Sunday, 23 March 2008


A foreigner speaks: 'From our point of view, your penal system is very strange: crimes of different severity are punished by exactly the same prison life, only more or less prolonged. But how is this graded punishment? Much more sensible to send all criminals to prison for the same term--five years, say--but to vary their experience: simple incarceration for the most minor crimes, but incarcaration with added torments for more severe crimes, such that a child-murderer or rapist, a trator or heretic, spends five years being hideously tortured.'

We say: but this would be barbarous!

A foreigner replies: 'why would you say so? It's the model Dante sketched for God's own infernal prison: the same sentence to all prisoners, but only the punishment graded in severity across that time.'

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