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Punishing an innocent person Essay

All societies around the world have adopted a set of laws that have been precisely designed to create an environment of peace, order and respect for universal human rights like the right to life.

It has therefore been necessary to create institutions such as the police force and courts of law; which have been given a responsibility of detecting, arresting and punishing individuals that fail to live by established laws in a society.

Generally, we have been intuited by our consciousness and our societies to approve punishments for the guilty (Those that have trudged on other’s rights or broken set laws). However, as we have often observed, our societies are so complex that it is hardly possible to establish a comprehensive system of appreciating the just and punishing the guilty.

Just like the guilty, the innocent have and will continue to be punished. A number of philosophical thoughts have therefore been presented on the morality of punishing the innocent intentionally. These philosophical thoughts have tried to justify the punishment of an innocent person in some specific circumstances.

It is useful here to evaluate the meaning of innocence. According to Murphy (2007), it is much easier to define innocence from the legal perspective as compared to doing the same from a moral perspective.

From a legal perspective, someone can be judged to be guilty (the reverse of innocent) if he/she has engaged in an act or behavior that is not allowed by a set of rules governing a society where he/she comes from (Murphy, 2007).

Moving to the moral field, the threshold moves to the grey scale as one is obliged to apply theories on morality, which often contradict each other, in order to define innocence (Murphy, 2007).

Get your 100% original paper on any topic done in as little as 3 hours Learn More The utilitarian moral theory is oftentimes applied to justify the punishment of an innocent individual (Murphy, 2007). According to the utilitarian theory, an action or behavior can be evaluated to be morally acceptable or not depending on the effects that it will bring to the greatest number of people (Kay, 1997).

When an action brings about happiness and pleasure to an extensive portion of a population that it will affect, then, such an action is morally acceptable in the eyes of a utilitarian (Kay, 1997). However, when an action brings about suffering and pain to an extensive segment of a population that it will affect, then, such an action is judged to be morally wrong in the eyes of a utilitarian (Kay, 1997).

Considering that the process of punishing any person will automatically bring about pain to the one undergoing punishment, such a process will be morally acceptable to a utilitarian if it brings about joy to the most extensive segment of a population (Kay, 1997). The action of punishing a person for breaking a law/laws cannot therefore be acceptable to a utilitarian if the action will fail to contribute in bringing joy to many (Kay, 1997).

The innocence of an individual as it pertains to punishment is therefore of less importance here. What matters however is the effect of the punishment on the largest section of a populace-whether it will be able to bring them pleasure or pain (Kay, 1997).

It is therefore possible to picture some complex scenarios that may justify the intentional punishment of an innocent person as it pertains to the utilitarian theory. For example, let’s imagine that a rioting and destructive mob capable of destroying properties as well as killing and injuring thousands of lives is demanding that a certain individual be killed (Newman, 1995).

In this case, releasing the person whose life has been demanded by the destructive mob will definitely lead to many killings and pain; bringing about suffering and pain to many (Newman, 1995). On the other hand, killing the person whose life has been demanded by the destructive mob will deter the mob, and therefore save many lives and property, preventing pain for many (Newman, 1995).

In this case, although the concerned person may be innocent; at least in legal terms, an individual or party that is guided by utilitarian principles will not hesitate to punish him (the person whose life has been demanded by the destructive mob) even if it means murdering him, because such an action will be deemed to have prevented suffering for the largest segment of a population (Newman, 1995).

We will write a custom Essay on Punishing an innocent person specifically for you! Get your first paper with 15% OFF Learn More What about a person that has not been confirmed to be guilty and is held by the police for the reason that releasing such a person will lead to a series of crimes like murder that will immediately be done by the person in custody from the moment he is released (Newman, 1995).

The person in custody, although innocent, can therefore be subjected to punishment as he is held in a prison where he endures limited freedom and deplorable living conditions in order to prevent him from bringing about harm to a portion of a society where he operates from (Newman, 1995). On the other hand, the person in custody can be given freedom by releasing him from custody, something that will precede a series of sufferings to a portion of a society where he operates from (Newman, 1995).

The preferable action in the eyes of a utilitarian will therefore involve keeping the innocent person in custody, since this will prevent suffering to many. The person in custody is therefore sacrificed in order to save the largest portion of the society from pain (Newman, 1995).

It may also be necessary for a government to design and implement a policy tailored to combat a wrong that has been done to a population segment and bring the level of that segment to that of others in a society, as it pertains to their economic wellbeing among other parameters (Kay, 1997). Such a process will involve establishing policies like affirmative action to specifically favor minorities and the powerless in a society.

Implementing affirmative action means that individuals living in a society where such a policy is implemented will be compelled to sacrifice some of their rights that they would otherwise have enjoyed; such as the access to employment and education, in order for such rights to be distributed to minorities (Kay, 1997).

Although members of such a society may be innocent from oppressing minorities, they have been obliged to endure some form of punishment: when they sacrifice part of their rights (Kay, 1997). Such a price and sacrifice is of necessity in order for a government to accommodate every citizen and for the promotion of equality within a society.

For the purpose of preserving an important moral value that has been threatened in a society, say the value of freedom, a process that may involve punishing the innocent may become a necessity (Newman, 1995). In such a case, it may be necessary for a nation to go to war.

To defeat the enemy, it may be impossible to avoid injuries and casualties including those that are in no way involved in combat (Newman, 1995). It therefore becomes necessary to punish innocent segments of a population residing in an environment that is controlled by an enemy, during combat (Newman, 1995).

Not sure if you can write a paper on Punishing an innocent person by yourself? We can help you for only $16.05 $11/page Learn More Although the principles of morality are hardly counted before embarking in combat, it may become morally right to consider the pain and suffering of populations affected by the war as a necessity required to protect and uphold a valuable moral right such as the right to freedom (Newman, 1995). The threat of terrorism for example has inspired fear and strived to limit our right to freedom (Newman, 1995).

Although the exercise of wisdom and control is of necessity to prevent unnecessary suffering during the war on terror, it may become unavoidable at times for a nation to participate in combat- in the endeavor of mitigating terrorism and preserving societal rights (Newman, 1995).

Conclusion As has been seen, it becomes necessary in certain circumstances to subject innocent individuals to punishment to achieve certain moral purposes. The utilitarian theory justifies the punishment of a person whether guilty or not on the criteria that such a punishment will inevitably lead to the wellbeing of the most extensive population segment in a society.

Besides, policies like the affirmative action that emphasize on equality oblige government to compel some society members to sacrifice part of their rights for distribution to minorities. It may also become necessary to punish innocent members of communities in an environment controlled by an enemy by a nation that has gone to war to preserve important moral values like the right to freedom.

Reference List Kay, D., January 20, 1997.Utilitarianism. [Online] New York: Wofford.

Murphy, G.J, 1990. The killing of the innocent. The Monist, 57 (4), p. 527-550.

Newman, G., 1995. Just and painful. New York: McMillan.

Racial Relations and Color Blindness Analytical Essay

Nursing Assignment Help Every country has some rules and legislation that provides its citizens with certain security and regulations that guarantee a normal life. However, the real situation appears to be quite the opposite from what should the government provide its population with.

In this respect, we can see cases of discrimination though it is claimed to have been fought in the same time when Martin Luther King delivered his speech about the necessity of being more tolerant and patient and not treating people of other races as minorities. The history made the United States of America a multinational state where different languages and religious beliefs are brought from all over the world to contribute to the overall image of the country and enrich its culture.

Time passed and people were still coming to the United States to find some appropriate conditions for their families, education for their children, and more advantageous job opportunities. However, the real situation happened to be not as bright and prosperous as people believed.

Status of Minorities The Civil Rights Act was aimed at outlawing racial discrimination which still persists in the form of racial inequality.


Many people that live in the United States of America experience racial inequality regardless of the claims that this phenomenon was claimed to have been removed from the theory and practice. However, many people face difficulties related to their housing opportunities and educational problems. This does not mean that children of immigrants do not want to receive education – racial discrimination results in much more complicated issues such as lack of educational institutions on the territory of the neighborhoods inhabited by immigrants. Is not this inequality?

I believe that this can be considered the most vivid example of racial inequality when people are doomed to live in neighborhoods chosen for them on the bases of racial discrimination principles. As reported in the documentary series Unnatural Causes, the rate of uneducated children that experience violence or become witnesses of violence in the street is very high due to the neighborhood and inability of authorities to provide all people with appropriate living conditions making no exceptions.

Children are not educated, they lack self-esteem and self-confidence, and they have no plans for future. As experts explain about such children, they make plans concerning what to wear for their funerals instead of thinking about their graduation and more perspective outcomes (“Unnatural Causes” n.p.).

Get your 100% original paper on any topic done in as little as 3 hours Learn More In other words, there is no chance for these children to become good loving parents for their own children as the rate of violence and other external factors are not encouraging at all; hence, people do not make plans to be ready for losses. The situation in society would not permit them to realize their plans to any degree.


Health is one of the most burning issues of the contemporary society. The global community makes attempts to consolidate people all over the world and fight the danger of fatal illnesses and viruses. However, the cases that take place in the racially marked neighborhoods of the united states of American such as “Richmond, California, a predominantly Black city in the San Francisco Bay Area” (“Unnatural Causes” n.p.) demonstrate lack of attempts to improve the health of the population.

Besides, it is unclear whether the authorities do nothing with the health of the population due to the race inequality or they have simply failed to provide certain areas with adequate health care services. In this respect, health policies and programs aimed at improvement of health care services provided to the population of another race and ethnicity than white non-Hispanics seem to have failed.

As reported in the documentary series Unnatural Causes, “Segregation and lack of access to jobs, nutritious foods, and safe, affordable housing” (n.p.) can be considered the major factor that contribute negatively to the overall situation with the health of people including residents that have been living in inappropriate neighborhoods for years and even decades and new-comers who experience the pressure of this negative environment.

Health of these people reduces their lives. The major reason for shorter life period of people from disadvantaged neighborhoods is the conditions that reduce their lives. People think about the lack of job opportunities, inappropriate health care services, and lack of educational institutions which causes constant stress and worsens their health.

Sociocultural factors

Though sociocultural issues can be considered the main aspect of the cultural diversity that can be used for benefit of the society and organizations, people often fail to understand this concept adequately and treat it in the same way they treat their own cultural cues. In this respect, sometimes people lack tolerance and patience to learn differences and comprehend the relations between cultural cues typical of one ethnic group and their actions in a certain setting.

When we do not understand something, we try either to learn it better to know how to treat it. At the same time, people may fail to express sufficient understanding; they can express animosity instead.

We will write a custom Essay on Racial Relations and Color Blindness specifically for you! Get your first paper with 15% OFF Learn More The situation in disadvantaged neighborhoods is difficult to change though people can make efforts such as performed by the people in the High Point in West Seattle where “Community members, local government and developers took a radical approach in rebuilding this neighborhood – using federal funding to create a mixed-income community with health as its focus” (“Unnatural Causes” n.p.).

In this respect, race matters only for those who got used to stereotypes and biases instead of establishment of new unbiased relations with other community members.

So, the definition of racism is instructive because it marks people of other colors of skin than white and other ethnicities than non-Hispanic as those considered victims of this phenomenon in society. However, any expression of preference or discrimination can be considered racism in contemporary society due to multiculturalism spread all over the globe.

Colorblindness in California Though California can be considered one of the most multicultural areas on the territory of the United States of America, it can also be treated as the place where people suffer from open discrimination regardless of political claims about tolerance and integrity.

Civil rights

People are discriminated due to their racial belonging in all parts of the world. This can be considered one of the burning issues of contemporary society with regard to a number of factors that contribute to the overall situation in every separate state and the global community in general.

The book Racial Propositions: Ballot Initiatives and the Making of Postwar California written by Daniel Martinez HoSang helps people to understand the problem of racial inequality to the extent of its essence because authorities try to make things look better than they appear to be in the real life. In this respect, people in California are treated with regard to their race taking into account numerous acts, policies, and programs aimed at development of clear and unbiased social relations.

All attempts to cover or even reduce the open demonstrations of discrimination were made in order to lull the vigilance of active opponents and make the country more attractive for immigrants who did not even think about possibility of being discriminated in one of the most democratic countries in the world. HoSang in his book about the history of race in California describes speeches and public claims made to reduce the opposition:

Bowron’s pronouncement echoed the calls of dozens of other civic unity, “human relations,” and “fair play” organizations across the state and around the country during this period; Los Angeles alone was home to twelve such organizations or coalitions by 1944. (ch. 1)

Not sure if you can write a paper on Racial Relations and Color Blindness by yourself? We can help you for only $16.05 $11/page Learn More Every such pronouncement reduced the efforts of opposition and made people believe that everything would become better than it was and discrimination would not exist anymore. Though Brown has indicated that “we have no master race” (HoSang ch.1), there are still numerous instances of discrimination and racial inequality in California as well as all over the world.


Such notions as colorblindness were supposed to make people free from discrimination and society free from biases and racial inequality. However, some people consider this to be one of the major obstacles on the way to multicultural society with specific needs and traditions. In this respect, the “…key signifiers [such as] rights, freedom, opportunity, progress, etc….” (HoSang ch.1) can be considered the greatest concepts of liberalism while people failed to implement those theoretical issues into practice.

Often people fail to perform the commitments they have toward their families and communities; the same happens when politicians say certain things and promise to do something whereas the real situation shows their real actions and intentions that stand behind those actions.

Though “Murphy warned of the ‘exaltation of any race, or nationality as superior to all others’,” (HoSang ch.1), people persist to do things claimed to be negative and inappropriate. This means that there is no color blindness in California as well as in every other area of the earth due to certain peculiar features of human being exercised toward each other.

Every person is free to choose what attitude to express toward other people regardless of their being opponents or members of the same community. This can be considered one of the drawbacks of the liberalism and its major keys.

With regard to all facts mentioned above it is necessary to ask if people are ready to enjoy the freedoms of liberalism that is supposed to ensure freedom though should not restrict people in their desires and beliefs. It is natural that some people can experience biases against representatives of other ethnic groups though this should not be the reason to deprive them of their democratic freedom to choose whom to make friends with.

Real motives of political decisions

The racial hierarchy of people in California is the main issue that should be solved. In spite of positive connotations of the language of the latest propositions made concerning the racial inequality policies, these acts are aimed at development and support of already flourishing racial discrimination typical of this area. Racial liberalism can be treated as an attempt to regulate the situation that has become obvious in California.

Though the concept of racial blindness is urgent for the population of California that suffers from disadvantaged position, the policies are aimed at stronger restriction of rights and freedoms of people so that they could not oppose the conditions and limitations imposed o them by authorities.

Thus, white supremacy can be still observed in terms of hierarchy of races in California. Every claim made against the racial inequality that is supposed to defend the rights of discriminated people can be potentially aimed at bringing racially supreme people to the top.

Conclusion People all over the world suffer from hunger and diseases whereas the problem of discrimination that should have been solved many years ago is still urgent for population of one of the most liberal countries of the globe. In this respect, people claim that the racial inequality should be reduced and eliminated from the community. However, the actual claims made by politicians and other representatives of political and social power prove to be aimed at changing the racial hierarchy in California in negative sense.

Every person can become color blind in terms of racial biases and discrimination though people cannot be deprived of their liberal powers given to them by political regime of democracy that is known for freedoms and rights imposed on population. The categories of people that have to live in disadvantaged neighborhoods suffer from the liberties and freedoms because they do not have sufficient resources and power to fight the situation; so, their children have to breathe toxic air and go to schools full of violence.

Works Cited Hosang, Daniel. Racial Propositions: Ballot Initiatives and the Making of Postwar California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2010.

“Unnatural Causes.” California Newsreel, 2008. Web.

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