If every there was a slippery slope, it began the day we allowed that a two year old who'd pocketed some candy should not be sent to the penitentiary.
The rest was inevitable. We allowed that someone who didn't know wrong from the sparkly fairies whispering in their ear might not get much from the rack. Maybe it didn't make sense to judge someone who couldn't learn to read as harshly as a wall street banker*.
Where will it all stop? Will we decide that nobody can be guilty of anything? Will we think that a fine IQ might be offset by lousy judgment, or that a miserable upbringing and an odd personality might equal the diminished responsibility of active schizophrenia?
Why if we walked this all the way back, who could we punish?! We'd only be able to treat and manage!
- Diminished responsibility: the next cultural battleground
- Changing attitudes about mind and responsibility: Patricia Hearst
- Addiction and disease: My comments on the TIME Science blog
- Free Will RIP - The Economist on preemptive punishment
- How common are false convictions?
- Special needs criminals
- Using electric shocks to manage the behavior of special needs children and adults
*ok, so we're working on that one.