6
$\begingroup$

This story set in a medieval world, where necromancy is forbidden by law, but openly deployed by the church to simulate hell.

There is a dedicated pool of fire just below the church of this kingdom, where criminals who are judged guilty (by the law) are executed and animated again and again to be tortured under various methods. Those criminals are animated with their flesh bodies and capable of suffering both mentally and physically. The flesh is capable of dying, of which they immediately reanimated again with new body. They are tortured under cycles of reanimation, according to their punishment, before they finally be allowed to rest eternally.

A murderer with mutilation may be subject to 10 cycles of continuous life of mutilation. Depending on the number victims, this may be increased indefinitely. Of course, afterward he will face other tortures if he is found guilty in other crimes.

Basic principal laws:

No killing (other human)
No stealing
No lying No adultery
A bit similar to the Ten Commandments

Small crimes

A shoplifter may only live 1 cycle of his hands chopped, but not executed immediately. The punishment will be carried out when he's dead.

Once you die, you will always be judged by the crimes you've committed, so there's no escaping the punishment.

Other vague crimes will be judged justly by the court of the church. The enforcement is a group of inquisitors. These people are unable to go against the law.

Given that the church preaches about the real hell, and anyone who is skeptic is invited to come and see for themselves the hell (anyone), and the repercussions for breaking the law, will this finally be the end of crime? If not, how can we slightly alter the system to achieve that?

Let's assume that the process is just, and the law itself is not corrupt. There is no god, and there is no misjudgement. There is also no pardon. There is no afterlife.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree with @LoganR.Kearsley, this question looks fine to me. And the proposed tags are pretty good. I'd add law-enforcement to the list. I vote to leave this open. One may argue that it's up to the author to decide whether he wants crime, which is needed to demonstrate this literal hell, but I think there can be good a analysis of real law and the effect of brutal punishment. Vylix: It would be nice if you could add a rough estimate of basic principals of law. For example will a shoplifter be reborn once and murderer a dozen times? Or are we talking about dozens of circles minimum? $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Sep 12 '17 at 7:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ How is this different to torture? $\endgroup$ – Nathan Cooper Sep 12 '17 at 8:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ One of the most extreme official judicial punishments To be hanged, drawn and quartered, involves hanging a person no quite to death. Sounds like an approximation of what you have in mind. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Cooper Sep 12 '17 at 9:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would also vote to re-open this question. It's only "opinion-based" in that it deals with human reasoning and psychology, otherwise this is a perfectly valid question on the way humans would react to a situation. $\endgroup$ – Diserasta Sep 12 '17 at 15:42
15
$\begingroup$

Evidence of the real world shows that while overly lenient consequences can to a degree encourage crime, overly harsh punishments do very little to reduce crime. The latter has been extensively studied in the context of the controversial discussion around capital punishment. What you're proposing here is essentially just an extremely drawn out form of execution by torture, so while it's quite a bit more frightening than a lethal injection, we can still make inferences from our statistics about capital punishment - note also that other methods such as the electric chair and of course late medieval and early renaissance execution methods are relatively gruesome already.

One factor alone is that "unimaginable punishment" is indeed unimaginable. It is so far outside of our experience that we can only fear it in a relatively abstract way. Now I assume that if people can watch the poor sods in your necromantic hell this problem is alleviated to a degree, but it's still something to consider.

The more important point though is that crimes don't happen that way. Diserasta already explained that criminals usually decide on a crime when they're reasonably sure they won't be caught, so the deterrence is limited here. There's a second part to this which are crimes of passion. These are often committed in the spur of the moment without much deliberation or out of an irrational obsession. The punishment doesn't have much of a deterrent effect here either, because the perpetrator won't consider the punishment in the relevant moment. I suppose you could traumatise people so badly by showing them hell in carefully calibrated intervals that they reflexively shrink back from certain actions, but history hasn't shown this to be a thing when looking at crime rates in times where executions were gruesome and public.

Escalation is another important point that Diserasta mentioned. The reason that almost all civilised societies have defined severities of punishment reserved for proportional severities of crime is that we want to minimise crime overall. For example, even though rape is a terrible crime, it is generally punished less severely than murder. One reason for this is that if the punishment were equal or worse, the criminal would be incentivised to always murder the victim in order to get rid of a possible witness. That is why the biblical law proscribing death by stoning for the most trivial of offences and hell for the most trivial of sins is a matter of criticism in modern circles, and it is also a problem for your hell. At the point at which you're being tortured to death over and over I don't think the number of circles makes much of a difference. Chances are the victims would soon lose their minds anyway. And as Logan R. Kearsley explained, there are certainly "crimes" undeserving of death by torture for which you'd either need a whole other system of punishment or you'd lose any proportionality and semblance of justice.

So no, this wouldn't be the end of crime, nor can small alterations achieve this goal. There is a reason that today retributive justice is under question as a whole. Disincentivizing crime is definitely useful, but removing the motivations to commit it in the first place may be a necessary part of eliminating it altogether.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Nice detailed answer with the analysis. Especially that last paragraph with questioning the retributive justice. +1 $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 12 '17 at 8:44
11
$\begingroup$

This boils down to the age old question of "can crime be eliminated"?

The short version is no. Over a long enough time scale, some poor sod will break the law, either out of ignorance or malice.

As for why someone might break the law considering the penalties are so harsh. It's a cost-benefit question. After all, you can only be punished if you are caught, and also convicted. Thus a good lawyer and/or some crafty planning will let you get away with it.

If we assume that the judges are all-knowing, mind-reading gods, and that all judgements are true and fair, then we can still fall back on the person only being convicted if caught, so they could just become a fugitive, after all the punishment doesn't get much worse for each subsequent crime.

A person treated like X becomes X, because there is no possible downside to doing so. The way they are treated will not change.

This is a flaw in all extreme punishments. Once you cross the line, there's no, or little harm in crossing it more.

Thus, in such a system you would have no minor crime, and the occasional murderous rampage.

EDIT:

Extra information has been provided by the creator, thus some clarification is required.

The Church has some way of determining a corpse's crimes

This changes a few things. Now it is an invetibality that if caught, a fugitive will be subjected to their torture/punishment (whether they are executed first or not).

In this scenario, these people have two major options:

  1. Suicide in such a way the body is irretrievable
  2. Flee from society

Suicide

The only way to avoid your punishment is to commit suicide in such a way that the body is utterly destroyed, or impossible to access. Thus, when are you done with your nefarious deeds, you simply bail out on your punishment. This could be achieved by throwing yourself into a volcano (though the Church has a good 15 minutes to retrieve some piece of you), or by being intentionally consumed by a whale. If the Church doesn't have some way to track you, they'll never find the body.

Run to the Hills

The other option is more likely if the person isn't ready to terminate their own life in exchange for their crimes. They could simply flee society. Once again, assuming the Church doesn't have some infallible way of tracking the convict, then they could escape somewhere remote, and then resurface with a new identity elsewhere in the continent, or just live in the woods forever.

This has some interesting implications in that there may be entire societies of subversive groups who were charged (wrongly or rightly) for crimes, and have not paid the price.

Tracking

On the flip side, if the Church does have some method of infallibly tracking the convict, the only option becomes a hasty and thorough suicide, such as the aforementioned volcano option.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Even if more serious transgressions result in 100 cycles of reanimation rather than 1 cycle? $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 12 '17 at 3:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sure. That's only a problem if you get caught. Thus it doesn't matter how many cycles. Once it's 1 cycle, it may as well be 1000. Both numbers are irrelevant if you don't get caught. $\endgroup$ – Diserasta Sep 12 '17 at 3:31
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Vylix: So your world includes some magic means of determining what crimes someone committed? With their dead body? $\endgroup$ – PlasmaHH Sep 12 '17 at 8:56
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Vylix Then you can skip altogether the punishment, the hell and the torture. What really prevents crime is the certainty that you're going to be caught. If every corpse is tested by magic means to look what crimes he has commited in life, the only way for criminals is by commiting suicide in a way their corpses are never retrieved. You don't need to be that harsh with the torture and punishment. Once the society is aware that everything they ever did in their lives is going to be examinated - and, if judged so - severely punished, crime is over, even if the punishment is nowhere as brutal. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Sep 12 '17 at 9:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's interesting that you came to the conclusion that people would flee from the society. I'm starting to questioning whether will people regard this kingdom as hellish community rather than justice community, and will try to leave the kingdom instead. $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 12 '17 at 17:40
4
$\begingroup$

In addition to the issues raised in Diserasta's answer, you have the problem that what is defined as "crime" is highly culturally dependent- and the total amount of it is remarkably well conserved across different cultures.

What you will end up with is effectively a "crime treadmill". As very serious crimes reduce in frequency, due to the widely publicized and excessively horrific punishments associated with them, more minor transgressions of social norms will become more and more noticeable, and consequently more stigmatized. If the crimes deserving of hellfire are "set in stone" by the religion, and incapable of being changed to keep up with social attitudes, then you'll ed up with a fairly stable society that imposes less-severe, purely secular punishments for a different set of crimes than are punished by being sent to "hell". If, however, the are not, and what counts as worthy of hell can change with public attitudes, then you will end up with witch hunts, where even the most minor eccentricities may be taken as evidence of heinous criminality and punished by hellfire, maintaining a roughly constant rate of admittance to "hell".

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.