arc, I think maybe my formatting is a man of straw.
posted by UncleFes at 1:37 PM on June 1, 2001


Nuisance: One that is inconvenient, annoying, or vexatious; a bother.

Torture: Infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion.

Having to get up early in the morning is a nuisance.
posted by snarkout at 1:46 PM on June 1, 2001


6 a.m. certainly is vexatious, I'll give you that.

I'll try to be more clear in my ramblings. The electrozap belt is not painful enough, nor harmful enough, to be considered torture in the traditional "severe physical pain" definition you provide.

In addition, he was given ample opportunity to avoid the zap, and behavior that would have avoided the zap was not overtly vexatious.

I love that word, vexatious. It just rolls off the tongue: vexxxxaaaaaaashussssssss. Mmmmmmmm. I've said it out loud like three times already. Vexatious!
posted by UncleFes at 2:07 PM on June 1, 2001


From the link: The most widely used version of the belt sends an eight-second shock that, according to the court, immobilizes the prisoner and causes severe pain while activated.

Again that's: The most widely used version of the belt... according to the court... causes severe pain while activated.
posted by snarkout at 2:12 PM on June 1, 2001


alright, it's painful. But, really, is it torture? I think calling so downgrades actual torture, as practiced on actual oppressed. This guy chose to be "tortured"!

I'll concede it's probably not the best thing that could be introduced into a court of law. But it's not like this judge was zapping him constantly throughout the trial whenever he made a motion to suppress.

My thought is we should save our sympathy for those that deserve it.
posted by UncleFes at 2:19 PM on June 1, 2001


what will stop those who will not stop. Yes, a cattle prod is inhuman save a riot situation. We assume upon threads. The court says he is guilty of theft(drugstore cowboy-ratso type?) he could anyone or noone....do his actions speak for future behavior...will his familiy rally around him, take care of him...and on and on...we dont know. He is doing, what, a 25 years in the pokey. He has received a death sentence and California has to flip the bill for his incarceration, court cost, damage through his criminal actions, medical bills and now his most probable law suit. You weight the issue and decide how great our system is. I guess the point is...this man only cares about the cattle prod not the vast destruction he has left in his wake.
posted by clavdivs at 2:25 PM on June 1, 2001


The appeals court ruling noted that even the threat of getting zapped could induce a defendant to fail to defend him- or herself properly. There are recognized procedures for dealing with disruptive people in court that don't involve (all together now) causing severe pain. For instance, this law.com report on New York state appelate court rules suggests that when "a defendant engages in disruptive conduct...the trial judge may order the defendant to be removed from the courtroom and placed in custody, and the trial judge may proceed with the trial in the absence of the defendant."

Why do you assume that my objection to this is based on "sympathy"? There are all kinds of people who are scum and belong in jail -- some of whom are additionally irrational and abusive -- but my belief in both the American legal system and basic human rights prevents me from applauding a judge for running fifty thousand volts through them without a mighty, mighty good reason, even if they "chose" it.
posted by snarkout at 2:37 PM on June 1, 2001


This guy chose to be "tortured"!

Punishment can be appropriate in its object (i.e. the punished person really did do something against the rules) while being inappropriate in kind.

In this case, the guy was being punished for his interruptions, which were, indeed, against the rules of courtroom behavior. As you point out, he absolutely did choose to engage in the activity that got him punished; however, it's the nature of the punishment that's at issue, rather than the lameness of the behavior to which the punishment was addressed.

That's what I was trying to get at with my earlier comment: your formatting was fine, and I don't think that being a thief in contempt of court is much like being Joan of Arc. Rather, I just don't believe that the preliminaries (informing the defendant about the belt's effects, warning him under what conditions it would be used) are terribly relevant to the torture/not torture question. Whether or not I think this guy deserves sympathy is sort of a side issue, I think, to the point that this kind of punishment is altogether inappropriate--and, incidentally, prohibited--in our legal system.
posted by redfoxtail at 2:39 PM on June 1, 2001


In all cases, it's a question of dehumanization. Criminals dehumanize their victims. Is it then okay to dehumanize the criminals? Calling them scum, saying they deserve it- is that not precisely what criminals do, the very mindset they used? When someone steals, they rarely think, "Man, I'm hurting this person's livelihood", they think "I got every right to do this, and besides the person I'm stealing from deserves it anyway because they're _________ (characteristic of choice, such as rich/ poor, darker/ lighter of skin, wrong creed or belief system...)"


Why is it okay to subject someone to direct physical punishment, especially in court? The presumed point of a penal system, of incarceration, is supposed be twofold: a) [usually temporarily] remove a person who's a danger to society for an appropriate period of time and b) ideally rehabilitate the prisoner so that upon their release they become a productive member of society.


And the point of the shock is... what, vengeance? Pettiness? The thrill of having that kind of power over another human being? Do we believe the defendant will learn something permanent from being shocked? The tenor of this thread seems to be that they shocked him because he would never learn- well, then why not remove him from court, as was noted?


I honestly believe that supporting these shocking devices is cruel and inhuman (or decidely human...), and demonstrates the seed of inhuman and monstrous behavior. Like I said, the mindset that allows for human beings to commit everything from child/ spousal abuse, to serial rape or murder, to nationalized genocide starts with the dehumanization of the target. Things we would never want happening to us become okay happening to others because we have personally deemed them fit for such punishment.


I normally abhor the slippery- slope argument, but I think we're well down the slope when we see prolonged electrocution as "okay" punishment, much less for being disruptive...
posted by hincandenza at 6:05 PM on June 1, 2001


who in the fuck said anything about the thing as being 'O.k.' Of course it is not but who cares, you? go save him. Who cares. what about suffering injustices quietly. Dont use the shock device, stupid to use it in the first place, wont happen again. There is one quality i rarely see in life and that is brevity. Power? power is suffering(like having your church blown up by crackers)and still remain a human being. You should look into the "friend of the court" for dehumanization(No, i am not a victim of that evil institution) we should take a cattle prod to those people...and before i become Ezra pounded and pat buchanized...prove me wrong.(86 prod, enter dehumanized FOC)
posted by clavdivs at 6:45 PM on June 1, 2001



Based on the posts, I'm going to go out on a limb and venture that clavdivs is really Larry King. What's with the stream-of-conciousness, is this blogging as performance art?
posted by hincandenza at 6:53 PM on June 1, 2001



I think we're well down the slope when we see prolonged electrocution as "okay" punishment, much less for being disruptive

The guy was not electrocuted. When you get electrocuted, you die. Elecricity + execution = electrocution.
posted by kindall at 7:11 PM on June 1, 2001


RFT, I agree with you on appropriateness; I think this electrobelt is not a new product, and has been used and discarded in other municipalities. I'm certain there are better ways of getting knuckleheads to shut up in court. My contention is that it wasn't torture. It was a measured responsed to a certain set of pre-defined behaviors.

I recall reading an article entitled something like "the toughest soldier in the world" or something like that, about a fighter pilot captured in Vietnam,early on in the war. he spent like seven years as a captive of the North Vietnamese, and they outlined some of the torture he was put through: beatings to unconsciousness with sticks and telephone cabling were a nearly daily ocurrence; long periods of isolation and light, sleep and food deprivation; breaking of shin and forearm bones with metal rods; removal of finger and toenails; forced consumption of acids and ground glass (it scores your colon, leads to infections); burns with cigars, irons, and needles. Those are the ones I remember off the top of my head, there were a litany of other horrors.

THAT is torture. Getting zapped with this electrobelt? NOT TORTURE. Inappropriate? Probably. But definitely not torture.
posted by UncleFes at 8:19 PM on June 1, 2001


Sorry UncleFes, but "torture" is one of those words which has been abducted and forced to perform unnatural acts. It pretty much means whatever anybody wants it to mean - there is no red zone on the dolorimeter labeled "torture". Deal with it. Your little word has left home, has new friends, and your relationship to her will never be quite the same.
posted by Opus Dark at 8:56 PM on June 1, 2001



First, my bad- I thought electrocution meant any severe electrical shock, not necessarily just those leading to death.


But my core point was that the path to the horrors UncleFes described are started through the dehumanization process- those N. Vietnamese did those things because that soldier was to them a representative of an evil monstrous nation, a captive that needed punishment and control. It may recoil us to hear these things, but to the N. Vietnamese they had dehumanized that soldier to the point they could commit such atrocities.


Now, if we can do something of comparitively a far less horrific nature to someone in court, what will we do to them once they're convicted? Sanctioned beatings in prisons for mis-behavior, but y'know nothing fatal or anything? And if that works well, how far from there to tearing off fingernails and breaking of shins and forearms? After all, you want to control a rowdy prison population, why, who could oppose using the breaking of limbs and torture to ensure a compliant incarcerated population?


After all, we all know that all prisoners are horrible depraved sociopaths, who must deserve the worst abuse we can put on them- otherwise, why would they be in jail? These people aren't human, they're monsters, inhuman monsters, which is why we need to treat them like rabid animals.... right?


Like I said, I tend to want to shy away from the slippery-slope, but in this case it just shocks me (no pun intended) how offhandedly people can refer to the use of powerful electric shock as a deterrent... On a pragmatic level, if security or control is what's needed in these courts for the more violent or disruptive defendents, I should hope a straitjacket or other restraint would be just as good as any sort of Kafka- meets- B.F. Skinner situation.
posted by hincandenza at 9:16 PM on June 1, 2001



good guess. the Larry King-Bill Maher routine can get dim quickly, become to isssuey. I feel the corrections and court constabulary will get the heat. They should be fired and a apology issued. As far as it (prod)being a symbol of 'junta vision' well, history makes far better comparisons.
posted by clavdivs at 10:24 PM on June 1, 2001


« Older Adventure games!...  |  Boris Johnson, crying into his... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments