Is Punishment Necessary? by Mitchell DiVentura

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At one of our LOC III (Long term Offenders Corrections) program meetings we discussed the aspect of punishment as it relates to the crime(s) we have committed.  As I pondered the comments made at that meeting, I have come to the following realization:

To most convicted felons, the concept of punishment is emotionally disturbing.

We do not want to be told we’re being punished for the crime(s)  we’ve committed. It
grates against most of us like fingernails on a chalkboard. Yet, the question remains: Should a criminal be punished?

In my opinion, a society without sanction for crime is a society in chaos. it is anarchy waiting to happen. Yet, there seems to be a difference in what society is demanding as punishment, and what I believe is. ample punishment. Punishment, to me, is being separated from the people I love. It’s being confined within a certain limited space. It is doing without the regular everyday things of life.  I am being punished in that I am denied my place in society as far as having a career, a family, providing for my old age in retirement, having a normal relationship with the opposite
sex, being present in times of family crisis, and a million other things people in our society experience and are able to strive for and enjoy. To me, that is ample and severe punishment.

Then there’s the position that many of us guilty of crime either refuse to acknowledge, or just never think about because we are selfish , concerned only about ourselves; the punishment we’ve inflicted upon our victims because of our own selfish motives , desires, or uncontrolled tempers and passions. Do we not realize that we have punished our victims and their families? Does it not affect us that they have been denied all the things we have been denied? Does it not affect us that the results of our actions have caused our victims and their families physical and emotional damage which may fast a lifetime? Does it not affect us that our actions may have deprived a whole family of our victims presence perhaps for the rest of their lives? How or why did these people deserve to be punished for something we’ve done? Once we’ve come to this self-awareness, I believe that we will find that society has the right and duty to punish us. But, I also believe that included with the punishment ought to be a strong emphasis on rehabilitation, leading to complete restoration of the Offender to full citizenship. The only exception(s) should be those people who are clearly unable to live and function in society (serial killers and certified sociopaths, for example).                                                              .

What concerns me, though, is that punishment (imprisonment is truly substantial punishment) in
the United States is anything but equal. l can name seven other people from my
home town, and dozens I’ve met while incarcerated, who have committed the same
exact or similar crime I have committed. and have been punished with sentences of five
to ten years, seven-and-a-half to fifteen years, and ten to twenty years. Yet, I
serve a life sentence. Why the inequity? Was their crime any less grievous or
caused any less harm than mine?

What sours prisoners concerning the concept of punishment is that the following factors determine the conviction and punishment: the social or economic class of the offender, the race or sex of the offender, the quality of representation, the victim’s social or economic standing, the victim’s family’s social or economic standing, and the political climate. Because of these factors, punishment is disparate. and can even be labelled as discriminatory.

Does the discriminatory nature of punishment for the same, or similar,· crimes diminish my own personal responsibility ? In my opinion, No! Does it cause me personal anguish to know that someone else received five years for the same exact crime for which I received life? Yes!  Does that mean I shouldn’t be punished for what I did?  No! Yet, what irks me is that a person who committed the same exact crime would be considered redeemable or salvageable while I am not. Or, a person who committed a similar crime can buy {or politically influence} his way out of prison simply because he or his family have the funds (or political connections), but i cannot because I have no financial resources nor political influence. As long as society tolerates such inequity and fundamental. unfairness, society can expect that criminals will not accept punishment as an ideological means to an end in stemming crime in the United States.

Despite the inequity, the bottom line for me is that I not think solely of myself;
that I become aware of the terrible pain and loss {punishment} I’ve inflicted upon my
victim and family; and upon my own family; that I become aware of what caused me to
act the way I did, doing my best to correct myself.  Also, that I become aware of the
damage I’ve done to the society in which I live; and do my best to correct the damage I’ve done (if possible).

by Mitchell D. DiVentura

Please send your comments and encouragement to  Mr. DiVentura, in a plain white envelope that has his address and DOC number as you see below:

Mitchell D. DiVentura, AF 8976  State Correctional Institute Dallas, 100 Follies Rd. Dallas PA. 18612

You must have a return address top left of envelope or it will not be given to the inmate–if you wish, you can use my website return address: Prison Mentoring, Box 310, Hilltown, PA 18927

 

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