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  1. #1
    Domestic Domestique UnsafeAlpine's Avatar
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    Advocacy & Prison

    It's always saddening to read about the death of a cyclist, especially when it's at the hands of incompetent driver. I think everyone in this forum would agree that many drivers shouldn't be anywhere near a road. But what does prison time have to do with cycling advocacy?

    If a driver makes a stupid error, what purpose does jail time serve? Is it a deterrent to other drivers to avoid making the same mistake? I would argue that it doesn't. If prison was a deterrent, why does the prison population increase faster than the the overall population?

    Is prison, then, for punitive justice? If that is the case, does it really serve our community? When the "criminal" is released, will they drive with more caution, or will they, more helpfully, advocate for safer driving? Or will they, in all likely hood, come out worse than they went in?

    I believe cycling advocacy is not only about preventing tragedies in our cycling community, but helping all road users. By advocating for restorative justice instead of prison time, we show that education is our ultimate goal, not punishment. Teaching people, even those that have made the ultimate mistake, is far better for our community than punishing.

    Edit: I used restitution when I meant restorative justice. Sorry
    Last edited by UnsafeAlpine; 04-12-08 at 08:50 PM.

  2. #2
    genec genec's Avatar
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    What form of restitution?

  3. #3
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    That idea has worked well with drunk driving.

    I am all in favor of saving money by emptying all of the prisons, as long as they are required to take their re-education is in YOUR city and they are required to live in YOUR city.

  4. #4
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Fair enough, but for some people, punishment is the only recourse.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

  5. #5
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    I see your point. I would like to see tougher penalties in terms of license suspension and disregard the fact that people 'need' to drive to work. People need to know that if they stuff around in a car, they shouldn't be able to drive one. Trouble is, it's pretty hard to enforce until it's too late.

    Hell, they might even start riding themselves.
    I want to live.

  6. #6
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    Our society has digressed to the point of the automobile being our deity.
    Our religion determines anything you do with an automobile in the name
    of driving is excusable. "Accident", "veered in front of me", etc.........
    Wanna kill someone ? Hit them with your car and say they walked/rode into you.
    It has to change. Never has one entity forced so much antipathy into
    the members of that society. I dont know if prison is the answer but
    part of our becoming accepted in this society is people becoming scared to
    assault us. If people know they are going to suffer for thier lapses of
    common sense and civility they might rethink the cell fone call or the
    acting out on the anger at having to use their brake for 1.5 seconds.

  7. #7
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    Question for everybody

    Are you scared of going to prison? If you answer yes, then prison is a deterent.

    The problem is, across the board ofall crime, enforcement is so weak that often people do not believe they will be caught.
    Not too much to say here

  8. #8
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    Are you scared of going to prison?
    I have three sons. Sometimes I think I'd enjoy the peace and quiet.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

  9. #9
    tinydr
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    Question for everybody

    Are you scared of going to prison? If you answer yes, then prison is a deterent.

    The problem is, across the board ofall crime, enforcement is so weak that often people do not believe they will be caught.
    I don't think that's the primary problem, it seems to me, most of the time, that the problem is people don't expect their lack of care, or their outright dangerous actions, will lead to actual injury, and certainly not death.

  10. #10
    Conservative Hippie
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    For some people prison is like a dog bite. Once they've been bitten, they loose their fear of being bitten again.

    I used to think a better punishment than prison for this type of crime would be having the DL revoked for a number of years, or life. But the fact of the matter is, that most people will continue driving even though they no longer hold a valid license. That's just how our society is set up. So it's probably better to do both and more. Prison, revoked license, fines and fees, parole, work camp and community service time.

  11. #11
    Domestic Domestique UnsafeAlpine's Avatar
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    I think tinydr has really pinpointed the problem. Putting people in prison or suspending their license is punitive. It does nothing to educate. When a person gets their license back, do they drive more carefully, or do they drive like they've always done? Do they think what they did was a lapse in judgment, a momentary horrible mistake that wasn't committed before, and won't be committed again?

  12. #12
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    The problem is, across the board ofall crime, enforcement is so weak that often people do not believe they will be caught.
    Exactly. Most people aren't court, and when they are it's astonishing just how rarely they actually go to prison because so many magistrates seem more concerned with being psuedo-social workers than enforcing the law.

    In answer to the original question, I don't see the role of prisons being to "educate" people or "rehabilitate" criminals. I see them solely as a means of making society safer by removing individuals who pose a threat to others. Frankly, I couldn't care less whether they are "educated" or not, as long as I don't encounter them on my commute home from work this evening.
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  13. #13
    Domestic Domestique UnsafeAlpine's Avatar
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    I don't believe society is safer by imprisoning those who commit these crimes. Without education, when the driver gets back on the road, the road becomes more unsafe. Punishment is not a long term solution to road safety for cyclist, it is a punitive measure.

  14. #14
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    ^^^^At least while they are in prison, they aren't out on the street. So, while they are in there, we are safer. SOme may loose their fear of prison, and re offend. Ok. Put them back. Some will not want to go back to prison, and straighten themselves out. Ok.
    Education is not a problem for the doctor in his BMW speeding on the road on his way to the hospital.
    Education is not a problem for the lawyer who runs stop signs.
    They know these things are wrong, and dangerous. They know the consequences.
    Lack of fear of enforcement, and inadequate punishment is the problem.
    Not too much to say here

  15. #15
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UnsafeAlpine View Post
    I don't believe society is safer by imprisoning those who commit these crimes. Without education, when the driver gets back on the road, the road becomes more unsafe. Punishment is not a long term solution to road safety for cyclist, it is a punitive measure.
    I'm all for helping people that want to better themselves, but forcing it on people that don't want it is an exercise in futility.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

  16. #16
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UnsafeAlpine View Post
    I don't believe society is safer by imprisoning those who commit these crimes. Without education, when the driver gets back on the road, the road becomes more unsafe. Punishment is not a long term solution to road safety for cyclist, it is a punitive measure.
    So what do you suggest doing about those drivers who fail/refuse to comply with the educational message? Simply say "oh, that's alright son, carry on"? The simple fact is that "education" in and of itself doesn't work. If it had any inherent value, there would be no need for laws governing what people can and can't do on the road, because the "education" they go through when obtaining a licence would be sufficient. Clearly, this isn't the case, as can be attested by anyone who has stood on a street corner in this city for five minutes to count the red light runners.

    And if law enforcement is applied properly, those who commit these crimes won't get back on the road in most cases, meaning that the roads will be safer without them. I also think that those who have been punished in the past will, in most cases, be more careful about re-offending if the punishment is sufficient. If not, there are always life sentences, car confiscations and permanent driving bans for those who don't learn the first time around.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member
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    What prison is for depends on who you ask. I say it's for society to efficiently deal with those who refuse to be a legal member of society. Others think it's for rehab. Others think it's punishment.

    I really don't think the punishment factor works. Prison sounds horrible to us, but to people who are already there: They're used to it. The punishment factor wears down.

    For rehab? Well this one is truly ********. Putting people in prison with worse offenders isn't going to help make them better people. You know how your friends can get you in trouble? Would you put your obnoxious kid in a room full of murderers and thieves to cure his road rage or his drug addiction? No, of course not: It makes no sense.

    But it does, successfully, get dangerous people into a place where they're a lot less dangerous.


    People who kill others in a car are obviously dangerous people. Although I think a permanent removal of their license would serve just as well, and it'd be a lot cheaper. If you want to enforce this you can use prison: If they're caught driving they'll be put in prison for, say, up to 10 years.

    [End of my opinion, so take with a grain of salt]

  18. #18
    tinydr
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    As usual I think you guys have out-of-it ideas...

    Yes, people found guilty of vehicular manslaughter/reckless endangerment or the like should pay an appropriate penalty (which often would include jail time). On the other hand, the idea that someone driving on a revoked license is going to get 10 years, or that the average motorist who endangers others but doesn't kill someone should get lengthy jail time is extremely unlikely to fly with a judge; these charges still need to pass the same muster as they would in any other situation.

    So... have your opinions, but understand the American criminal justice system is unlikely to comply. How this thread became about the plusses and minuses of punishment vs. rehabilitation I don't know, but it seems to me this illustrates what this discussion is really about: your own senses of justice, not about changing the situation in such a way as to benefit cyclist-safety.

    Ultimately, increasing driver consciousness of the need to be safe around cyclists, and educating everyone about the penalties (in terms of increased fines and license suspensions/revocations) involved if they are caught (as well as making it easier for cyclists to report aggressive anti-cyclist driving to the DMV) will be more likely to bring us (some of) the results we (theoretically) are looking for. I have no doubt it won't solve the problem, much like "click it or ticket" hasn't done-away with people not buckling up, but it's a good start.

    The world is full of danger, it likely always will be.

  19. #19
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by damnable View Post
    I see your point. I would like to see tougher penalties in terms of license suspension and disregard the fact that people 'need' to drive to work. People need to know that if they stuff around in a car, they shouldn't be able to drive one. Trouble is, it's pretty hard to enforce until it's too late.

    Hell, they might even start riding themselves.
    maybe offenders go through a "cycling" course and must complete a certain amount of "bike time" as part of the sentence...

  20. #20
    Senior Member littlewaywelt's Avatar
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    In the world of criminology the four goals of incarcerating someone are: deterrence (general to the public & specific to that individual), retribution, incapacitation (safety to the public via the removal of that individual) and rehabilitation. Personally I don't put any stock in the last. Jails, prisons and juvenile detention facilities are schools for learning how to be a better criminal.

    The avg term of incarceration in these parts is 6 years for homicide. It's no surprise that killing someone accidentally usually results in a minimal sentence.

    It seems to me that with punishments for taking a life whether with intent or without are far, far too light. In my opinion you're not going to retrain a driver. Those habits of being careless, etc are learned and ingrained over many years. If a driver takes a life through his own carelessness and negligence, he ought to spend a minimum of five years in prison. Unfortunately with limited prison space, resistance to building new jails and prisons, and the massive overcrowding in our current prisons this is never going to happen.
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