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Starr's Mill - Panther Debate Team
Neg Ideas
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                There will be the tendency to paint the negative as the bad guy in this debate.  I do think that there needs to be care taken when setting up the negative position in the sense of taking the moral high-ground.  It might be easy to fall into a vengeful conservative who wants to be though on crime, but it may be strategically better to focus on the ways a society benefits from punishment of a criminal rather than punishment as a means of reciprocity.




                If the negative can successfully argue that both punishment and rehabilitation are beneficial, they should.  I caution to not rely solely upon this strategy because there will be some pretty clever affirmative teams that preempt such attempts to take their ground. 


                The justification for this perspective is simple: the resolution reads Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above punishment in the U.S. criminal justice system.  This means that in order for the affirmative to uphold this resolution, they have to show some unique benefit that rehabilitation has that makes it better than punishment.  This also means that the negative can show that both sides have benefits and rehabilitation should not be valued above punishment because they should be valued equally.


                Why is this strategically advantageous?  Consider a hypothetical round where the affirmative gives three excellent reasons why rehabilitation is goon, and one reason why punishment is bad.  As the negative, you can grant the benefits to rehabilitation and focus solely upon the disadvantage to punishment.  This makes the burden much easier for you and much more difficult for the affirmative.  Furthermore, as the negative you can provide a few benefits to punishment that the affirmative failed to recognize (as well as a few disadvantages to rehabilitation).  At the end of the debate, the negative could simply say There are good and bad aspects to both rehabilitation and punishment.  Therefore, one is not better that the other and you, as the judge, should not endorse a resolution that calls you to value one above another.


                As you can see, taking this position means that you do not have to win all of the arguments that you present.  If the affirmative makes excellent arguments and takes out a couple of them, then you can still fall back on the others and claim that, on the whole, one is not better than the other and you should still win.  Remember to always take the judge back to the big picture.  The affirmative win want to get nit-picky about arguments, dont let them.  Remind the judge that you are tying to look at the over all perspective.


                Since I like learning by example, I will provide one (a simple one mind you).  Say that the affirmative argues that rehabilitation have proven to be generally more effective than punishment in the area of drugs.  The negative could asks questions during cross-examination such as, Has anyone benefited from punishment in the area of drug addiction?  The obvious answer would be yes.  Have there been people who were not rehabilitated when attempted?  Again the affirmative would have to answer yes because there has never been a 100% success rate. 


                What this questioning leads to is the negative ground.  Perhaps its not too far fetched to believe that different people have different ways in which they learn and benefit themselves.  If that is the case, then the sweeping assumption that all people should be placed into rehabilitation to fix drug addiction would ignore the unique learning environments that are necessary to truly affect people.  We should believe that both rehabilitation and punishment have a place within the U.S. criminal justice system and use them when appropriate.




                This position is one that should be used sparingly.  If I were to set a standard, it would be to use it when the affirmative focuses on any non-violent, or victimless crime.  Some cases that fall within this standard are that of drug use, wearing seatbelts and consensual sex between same sex partners (which some states have laws against certain activities).


                A very good author dealing with this subject is named Michel Foucault (pronounced Foo-Koh).  He has done extensive writing dealing with the way the psychiatric community diagnoses and treats mental illness as well as the state uses punishment to institute social norms in the guise of protecting society.  It is well summed up in a quote that I got off a bulletin board discussing him:


                "Punishment accordingly underwent reconception from the 'the vengeance of the sovereign' to 'the defense of society.' Therefore punishment came to be less a retributive practice than 'a procedure for requalifying individuals as subjects.' Disciplinary punishment is 'essentially corrective.' Modern punishment 'normalizes.' If the lawbreaker is perceived as threatening society, rather than defying a sovereign, correction and deterrence are seen as rehabilitating the lawbreaker and thereby better serving society."


                The reason I would reserve this strategy for victimless crimes is that I think it is easier to persuade the average person that there doesnt seem to be anything beneficial in rehabilitating a person that is freely engaging in an activity where nobody is harmed.  The only reason rehabilitation would be instituted at a time like this is to force conformity upon the person in question.  Of course, when I say easier I dont mean easy.  It is frequent the people feel that because something is illegal that automatically makes it wrong.  This position requires the negative to argue that even though we have drug laws and seatbelt laws, those laws are not just because they disallow people to make independent decisions (this would work very well with the value of AUTONOMY).


                I would also stress that this position opens up another area that should generally be run with the brainwashing position.  It is one that argues that the U.S. criminal justice system is not the agent best suited to give rehabilitation.  Instead, private organizations should be these agents.  The reason being that giving the government the power to program individuals to be good little citizens is a frightening prospect.  If the government rehabilitates people, it might happen that this will end up with people programmed to agree with the government, or at least abide by what they say.  This is particularly bad when the government is doing something bad (like Japanese internment or civil rights abuses).


                Allowing private organizations to give the option of rehabilitation is better because it continues to allow people to make choices (about if they want to be rehabilitated and where) and maintain the freedom of thought that is so important in a democracy.  Freedom of thought is the very reason why we have the first amendment protecting freedom of speech.




                This argument is probably to most common one that will be advanced by the negatives, it will also be the most predictable.  That is good and bad.  Good because the judge wont dock you points for doing something radical and kooky.  Bad because the affirmative will able to prepare for this line of argumentation and make it that much more difficult to win on.


                That being said, the specifics of this position are gone over very well in the Negative Case and Evidence section of this book, but I will do an outline of the important general points.


                First, the moral justification.  This is where the criterion of DEONTOLOGY comes into play (see the Criteria section).  The justification is in the equal and opposite response that punishment has to offer.  People enter into an agreement of sorts when they live in society.  These agreements are delineated in the laws we live by.  If somebody breaks the law, they have broken that agreement and deserve an equal and opposite response to the law they broke.  In the name of fairness and justice, punishment is a justified response to crime.


                Second, the community.  This argument says that our laws are a way of organizing the moral values of a community.  If the affirmative claims the value of COMMUNITY, this could be one of the arguments that capture that value.  If we want to endorse a tight community, then we need to signal to people what the community feels is right and wrong.  Rehabilitation is not a strong enough message, only punishment can clearly articulate what a community will and wont stand for.


                Third, punishment works.  Evidence is going to have to be the primary way to support this argument.  Some evidence is included within this book, but I stress that you should get more.  Within the psychiatric community there is a class of thought referred to as behavioralism.  This claims that people respond to positive and negative reinforcement.  Positive reinforcement will result in the behavior being reproduced.  Negative reinforcement will result in the behavior not being reproduced.  Sometimes it takes several negative reinforcements to get the desired result.


                The author to look up for this is B.F. Skinner; the grandfather of behavioralist thought.




                I can easily say that this position would be the most radical, the most controversial, the most difficult to win with.  This position argues that neither rehabilitation nor punishment should be valued in the criminal justice system. 


                Who on earth would ever advocate such a thing? you ask.  Well, there is a movement called the Prison Abolition Movement.  It calls for the abolishment of all prisons (go figure).  The members claim that the government incarcerating people, whether for rehab or punishment, is worse than the absence of prisons. 


                In all honesty, I know little about the intricacies of the movement, but there is plenty to be found just by typing the name into a search engine.  I would not recommend this as a major strategy, but it is an interesting position to have in your files.  And if you have a round that allows you to experiment because of your record or the type of judge you have at the time, it might be fun to argue this to experience the discussion that comes from it.


                The reason this fulfills the ground of the negative is basically the same reason that arguing for both is a legitimate position.  Since the affirmative has to argue for one above the other, the negative can argue for the other to be valued, or both to be valued, or neither to be valued.


                This position has strong anarchist tendencies.  So, for anyone that likes anarchy, knows anarchy theory, or wants to learn, this is an opportunity to put together a very interesting case.  Beyond that, I think arguing for neither will alienate many judges and will not very likely be a competitive negative strategy.






                Regardless of what Hollywood producers may say, there is a lot of leeway to argue either side of this resolution.  Some of the positions in this book may appeal to you; others may not.  The purpose is to start thinking about what ways you would like to talk to a judge to get your message across.


                 Maybe this resolution has personal value and you feel that this is your opportunity to say something that you have always wanted to since you will have a captive audience.  Maybe you consider this just a game to experiment with new ideas and see how they result in discussing.  In either case, the only way your arguments will benefit will be from sound evidence produced by dedicated research.

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