This House Believes That First-Time Offenders Should Not Be Sent to Jail


One of the law/CJS classics that contains the good old “motivation versus impact”.

Picture a scenario of two people drunk driving. The first person hit a tree. The second person hit, and killed, a man. Under normal circumstances (status quo!), Person A is going to be sentenced less harshly than Person B. This means that law measures the impact.

Now, consider a case of Person A killing Person B. On the first scenario, Person A happened to be cutting vegetables when suddenly Person B stuck his hand underneath the knife, inadvertently causing Person A to chop Person B’s hand off and killing him. Second scenario, Person B married the love life of Person A and Person A killed Person B out of respite. Person A is going to be sentenced more harshly on the second scenario. This means that law measures the motivation.

This nature of law being reconfigurable in punishing offenses makes law fluid, not rigid. A fluid system, although still debatable, makes its substance and ground weak, making it unenforceable by much. It makes itself seem heavily biased and skewed. That nature of being bendable and twistable is the reason why we need objectivity, not subjectivity.

Team Affirmative

Argument 1: Motivation over Impact

Let’s start with the preemptive, setting up defenses and offenses over the grounds for this debate. Team Affirmative would like to have a rigid law in which offenses are categorized and sentenced in accordance to their motivation, not impact. First-time offenders are to be expected to not have committed the crime they had done by choice. This is another form of humanity in “believing that all humans make mistakes; let’s give them a second chance”.

Explaining that first-time offenders do not have the intention (motivation) should be pretty easy and straightforward. However, the next step is more complicated. Next comes the burden of proof to the substance of why motivation should be the sole reason behind parameters in deciding a sentence.

Explore the essentials of a sentence and the nature of human beings as the only actors who could potentially offend laws (duh). What is a sentence, what does it want to achieve, and how is the process of crime sentencing? How did it develop from way back in the past to the current modern and complicated court system we have now? There has to be a point beneath those explanations in which where they prioritize and emphasize the importance of mitigating motivation. Take the four components of Criminal Justice System (CJS), where you have “rehabilitation”, and it is a solid proof for you to link back with your original assertion.

Argument 2: Governance over Judiciary.

This one will be a little bit long and complicated, so please just bear with me.

It should have already been a common knowledge that there are these three key pillars to democratic systems in all countries. The Legislative Body, The Executive Body, and The Judicial Body. Those three bodies are standalone bodies in which they have their own domains and realms to cater to. That characteristic of having Trias Politica (that’s the term) is the only characteristic lacking in autocratic/monarch countries. Sure enough, they might already have public elections and referenda and polls and such, but that is the underlying system that sets them apart. Why is this important? Because the nuance and atmosphere inferred by the wording of this motion, as well as all general motions which do not have explicit wording about geographical contexts, is that this motion applies to liberal democratic countries. (Let me just reiterate this here and now that under no circumstances should Team Affirmative nor Team Negative perform a geographical setup and/or challenge setting this debate in an autocratic/monarch country. That is just – plain ridiculous. Don’t even think about doing that.) (Oh, and, another thing; usually, generally, for almost all motions, it is common knowledge that when Team Affirmative does not setup the geographical context of the motion and there is no challenge at all from Team Negative, everybody should automatically interpret the geographical context as happening in liberal democratic countries. This motion is different. Team Affirmative should setup the debate immediately as happening in liberal democratic countries and Team Negative should not challenge anything at all unless encountering a crazy enough Team Affirmative that sets up otherwise).

So, now that the common knowledge is clear enough, the motion clearly proposes a violation of Trias Politica in which you (Team Affirmative – the government – The Executive/Legislative Body) penetrates the domain and realm of The Judicial Body. The harms this action pose are real. Team Affirmative should expect this argument coming up from Team Negative as this is a very obvious one indeed. The reason why dictatorships, autocracies, and monarchs fall is because of the kings and queens setting up their own rules, setting up their own punishments, and being the very biased judges and juries of their own when deciding guilt and delivering punishments. The idea of democracy in the first place was the separation of power to those three.

So, what Team Affirmative needs to do is:
1. Explain the urgency. You may exaggerate the harms of the current situation so much that this motion seems urgent enough to deliver. Talk about mistrials, talk about the dire needs, which were the tendency for most cases of first-time offenders, talk about the feebleness and gullibility of the human nature, etc.etc.
2. Choose a proper model. This is especially important, because the model you choose will dictate the scale of which arguments you will capitalize on and which arguments you “just casually mention for the debate”. There are two options for Team Affirmative. You could either:
(a) Say that the way this motion will be carried out is by a proposal from both The Legislative Body and The Executive Body to The Judicial Body, and it will first pass through research and peer review from them The Judicial Body before being implemented.
(b) Say that this motion will be carried out by you (Team Affirmative – the government) by overstepping the jurisdiction of The Judicial Body, and this bill gets immediately passed.
The ramifications of choosing (a) towards Team Affirmative translates into them having to decrease the magnitude of the urgency. On the bright side, they don’t have much to justify about “destroying” democracy because in a sense, they haven’t violated Trias Politica really much yet. Bear in mind, however, that the stronger the urgency Team Affirmative has set, upon choosing (a), would mean that the government doesn’t care (or is not brave enough – scared of The Judicial Body) to solve the urgency, the problem. Choosing (b), on the other hand, means that you don’t have to pay attention that much towards your urgency. The biggest burden of proof comes in the form of why those urgencies would mean that it is justifiable for Trias Politica to be violated.
3. Explore the different alternatives to the problem.
This part makes things all the more trickier, as preparing for this part (these are preemptive against Team Negative) involve lots of mindgames. Team Negative could either just stick to the status quo or they could join the bandwagon, have the same goal as Team Affirmative, then impishly choose whichever option Team Affirmative didn’t choose in point 2 of Argument 2. And because the urgency is what you establish in the first place, the following models/explanations should follow and be adjusted to the preceding urgency. Not the other way round.

An example of how Team Affirmative would fabulously lose this debate: Team Affirmative introduces the motion, the grounds, then proceeds to storytell about the urgency. They have managed to convince the adjudicators so much by increasing the magnitude of the urgency. But, unfortunately, Team Affirmative chose option (a) because they are afraid of violating Trias Politica. Team Negative comes up, chooses Team Affirmative’s “option b” and then concedes the urgency. Team Negative thus borrows the argument of Team Affirmative to strengthen Team Negative’s model/proposal of “option b” then points out why Team Affirmative contradicts themselves of “the situation at hand is so out of control, why would they still play safe and not take any risk?”

Well, congratulations and better luck next round then.

Argument 3: An expansion of human rights.
Human rights are not automatically forfeit the moment they are caught. Heck, even after their status as suspects rescinds and are replaced by “convicts” instead, they still retain some of basic human rights. Human rights upon being a suspect (the moment when the police handcuffs you and/or knocks your front door) include remaining silent, having a lawyer, being alive, eating food, etc.etc. – you may explore other rights and capitalize on them. Upon being convicted, they still retain their right to live, their right to appeal, to change lawyers, to have visits in prison. So what is stopping them from having the rights to freedom of movement? It is only for one single infraction only anyways. They won’t be still retaining it upon their second infraction.

Team Negative

Argument 1: Impact over Motivation

I hope you have read Team Affirmative’s arguments part before heading here. On the other end of this law spectrum, we have pieces of law that concerns over impact. Do the same thing as what Team Affirmative would do in their explanation (Explore the essentials of a sentence, nature of human beings, questioning the fundamentals of a sentence, what it wants to achieve, etc.etc.) but this time, Team Negative would emphasize and search for the problem-solving (impact management) tendencies of CJS. Punishment exists as a component of CJS because of this. Oh, and, by the way, that pair of Korean parents who unintentionally let their newborn baby starve to death because they were busy playing FarmVille? They didn’t have the intention to kill their own offspring, yet they were still sentenced.

Argument 2: Absolution of Trias Politica

Again, I hope you have read Team Affirmative’s arguments part before heading here. Some addition to that, however, is the freedom you have: you could either play along with Team Affirmative using whatever option they chose to leave (like what has been stated before), or, you could stick the status quo instead!

Now, to defend the status quo, you will need to first deny all of the urgencies and claims brought by Team Affirmative. For the second layer of defense, comes the “even if” arguments. There are cases and examples where and when the situation has spiraled out of control but yet constitution remains the same. Cite some cases of Choi Jong-Sil’s corruption from South Korea, the massive economic failure of Greece, and/or the everlasting ongoing drug problems in Mexico and The US as references. Things were a mess there, could have called for a massive revolution, but yet system remained strong.

Argument 3: Motivation for offenders (? Could be, right?)

The fact that all first-time offenders will automatically get a pardon is already a strong incentive for juveniles to go YOLO and try things they would otherwise be deterred from trying. Face the fact, how many cases of joyriding, vandalism, and shoplifting has ever happened because of peer pressure? And although the media doesn’t show them at face value, it is subtly hinted that most of those crimes are deterred because of our current ongoing law system and its enforcers, the police and the army. Just imagine the repercussions this motion will have inside a teenager’s mind and considering their current unstable psychology and mindset. The previous sounds residing inside their heads saying “no, it’s a crime” when being coerced by their friends to do these crimes for the first time will be replaced with a “ah, what the heck, first-time offenders will get a pardon anyway”.
Cortisol, the stress hormone. It is a hormone the body secretes in order to alleviate stress when performing a what might be pressuring action or when undergoing a stressful event. Unfortunately, that “stress-relief” also translates into “body will adapt to it”. That is the reason why that adrenaline rush, that sensation when humans tell their first lie, or watch their first porn, suddenly diminishes exponentially upon telling their second lie, or watching their second porn. Welp, same goes for committing crimes.

Some Last Notes: There is another direction in which this debate goes into pandemonium, which is when definition challenges happen from either team upon the wording “should not be sent to jail”. Team Affirmative sets up the debate by going upon the motion’s wording literally and says that instead of jail, they will be doing community service and/or getting a fine instead, much to the rage of Team Negative. Oh well, will save it up for a different post, different entry, I guess.