• Torture and Respect

    Author(s):
    Jacob Bronsther
    Date:
    2019
    Group(s):
    MSU Law Faculty Repository
    Item Type:
    Article
    Permanent URL:
    https://doi.org/10.17613/4va1-9702
    Abstract:
    There are two well-worn arguments against a severe punishment like long-term incarceration: it is disproportionate to the offender's wrongdoing and an inefficient use of state resources. This Article considers a third response, one which penal reformers and theorists have radically neglected, even though it is recognized in the law: the punishment is degrading. In considering penal degradation, this Article examines what judges and scholars have deemed the exemplar of degrading treatment-torture. What is torture, and why is it wrong to torture people? If we can answer this question, this Article maintains, then we can understand when and why certain punishments-like perhaps long-term incarceration-are impermissibly degrading, regardless of their proportionality or social utility otherwise. This Article develops an original theory oftorture. It argues that torture is the intentional infliction of a suffusive panic and that its central wrongness is the extreme disrespect it demonstrates toward a victim's capacity to realize value. Humans realize value diachronically, stitching moments together through time to construct a good ife as a whole. Torture takes such a being, one with a past and a future, and via the infliction ofa make it stop right now panic, converts her into a "shrilly squealing piglet at slaughter, " in Jean Amdry's words, restricting her awareness to a maximally terrible present.
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    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    4 weeks ago
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