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Utopia-Politics > Utopia Politics > Philosopher's Corner
Bayesian methodology
"Better ten guilty acquitted than one innocent man convicted."

I've heard this quote or numerous similar quotes many times. I never really paid much attention to it until now But now that I do, I find it to be completely absurd especially if the crime involved is a violent one. First of all, if you say 10 to 1, why not 20 to 1? 100 to 1? 1000 to 1? Why risk sending an innocent man to prison at all?

Let's examine a 1 to 1 ratio. Is society really better off with a predator on the streets if it keeps 1 innocent man out of prison? Being that this is a philosophy forum, I expect plenty of abstract rhetoric and nonsense involving the word liberty. I'm sure I won't be disappointed. I'd prefer to examine the question from a practical perspective, however.
acow
If the majority of men gain from them lining up and having forceful sex with miss universe against her will, why not do it?

After all, the pleasure of multiple people will far outweigh any mental suffering that one person must undergo.

Or to put it another way, people aren't utilitarians, and there is no specific reason why we should care about people's pleasure in total, devoid of the characteristics of the people whom experience such pleasure and suffering.
Bayesian methodology
QUOTE(acow @ Jun 1 2005, 09:06 AM)
Or to put it another way, people aren't utilitarians, and there is no specific reason why we should care about people's pleasure in total, devoid of the characteristics of the people whom experience such pleasure and suffering.



Can you please explain in simpler terms? I have no idea what you're trying to say.
Benevolent
QUOTE
Is society really better off with a predator on the streets if it keeps 1 innocent man out of prison?


Potentially, yes, depending upon the exact benefits of liberty. In practice, a society in which there is not a fear of wrongfull conviction, may well find people more respectfull of things such as the laws and courts.
gnuneo
its quite simple:

would *you* volunteer to be the innocent guy?
Bayesian methodology
QUOTE(gnuneo @ Jun 1 2005, 10:53 AM)
its quite simple:

would *you* volunteer to be the innocent guy?



Would *you* volunteer to be one of the victims of a serial predator?
gnuneo
however the odds favour innocent people going to prison far more... serial killers are quite rare, whereas putting one innocent person into prison for every 10 felons would require some hundreds of thousands of extra cells in US prisons, no?
acow
QUOTE
Can you please explain in simpler terms? I have no idea what you're trying to say.


Um...lets try some rhetorical questions.

1. Who is society?
2. Is your goal something akin to maximising societies happiness or eliminating its misery, or are there other things to think of? Does the number matter? Are the people in prison part of society?
3. Does the character of who it is that enjoys the benefits of the society have any effect on your answer?
4. Can you present a fundamental reason to prefer your notion of making a society "better off" that isn't equallly as nebulous as something akin to appealing to liberty?
Bayesian methodology
QUOTE(acow @ Jun 1 2005, 11:29 AM)
1.  Who is society?


Let's define society (for the sake of our discussion) as the citizens of a given nation who are not violent criminals.

QUOTE
2.  Is your goal something akin to maximising societies happiness or eliminating its misery, or are there other things to think of?


My goal is a practical legal system which protects the citizens.

QUOTE
Does the number matter?


Which number are you referring to?

QUOTE
Are the people in prison part of society?


No.

QUOTE
3.  Does the character of who it is that enjoys the benefits of the society have any effect on your answer?


I don't understand this question. Please elaborate.

QUOTE
4.  Can you present a fundamental reason to prefer your notion of making a society "better off" that isn't equallly as nebulous as something akin to appealing to liberty?


Less harm done to civilians that the government is supposed to protect.
miltonfriedman
since you espouse Bayesian updating (a correct way to do probability but ultimately too difficult to do), would you say the existence of false-alarm is attributable to our prior belief that people tend to be guilty?
Sir Buckethead
"If the majority of men gain from them lining up and having forceful sex with miss universe against her will, why not do it?

After all, the pleasure of multiple people will far outweigh any mental suffering that one person must undergo."

Bayesian isnt contrasting pleasure vs. pain, rather pain vs. less pain.
acow
Short response for now:

Yes, but the notion of minimising concious pain as a philosophy usually reaches the logical conclusion of "kill everything that lives".
Sir Buckethead
Then examine it practically.

Our legal system already allows for innocent people to be jailed. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is pretty much an admission that the court could be wrong. Why not only jail those who have objective, scientific, and completely damning evidence against them? Because at a certain point you have to ignore the innocent until proven guilty and adopt the innocent until you're fairly certain theyre guilty.

Otherwise your ideological ducks may be in a row, but crime is rampant.

In short, we already do put innocent men in prison so that we can put a greater number of convicts there.
Jelinek
To answer your question you have to look at the ratio of those innocently convicted.

Are you more likely to be innocently convicted if you are african american, latin american or belong to some other ethnic minority.?

Are you more likely to be innocently convicted if you are homosexual, bisexual or some other sexual minority?

Are you more likely to be innocently convicted if you are muslem, catholic, scientologist or some other religious minority?

Are you more likely to be innocently convicted if you are a nazi, communist, anarchist or some other political minority?

Understand that courts and prisons are institutions in the service of the government as well as society and that aloowing the courts to act arbitrarily means that you have given the government the power to further control society and restrict individual freedom.
Arilou
QUOTE(Sir Buckethead @ Jun 2 2005, 07:21 PM)
Then examine it practically.

Our legal system already allows for innocent people to be jailed. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is pretty much an admission that the court could be wrong. Why not only jail those who have objective, scientific, and completely damning evidence against them? Because at a certain point you have to ignore the innocent until proven guilty and adopt the innocent until you're fairly certain theyre guilty.

Otherwise your ideological ducks may be in a row, but crime is rampant.

In short, we already do put innocent men in prison so that we can put a greater number of convicts there.



Yes it does, however, in most cases compensation can be given out if you are found out to be innocent, Capital Punishment however destroys this (and thus is indefensibel, IMHO)
JLord
If you look at it only from the physical harm to society, then we shouldn't even have trials. Just jail all suspects. Better to have 10 innocent men jailed than 1 guilty man go free. That's more like the attitude of Nazi Germany or something.

In any society a person's freedom should be paramount. Most crimes are not violent. The harm done is not that great. But anyone convicted of crime has their life ruined. They are forever known as a criminal. When you are charged, you go to the state's courthouse, against the state's lawyers, and the case is decided by the state's judge. Every protection must be given to ensure that the process is fair. One of these is the presumption of innocence.

In cases where there was great harm, the principles should remain the same. If anything, there should be more safeguards to ensure no wrongful convictions in this case.
Sir Buckethead
"If you look at it only from the physical harm to society, then we shouldn't even have trials. Just jail all suspects. Better to have 10 innocent men jailed than 1 guilty man go free. That's more like the attitude of Nazi Germany or something."

Yes, yes, and then I say "well fine, lets make absolutely certain we don't convict innocent men and let everyone go free then."

How about this-- Assuming that we already do jail innocent men vs. guilty men at a ratio of, say, 100-1. Would you support changing that ratio to, say, 50-1 if it meant saving 2 innocent lives?

(all numbers are arbitrary and thus conclusions invalid)
Sir Buckethead
and, just so we can jump a bit ahead: If you would say no why not also reduce the system's innocent jailing to 200-1. 400-1, or even 100000-1 (and in the process completely declaw it).
JLord
QUOTE(Sir Buckethead @ Jun 3 2005, 01:35 PM)
How about this-- Assuming that we already do jail innocent men vs. guilty men at a ratio of, say, 100-1. Would you support changing that ratio to, say, 50-1 if it meant saving 2 innocent lives?



NO

QUOTE
why not also reduce the system's innocent jailing to 200-1. 400-1, or even 100000-1 (and in the process completely declaw it).


Because the principles of reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence are correct in my opinion. I would agree with reducing the system's innocent jailing rate to a 10000000-1 but it would depend on what measures you propose to take to reach that conclusion.
Sir Buckethead
I'm not proposing eliminating those principles, merely redefining them.

If you think "reasonable doubt" is remotely objective you're deranged.
JLord
QUOTE(Sir Buckethead @ Jun 3 2005, 03:40 PM)
I'm not proposing eliminating those principles, merely redefining them.

If you think "reasonable doubt" is remotely objective you're deranged.



"reasonable doubt" as a legal term of art is well defined. Of course you can debate the meaning of the term, and people can take different interpretations on what they think it means. But legally it has been pretty well defined over the years. If you are ever on a jury for a criminal trial the judge will define reasonable doubt in great detail.


So if not elimination of these principles what exactly do you mean?
Sir Buckethead
i didnt say it wasnt remotely defined, i said it wasnt remotely objective.

Meaning, at least to my eyes, that there should be no fundamental problem with redefining it.
JLord
Well of course you could redefine it. What I meant was that I am happy with the current definition of the principles of reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence. I don't agree with changing them.
Deus Ex Machina
QUOTE(Jelinek @ Jun 2 2005, 01:49 PM)
To answer your question you have to look at the ratio of those innocently convicted.

Are you more likely to be innocently convicted if you are african american, latin american or belong to some other ethnic minority.?

Are you more likely to be innocently convicted if you are homosexual, bisexual or some other sexual minority?

Are you more likely to be innocently convicted if you are muslem, catholic, scientologist or some other religious minority?

Are you more likely to be innocently convicted if you are a nazi, communist, anarchist or some other political minority?

Understand that courts and prisons are institutions in the service of the government as well as society and that aloowing the courts to act arbitrarily means that you have given the government the power to further control society and restrict individual freedom.


Are you claiming that these minorities are actually being falsely imprisioned at a higher rate, because I'm a bit incredulous, (moreso at the sexual orientation, religious minority [catholic???], and communist/anarchist claims).

QUOTE(Sir Buckethead @ Jun 3 2005, 02:47 PM)
and, just so we can jump a bit ahead: If you would say no why not also reduce the system's innocent jailing to 200-1. 400-1, or even 100000-1 (and in the process completely declaw it).


At some point, we'll inevitably have to draw the line. As I see it, we have three options: always err completely on the side of innocence (i.e., we need complete, scientific, verifiable evidence of guilt), err completely on the side of guilt (i.e., imprision all suspects), or find some compromise (e.g. today's system). The first two options, IMO, are unacceptable. Since, as you have stated, there is no objective standard for reasonable doubt (although it is possible that there is a specific degree of reasonable doubt that can exist to maximize the welfare of society), we're kind of stuck with going with our gut feelings (and past successes/failures of the system) to decide what entails reasonable doubt. Thus, while going up or down a few percentage points (in one or both directions) may be acceptable, there will obviously be a [magic] line at which it becomes unacceptable to redefine reasonable doubt.

To answer the origional question, we're obviously going to have to draw some sort of [magic] line somewhere. As individual liberty, for whatever reason, seems more important than nabbing every single criminal (probably because we would rather not go to prision if innocent, and would rather avoid punishment if guilty) to the vast majority of people, we err toward liberty. Is this better for society? In my opinion, yes, as our current system, which is biased towards innocence, seems to be doing a fairly decent job.
Gengari
There's an old saying amongst defense lawyers.

"I know you're innocent, but that's not enough to keep you out of jail."

Many times, in today's world you have to prove innocence, instead of prove guilt.
Dragonspirit
I take the general meaning behind the phrase to mean that it is better to have established, defined procedural justice rules that ensure the innocent are not arbitrarily and unfairly imprisoned.

Rules such as excluding evidence illegally gathered for example, so that we don't encourage police behavior that would be unsavory. A good case to look up for this is Mapp v Ohio.

Anyhow, it doesn't mean that we don't accept losses in the system. Having ANY system ensures that innocents will wrongly be found guilty.
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