Old School question. Better a thousand guilty men go free than one innocent be imprisoned?

Discussion in 'Politics and News' started by Stoneburner, Nov 10, 2007.

  1. Stoneburner

    Stoneburner Diamond Member

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    Where do you stand on this? Do you have a different ratio in mind such as perhaps 50 guilty innocent men going free rather than 1 innocent being imprisoned? Or maybe you think 1000 innocent men should be imprisoned rather than letting 1 guilty man go free?

    I'm not that old but I think the general answer to this question has been shifting since the conception of the United States.
     
  2. Hacp

    Hacp Lifer

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    What if that innocent guy were you?
     
  3. Hayabusa Rider

    Hayabusa Rider Elite Member

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    I don't have a ratio in mind. What I have is a standard, and that's "reasonable doubt". The state must prove it's case to the satisfaction of reasonable people. It must do so in an ethical manner. If not, the I would conclude (and I think reasonably) that if the govt tries to set someone up, that person needs to be given benefit of the doubt and released. If it cannot do more than make allegations, that person ought to be freed. Could someone guilty get off? You bet. It's more likely that the innocent go free. That's where I stand.
     
  4. daveymark

    daveymark Lifer

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    if I had the choice of one guilty man going free, or one innocent man being imprisoned, I would prefer the guilty man go free
     
  5. Lemon law

    Lemon law Lifer

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    I wonder if the thread addresses the real question of liberty that America stands for. Namely, no matter how horrible the crime suspected, the presumption is innocent until proven guilty, the right to counsel at trial, the right to a speedy trial with the ability to confront the charges made against you. And above all no arbitrary arrest and detention
    without a corresponding and initial charge that will stand the scrutiny of a fair and impartial judge.

    Which is the set of tactics the British used during our revolutionary war, they would arrest and detain without ever charging.

    We now become as morally bankrupt as those we fight.
     
  6. Jaskalas

    Jaskalas Lifer

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    :thumbsup:
     
  7. Craig234

    Craig234 Lifer

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    So, a 1:1 ratio; as long as < 50% of the people in jail are innocent, ok by you, huh?

    Here's a link to the quotes. The most famous is a 10:1 ratio.

    I prefer at least 100:1; even with that, with a million imprisoned, you will have 10,000 innocents.

    Because of this, that's why I tend to support stronger measures to get to the truth (no, not torture for interrogation), things like cameras on all police cars.
     
  8. Moonbeam

    Moonbeam Elite Member

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    I think I will go with this too.
     
  9. Moonbeam

    Moonbeam Elite Member

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    Probably this was a saying that is there more for emphasis, a powerful commitment not to find the innocent guilty, than it is a statistical standard anybody intended to apply, no?
     
  10. Jaskalas

    Jaskalas Lifer

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    Now you're dragging the war into this? I tend to think the profile of a foreign cold blooded killer should be handled differently than the average American citizen.
     
  11. Craig234

    Craig234 Lifer

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    Nice how you beg the question - they're not 'suspects', you have already declared them guilty.

    As for the percentages - it's not pleasant to think about, but it's helpful to note that as much as we want to just say 'we have a good process', there actually is some percentage of innocents convicted, and by recognizing that it's 2% or whatever, it reminds us of the horror of an innocent person being convicted - and pushes our ratio higher (towards fewer innocents convicted) which is a good thing.

    By doing that, we do let more guilty go, which has its own injustice to victims old and new, and it's all too easy to let more innocents be convicted to get the guilty.

    Neither is really acceptable, hence my push for better fact gathering. That means more cameras, more tests, etc.
     
  12. Vic

    Vic Elite Member

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    It's not a numbers game. Nor one of political affiliation nor nationality. Human rights are universal. Whenever you would forfeit someone else's rights, even in the smallest way, even those of your enemy, then you forfeit everyone else's in that regard, including your own.
     
  13. blackangst1

    blackangst1 Lifer

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  14. Darwin333

    Darwin333 Lifer

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    Another interesting question is, how much privacy are you willing to give up to dramatically decrease the amount of innocent people convicted of crimes?

    How much privacy are you willing to give up in order to prevent 1,000 innocent people from being convicted and the guilty party being convicted? 10,000? 100,000? Keep in mind that you could be one of those wrongly convicted.

    At the end of the day, I think it comes down to the odds people are willing to risk.
     
  15. DarkThinker

    DarkThinker Platinum Member

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    Excellent point.
     
  16. BrownTown

    BrownTown Diamond Member

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    I would say the number should be ~100:1, however it is obviously unseemly to think about. However, for those people being like "no innocent man should ever go to jail", or "anyone who talks about such number is inhumane", they are just dodging the question, the fact of the matter is that whatever system you have there will be some ratio of innocents being convicted and guilty people being free, and trying to ignore that fact doesn't get you anywhere. The only way to have no innocents in jail is to never convict anyone, the only way to put all guilty people in jail is to ship the entire country off to jail. Since neither of this is possible it is nescecarry to deal in percentages and statistics. Personally I know alot of people on this forum are always complaining about how it takes 10 years worth of appeals before a murderer receives the death sentence, or how guilt people sometimes get off on technicalities, however its important to note that these thigns are in place to save innocent people and the fact that many guilty people benefit from them too is a nescacarry evil. There are many examples of innocent people being executed, there are obviously thousands of examples of innocent people being imprisoned. And unfortunately its usually the poor or mentally handicapped, people see a homeless guy with a mental disease and its VERY easy to stereotype that person as a criminal, so even some circumstantial evidence is enough, and someone like that doesnt have any loved ones to go and fight on their behalf in the appeals courts, or to hire a good lawyer, so once they go to jail they are essentially forgotten by society and left to rot.
     
  17. jonks

    jonks Lifer

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    There is no ratio, merely the question of how you treat the accused. Knowing humans are imperfect creatures, do we torture the accused to secure confession? Do we have a death penalty for those found guilty in a court of law? I feel we should set up the system as if each person actually was innocent, and even after they are judged guilty, not put ourselves in the position of being unable to rectify a mistake we are all too capable of making.
     
  18. Siddhartha

    Siddhartha Lifer

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  19. sandorski

    sandorski No Lifer

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    The Ratios are merely for emphasis and not meant to be used as a Test on the effectiveness of the Justice System. It's like an Athlete promising 110% effort, he/she can't possibly achieve that level, they only say it to emphasize their dedication to put more effort into their task. As for knowing what the Real World ratio is, that's likely to be next to impossible to calculate. No doubt some Innocents will always be seen as Guilty and some Guilty will always be seen as Innocent. The Innocents found to be Innocent only after previously thought as Guilty usually get the most attention, as they should, but there numbers are likely(IMO) to be smaller than the Guilty who remain "Innocent".
     
  20. JEDIYoda

    JEDIYoda Lifer

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    exactly!
     
  21. umbrella39

    umbrella39 Lifer

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    Tend to agree. There are countless guilty people roaming the streets anyway, what is one more.. I can't even imagine being imprisoned for something I didn't do.
     
  22. Jeff7

    Jeff7 Lifer

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    And then when you're finally released after most of your life has been wrongfully taken from you, you get a pat on the back and a statement of, "Oops, our bad!" I also don't have a ratio in mind. I do find it unacceptable though that innocent people do go to jail, especially in cases of corrupt prosecutions, such as when the prosecution has evidence of innocence, but they hide it only for personal gain, so that they can uphold their image of perfection.


    No, I think that daveymark was saying very simply that, exclusively given the preference of innocent going free vs guilty going free, he'd prefer guilty going free. It's just not specified that the 1:1 ratio is the only acceptable ratio.
     
  23. teclis1023

    teclis1023 Golden Member

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    The system is not, and never will be perfect; however, the idea of being personally imprisoned for a crime I did not commit is absolutely terrifying to me.
     
  24. Craig234

    Craig234 Lifer

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    That's the point - it's easy for him to say just a basic statement about it being unfortunate for innocents to be convicted - but the minimal statement he made would allow 49% of prisoners to be innocent. While we can't practically pick a number in our policies, we can in principle, and that's why he's asked to say a ratio; if he could pick a number, what would be an acceptable ratio? It forces confronting the fact that there is such a ratio, and real innocent people who are convicted (and real guilty people who are not).

    Let's say he went with the popular 10:1 answer - that would leave 300,000 innocents in jail among 3 million US prisoners. The "oh my gosh" reaction to that is the point, in helping people to see a problem; on the other hand, imagining that if someone rapes your wife, there's a far higher chance he'll go free to protect that 10%, is also daunting - you demand justice for such crimes.

    It's easy for people to not pay attention and just pretend the system simply works great.

    Having citizens look at the system more and realize the difficulties and look for ways to improve the accuracies of convictions is helpful.

    For example, maybe they'd pay more for thorough investigations, for the studies to help improve the system, and so on, and demand their politicians do it.

    Maybe they'd notice issues such as the privatization of prisons creating a profit motive for the jailers, making them a special interest group demanding harsher sentences.
     
  25. jonks

    jonks Lifer

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    Not to get too off topic, but once we agree that the system isn't perfect and innocent people can and do go to jail, how can we justify the death penalty?