I think that my impending up-close involvement in the justice system is one reason that I have lately become more attentive to the system as a whole. One article in CNN today caught my eye for this reason(click here to view). The article highlights the looming implementation of a recently passed law in South Korea which allows the "chemical castration" of convicted serial rapists. At first, I was put off by this notion, but I find that my opinions are changing the more I think about it.
I wish to clarify that in tentatively supporting this idea, I am decidedly not echoing the boorish rants in the comments section below that article. Those comments, crassly suggesting that a serial rapist "deserves" only physical castration, exemplify the very American justice philosophy of revenge. From what I have noticed, the American justice system seems to place a large emphasis on punishment, and the general public seems to think that even the harsh prison sentences and the executions that still do happen in the U.S. are not severe enough to sufficiently punish inmates for their crimes.
In contrast, the South Korean law seems to actually be an attempt to decrease the risk of repeat offense. "Chemical castration", as the article describes it, involves a mandatory injection of some compound (I won't speculate here what the compound might be) which would theoretically decrease the sex drive of the convict, but that is all. Those sentenced under this law would stay under close scrutiny for three years and receive treatment for up to 15 years. As I think about it, in the United States we already use antipsychotic or sedative medications for violent inmates even if they do not consent to treatment. Are sexual offenses all that different? I haven't thoroughly thought through the potential implications of such a move, but it doesn't seem like an unethical leap.
And after all, shouldn't our focus as a society be on rehabilitating criminals with intent to reintegrate them into the fabric of our society, rather than retaining our current system which encourages repeat offenders and establishes a rather large population of citizens who cycle in and out of prison for life? To take an extreme example of a rehabilitation-based system, consider the example of Norway. Last month, I was reading this article about the "World's nicest prison", located on an island off the coast of Norway. I encourage you to read the well-written, if lengthy, composition. It details the Norwegian judicial philosophy, including their short prison sentences and emphasis on teaching convicts how to return as productive members of society, and providing those opportunities.
Such a system doesn't leave the vengeful with much satisfaction, but I ask you to consider, should our focus be on making ourselves feel better about the proper retaliation against an offense, or should our focus rather be on reducing the "recidivism" rate, or risk of repeat offense after a criminal is released? Say what you will about the Norwegian system, the numbers don't lie. The Norwegian recidivism rate at 3 years out is 16-20%. In the U.S.? It's 43-50%. Food for thought.
NOTE: I greatly appreciates responses/discussion, but please keep it civil. Thank you.