Monday, March 16, 2009


Totally Depravity

The Depravity Scale aims to standardize the ambiguous "heinous, depraved, atrocious and cruel" terminology of capital and other criminal codes, as well as "outrageous" designations in civil and family court cases. The Depravity Scale does not address who is depraved, but rather, whether a specific event reflects depraved motivation and behavior.

Take a quiz. Help with a study. Do a good deed.

The Depravity Scale.


That survey made me realize that I'm a bit of a moral absolutist. I don't know whether that's a good thing or not.
Sorry, posted under the wrong name. This gets confusing at times. So scratch "lneely" and replace w/ "ArchangelChuck." ;p
Okay, that was not fun.

Trying to apply a scale of emotional emptiness conflicts with a scale of inflicting damage up close.
I feel depraved just contemplating depravity and in trying to split hairs on depravity.

How do forensic professionals do it and stay alive inside?
Gah. I don't know. ... I just finished the survey myself.

As a journalist, I've gotten close enough to depravity a few times to know the way I dealt with it: copious amounts of alcohol.
i started this but the survey is really weird. i didn't get the point, all were worst case scenarios which could be put as totally depraved with very few somewhat depraved. and i think i'm an optimist and believer in humanity.

something don't smell right on this farm.
Well, it's a legit survey, I think, by academic criminal forensic specialists. I checked only one as "not depraved," and very few in the middle of the road. It *is* research into depravity, not research into what is and is not depravity. More of a study of degrees, in other words.

But, icky, icky, poo! The topic makes me itch.
I, in vain, took the path of trying to distinguish degrees of possibility for psychological reclamation. (This would be a different path than weighing appropriate justice questions.)

So I saw find less depravity for those involved in a group psychology, i.e. a gang. Separate a member from the group and there is an increased chance of rebuilding a morally aware individual.

As for many of the other cases, it was impossible for me to find a rational for deciding which was more depraved:

Cold, blank sociopathy, or

Passionate perversity.

I would have thought it easy to go with the coldness as even perverse passion shows an emotional life existing.

But the descriptions involving a will to scar or prolong trauma are so disturbing as to destroy reasoning.

This post appropriately follows your last, ER, for the theological question here is, how variously lost can souls be?

How far down the mouth of of hell can one distinguish separation of circles?
Yeah, I'm with Feodor. It's one thing to say, "This is a totally depraved, heinous act." It is another to take a series of such acts, and try to put them on a scale. Good God, there really were no serious alternatives offered - I mean, the increments between more and less depraved on some of those things were so thin as to need a microscope to analyze. I'm not sure what the "scale" could possibly measure, because, in reality, I saw no differences among various choices, and being forced, by the methodology, to do so, seemed wrong in some way.

This comment has been removed by the author.
Great recommendation! I took the survey after reading about the following case: The unemployed Army veteran who shot and killed three teenage swimmers in Wisconsin last summer is so indifferent to his killing spree that he compares it to spilling a glass of milk.

I was able to apply the some of the items presented in the survey to the facts of the case above. I found the shooters actions, intent and attitude to be very depraved. On another note, it was also very interesting to read what the creator of the research had to say about Madoff on CBS the other night…what a coinkydink. Check him out:
In response to Feoder's comment, which was very poignant – I would like to ask what is your experience with legal system? I simply ask because the relevance of the depravity scale was very clear to me having had exposure to legal cases involving horrible crimes – for instance, I sat in the courtroom with a defendant who had killed two people, raped both of his daughters and mutilated them. His entire trial and subsequent sentence was heavily influenced by the biases of the triers of fact, rather than being guided by the evidence of the crime itself. Arbitrary sentencing is what motivates this study, and whether we like it or not, such practices have plagued our justice system for years. Shying away from the study of depravity will not change the fact that people commit horrible acts. With or with out the research judges, lawyers and jurors must still address the atrocities that men/women do.
I know some forensics folks, and they're surprisingly normal, well-balanced, caring folks. They're not at all detached, but are somehow able to do their jobs, and do them well. They do have pretty warped senses of humor, but not at the victims' expense. One of them told me that he hoped if something terrible happened to his wife or kids, that someone would be able to gather the evidence, no matter how gory, so that the perpetrator could be successfully tried. That thought is what keeps him going - he may be able to provide that for someone else. My husband sometimes takes crime scene photos - it leaves him shaken.

It felt weird marking some of those as "somewhat depraved." But they were less heinous than some of the other examples, if there can be such a thing.

I have no experience with courts or criminology. I come at the idea of depravity from the psychological side and having worked for five years in graduate school at a psychiatric hospital on a locked floor for adult psychopathology

I did not intend to communicate any dismissal of the considerations that apply to court trials: not the concerns of psychological compromise that may mitigate moral agency, not the adversarial advocacy process charged with arguing facts and the basis of fact finding, and certainly not the combined sentencing concerns of due punishment, rehabilitation and community safety.

As an untrained person in the law, I found the exercise extremely difficult. But I did take it seriously because I know serious people are trying to do serious things with the data they seek.

If you are engaged in the legal system in whatever way, I applaud you.

And on the general issue of arbitrary sentencing, I would support any and all serious research to know as much as we can about human nature and its pathologies (for all crime is a pathology of some degree) and bring it into relationship with our desire to care for victims and society and to satisfy the need for justice, all in order to better inform sentencing.

Some remainder of arbitrariness, however, will always remain in our efforts to divide men's souls in a search for justice.

"Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made." Immanuel Kant.
For some reason, I could not get it to work -- the little dinosaur kept running and running but the site never finished loading -- and after reading the comments here I'm kind of glad.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?