Cook County Jail

Cook County Jail - Alexis M. Johnson Professor Tuttle...

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Alexis M. Johnson Professor Tuttle English 200 November 9, 2009 “Address To The Prisoners in Cook County Jail” Synthesis In 1902, Clarence Darrow delivered his famous speech “to the prisoners in Cook County Jail.” Darrow, a famous American lawyer, perhaps best known for his participation in the Scopes Trial, offers his perspective on crime and punishment. In his speech, he proposes the idea that if everyone were given equal opportunity, crime would cease to exist and, consequently, there would be no need for jails. Throughout his speech, Darrow provides many reasons as to why he believes crime exists and why the lack of equality is the primary cause. Reasons he gives include criminals and non-criminals are morally equivalent, individuals are sent to jail because they are impoverished, and crime is a profession that is driven by other people’s greed. While Darrow provides thorough support for his ideas, many of them lack plausibility and are not argued logically. To begin with, Darrow presents his first illogical argument when he says, “I do not believe there is any sort of distinction between the real moral condition of the people in and out of jail.” This idea is illogical because people are typically in jail because they have done something which is either immoral, illegal, or both. His point further defies logic because he continues that these individuals “are in jail simply because they cannot avoid it on account of circumstances which are entirely beyond their control and for which they are in no way responsible.” This idea lacks plausibility because of people such as murderers, kidnappers and rapists. Clearly, these three groups of criminals are immoral because they have chosen to kill someone, take someone against their will, or take someone’s innocence and or, dignity. Furthermore, these three groups have complete control and responsibility for their actions. Each has overpowered another individual in some way, shape, or form. In addition, they are not simply “born to it,” as no one is destined to be a criminal; it is that individual’s personal decision. Put simply, there is no excuse for immoral behaviors.
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Everyone knows the difference between what is right and what is wrong. These particular ideas can be illustrated through the sociological theory of Rational Choice (and Deterrence). The Rational Choice theory rests on the belief that, “human beings have wills, and are, in principal, able to act according to them” (Archer and Tritter 25). What this means is that every person is given a fair chance to make whatever he or
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Cook County Jail - Alexis M. Johnson Professor Tuttle...

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