Jan 19, 2011

LD mailbag: defending against punishment

Regarding the juvenile justice resolution for Jan/Feb 2011, a couple readers write,
Hi Jim,

We are wondering if you help us. We have recently debated this resolution in depth at the past tournament, and we came across a couple issues for both sides.

Our first problem that we had was regarding jail rape. The negative side argues that there is a much higher rate of jail rape (and staff beatings, threats by weapons, etc.) of juveniles that were transferred to the adult system than that of the juveniles placed in juvenile system. The argument with its evidentiary backing is quite straight forward, and we had a lot of trouble handling it on the affirmative side effectively. One attempt that we had was to say that since it is against the law to rape in jail, and that we enforce the law; we must evaluate the round in its general symbol and theory to society. Another was to take a similar approach, but rather saying that the affirmative cannot defend jail rape because it is inherently bad, but reforms could be made. Another line of thought was to give a way to reform the system; have separate jail cells. Those arguments, however, were not accepted by the judges. Any thoughts?

The second problem we had was about the lowered recidivism that the negative side can provide. There are many pieces of evidence that say comparatively, the juvenile system provides 30% lower recidivism than the same juveniles that are transferred to the adult system. How would you suggest the affirmative to go about effectively mitigating this point?
The first and perhaps most important thing to do is to place a resolutional analysis at the top of your case, preferably after the definition of "charged," that limits the scope of the resolution to exclude punishment. (This is obviously incompatible with a case based on punishment, in which case you'll have to take the third / fourth option below.) This works well with a "due process" Aff, and takes out the recidivism argument in the second question.

Another way to go is to heavily warrant your argument from principle in your case--take time to establish why we're examining principles rather than specific practices, inherent differences rather than flawed applications.

A third way is to argue that the real problem is the vulnerability of juveniles--most of them are smaller and weaker than adult offenders--so, upon entry, a height/weight-based distinction could be drawn with no regard to age. One way to establish this would be, in cross-ex, to ask the Neg to explain why juvenile offenders are more likely to be abused, beaten, raped, etc. in prison.

I think you can also argue that the flaws in the adult system, including our society's often too-casual dismissal of / joking about prison rape, are the real problem. It's not that the prisons themselves (or the punishment principles) are too harsh, but that society is too tolerant of the abuse. Reform is the solution, not arbitrary age-based distinctions between juveniles and adults.

In other words, one way to affirm the resolution is to argue that adults ought to be treated more like juveniles!

The recidivism argument is potentially taken down by the deterrence argument: we'll have fewer criminals reoffending if we have fewer criminals in the first place. It's also rendered moot by the resolutional analysis described at the top of this post. (I'm also skeptical of the argument, for reasons described here.)


Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso said...

FIRST! Yes! okay so ive got some questions,

1. How do you handle a neg that says that they will have an adult court (but doesnt say so) , and also give rehab?

2. How about an Aff that advocates putting juveniles in separate adult facilities to remove the rape impact?


C said...

thats why I think deterrance is such a powerful argument on this topic. With it, you can turn prison abuse saying that its an added deterrent to adult prisons. It also defeats recidivism because as you point out, there can be no recidivism if there wasnt a crime in the first place.

But if you're not running deterrance, you can beat these args in other ways.

Against abuse, you can say that even if treated as juveniles, violent felonies are serious enough to where the offender will go to jail anyway once they turn 18, meaning they will be abused whether you affirm or negate.

Against recidivism, you can say that the adult prisons are what houses the most violent and dangerous criminals, while the minor juvenile offenders are what populated juvie. So of course juvie has lower recidivism rates, but because of the people who are in it, not because its a better system.

Jim Anderson said...

Mr. Picasso,

1. It depends on what you're running. If you're not focused on punishment (and exclude it via resolutional analysis), and run a due process case, then that Neg response is essentially an Aff case, which you can straight turn.

2. C's responses seem useful.

Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree with the assertion that it's Aff ground to say adults ought to be treated as juveniles.

The phrase "as adults" seems to me that it would lead to the interpretation that there is already a method of treatment that adults receive.

I think trying to show that adults should be treated as juveniles would be affirming a resolution that said "as adults ought to be treated."

Jim Anderson said...

Fair point, and I should clarify: since we're talking about a problem that isn't inherent in the system (i.e., conceivably, with better enforcement, there wouldn't be an extensive problem of rape in prisons), that we're not literally advocating for adults to be treated as juveniles, but that the problem of rape requires a different solution, and isn't directly related to whether juveniles who have been convicted of violent felonies ought to be housed in adult prisons.

SS said...

Hey Guys
First of all I would like the say I love the work that's done on this blog, helped me a lot. :) So

I have a question relating to the resolution. First of all do you think parent judges would vote on topicality arguments?

For example if the aff were to argue that the resolution does not include jails (def. of criminal justice system) and the neg were to argue about the negative impacts of jail, then the aff can argue that the neg's arguments are not topical for the round. Would this work on a parent judge or should this only be used for experienced judges? (Based on your experience with these type of arguments)


Jim Anderson said...

It would depend, of course, on how clearly you explained and warranted your topicality argument (and saying "T is a voter" is about the worst possible way to go about it).

I wouldn't make it a direct voting issue for a parent judge; rather, I'd talk about how "we're solely limited to talking about the rights and process before conviction, so the Negative's points about punishment aren't relevant here. Instead...." When it came time to give voting issues in the 2AR, that's when you could hammer home the point that those Neg arguments are null and void, (potentially) leaving the Neg with no offense.