Very good point, but Hanson really does seem to mean "corporeal punishment" rather than torture. An unfortunate choice of words for sure.

To paraphrase further, I think that his point is that prison as it is today is a form of torture as you define it (with what comes with it: the fear of unknown punishment, of death, rape, bodily injury and/or trauma), and that clearly-defined corporeal punishment would be preferable to that.

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Liberals say the have the solution and republicans have the solution to the justice system and why so many are incarcerated in this country. However, none of them really know how it feels to be locked up. We should seek the input of intelligent former inmates in order to have conversations between all parties...at leas this way they can at least take a consideration of another's point of view.

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smartest words I've seen on this blog...

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nobody -- see some further proposals for torture on this blog. I don't really know how to explain the fact that so many libertarian-minded people, who are supposed to be distrustful of government, are happy to propose that it have total power over the most intimate physical being of persons and use that power in horrific ways.

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For an article on a website about overcoming bias, this contains a lot of damaging and dangerous ignorance. You think you'd rather be tortured than raped, do you? I presume your vast personal experience of torture and rape, and your extensive dialogues with victims of these crimes, has provided you with such great insight, yes?


Don't argue that you'd rather suffer one crime against you than another. Even if you HAVE experienced both, which I am doubting, you CANNOT speak for all victims. I read these articles, and I was so horrified that you would think to speak your opinion on atrocities you don't seem to know much about that I could not, at first, gather my thoughts to respond.

It is good to have a site about overcoming bias. We should all learn to reason clearly, and recognise bias in ourselves. But, torture? Really? Is this a joke? I would go so far as to say that NOT having a bias against torture is a flaw in your thinking. A big one.

I want to tell you some things about torture: what it is, and what it is not. You have these articles on your site, about "bias against torture," and I don't think you have the knowledge to address this.

* Torture is NOT the same thing as corporal punishment. Corporal punishment may or may not be part of torture, but it is not a synonym. The primary goal of torture is to cause psychological suffering: to break and alter the mind brutally. Torture invokes primal and often unconquerable fears: the fear of grotesque injury, the fear of death, the fear of the unknown, the fear of pain which cannot be escaped.

* Torture is NOT primarily used for punitive purposes. Torture is most commonly inflicted on people who are NOT criminals: targets may be chosen for their ethnicity, political or religious position, race, or origin. Torture is used in times of unrest and conflict, to create an atmosphere of terror. Because people are terrified of torture. For good reason.

* Torture is NOT only damaging to the victim. People who have inflicted torture often suffer psychological trauma, also.

* Torture is NOT something that's done, and then the victim returns to his life--and it is NOT easy to rehabilitate victims. Some psychologists have thought it was not possible, at all. In your other article on this subject, you (or one of your commenters--sorry; I did not want to read the article again) said that you'd rather be tortured than imprisoned for many years, because the torture would be over with faster. But the physical pain from torture may continue for years, or for all of one's life. Some forms of torture may be fatal. Beatings can cause blood clots to form, break off, and get in the lungs, heart, or brain. Stress positions can cause heart failure. And all forms of torture can--no, almost certainly WILL--cause horrendous psychological damage: agoraphobia (and other phobias), dissociation, PTSD, anxiety disorders of all types, violent anger.

Torture IS an assault on bodily integrity, bodily autonomy, and human dignity. "Crimes against humanity" are described as "...particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings." Torture is a crime against humanity.

Torture IS designed to crush the ego of a person, humiliate and denigrate them, and break down their sense of self. And it works. Even following a relatively brief period of torture, lasting only a day or two, a victim can display symptoms of identification with their attacker, dissociation, lapses in memory, flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety disorders.

Torture IS cruel and unusual punishment, which is defined as "criminal punishment which is considered unacceptable due to the suffering or humiliation it inflicts on the condemned person." Are you in the USA? I think your constitution has an amendment about this.

So, you want to bring a crime against humanity to your shores, even more than it's already surfaced? You think it's a good idea to commit gross bodily harm, and inflict the fear (and actual possibility) of death upon citizens of your country? You don't see a problem with this?

Maybe you mean corporal punishment, which is a somewhat different animal: the victim of court-imposed corporal punishment will generally know what is to be done: how severe and how long the punishment will be, and what it entails. It is still immensely problematic, as it often shares components of humiliation and intimidation with torture. The distinction between the two is not always clear, especially as there HAVE been fatalities from judicially-imposed corporal punishment, so the fear of death may be a component of this, also.

I would not presume to speak for all victims of torture, but I am a victim, myself. I committed no crime. Still, I sometimes thought I deserved this, and had no worth. That is what torture can do to the mind. For nearly twelve years, now, I can't pass through one day without remembering it. I am still in great physical pain, and also afraid to leave my home. There is no help, either: in the country where I live, torture is not common. Nobody knows what it's like to have experienced it, or to live in fear of bodily trauma.

If anyone reads these articles still, and sees this comment, I hope you are biased against torture. Strongly biased. I hope you see it as an atrocity, and as the CRIME it is. By all means, call out unjustified bias where you see it. Speak up against harmful patterns of thought. But holding a bias against something so brutally damaging as torture is, I am certain, the sane thing to do.

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Katz, Levitt, and Shustorovich showed that increased prison death rates lead to decreasing crime rates. It's not clear to me that these rape rates do not also serve as a deterrent for other young people. That is to say, when 12 percent (let's say 100,000) of incarcerated juveniles have horrible things happening to them, you are missing the 5,000,000 juveniles not part of your dataset because they never became criminals.

In this sense we may be being humane to the 4,900,000, whose time we never even take.

If you want to debate the best method, fine, but it's not clear that this is not humane in the aggregate, ignoring your bias of focusing on only the the effect of rape on individuals in state care who are raped, rather than the overall effect on the entire population.

This may require that you reject the notion that juvenile prisons are not punitive, which seems to be shown to be false by your very statistics.

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12 percent of incarcerated juveniles … had been raped or sexually abused in the past year by fellow inmates or prison staff.

I know what rape is. How are they defining "sexual abuse"?

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"95 percent of the youth making such [sex abuse] allegations said they were victimized by female staff."

Is that really a stunning stat, given that (as you reported) more than 90% of the youths in these facilities are male? Assuming mostly heterosexual contact, we should expect about the same percentage based purely on random interactions -- although to calculate the appropriate baseline, we would need to know the gender ratio of the staff as well.

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Singapore canes juvenile offenders. Much cheaper, to me more humane, and part of a process that gives much more effective crime prevention.

Is caning "torture"? Certainly it is in one sense. But "torture" also suggests one person at the helpless mercy of another, to be tortured or mutilated or killed at the torturer's pleasure. A fixed punishment of five lashes assigned by a judge is nothing like being "disappeared" and locked up indefinitely in a dungeon with psychopaths.

It would be interesting to see how caning would end up distorted if we tried to import the practice to the U.S.

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People have "gotten involved" for many decades. It is an empire bias to think new people getting involved tomorrow can overturn the vast inefficiency of these large organizations.

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It would also be an excellent career choice if you placed a high value on reducing rape.

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Here is a key sentence you wrote, "With prison, citizens can more easily pretend that they have the prisons they wished for, rather than the prisons they actually have."

What is needed is for individual community members to go inside the prisons and youthful offender centers and get involved. They need a connection to healthy outside people and need mentoring upon release.

The numbers don't surprise me. Prison is a power and control environment. And when you mix evil people who become correctional authorities (who have all the power) with youth (who are powerless), you are going to get trouble.

That said, having worked within correctional facilities for the past 10 years, I have worked with many, many professional, great people in corrections who care about those under their authority. Unfortunately, in corrections as in other vocations you have those who are evil as well.

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Good point that lower security prisons are worse for most prisoners. Low security juvenile "detention" seems the logical extreme of that tendency.

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Good point about limits on torture in prison making prison more torturous.

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I can't imagine pursuing a career in being a correctional officer unless I was interested in kiddy rape.

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