FIRING LINE: MINI-SERIES ON CRIME {PART 1 OF 4}: DOES PUNISHMENT DETER CRIME? (TV)

Summary

Part one of four. One in this talk/interview series hosted by William F. Buckley, Jr. In this episode, which is the first in a four-part, four-week mini-series devoted to exploring crime and punishment in America, Buckley greets guests with differing perspectives on the issue at hand. Pete du Pont is the Governor of Delaware, noted -- according to Buckley -- for turning that state's politics in a decidedly conservative direction; John Goodman is the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis; Jim Hightower is a talk-radio disc jockey whom Buckley calls "the other Rush Limbaugh"; Barefoot Sanders is a U.S. district judge; and Alvin Bronstein is the executive director of the National Prisons Project for Prisoner's Rights, an offshoot of the American Civil Liberties Union. After introducing the guests, Buckley sets the discussion in motion by asking about the purpose of prisons. Governor du Pont is the first to respond, insisting that the answer is obvious. "If punishment slackens," he states, "then crime increases. It's been proven." Bronstein immediately disagrees, citing statistics that show that while overall crime is down violent crime has risen over the last several years. He is adamant that the threat of punishment in prison does not deter any criminal from committing an illegal act. He uses as an example eighteenth-century England, explaining that when pickpockets were hanged publicly, their colleagues turned out to pick the pockets of spectators at the hangings. Buckley laughs off this allusion, calling it "a major clichŽ." Hightower pitches in his opinion that statistics are irrelevant in determining whether or not punishment deters potential criminals as criminals are not operating on a rational basis. Buckley asks his guests for their opinions on the controversial "three strikes" laws that many states have enacted. Sanders and du Pont argue that they are effective; the latter says, "They can't commit any crimes while they're in prison, can they?" Bronstein disagrees, claiming that laws on punishment are so disorganized that things like "three strikes" laws lose their meaning. He cites a case in Texas in which an older man received a life sentence after writing three bad checks. Hightower notes that he generally agrees with Bronstein, suggesting that punishment might act as a deterrent to educated, rich, rational people, but that other people don't think that way -- especially when their motives involve financial needs and drug habits. Continues with T:61109.

(Network affiliation varies; this program was also syndicated from 1966 to 1971 and from 1975 to 1977.)

Cataloging of this program was made possible by Mr. and Mrs. Theodore R. Stanley.

Details

  • NETWORK: PBS
  • DATE: 1994
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:27:47
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:61109
  • GENRE: Talk/Interviews
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Crime and criminals
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1971-1999
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Warren Steibel … Producer, Director
    • George Kahookele … Associate Producer, Direction (Misc.), Assistant Director
    • Muriel Oxenberg Murphy … Associate Producer
    • Dorothy McCartney … Researcher
    • John Virtes … Researcher
    • Russell Jenkins … Researcher
    • James Oris … Researcher
    • William F. Buckley, Jr. … Host
    • Alvin Bronstein … Guest
    • du Pont, Pete … Guest
    • John Goodman … Guest
    • Jim Hightower … Guest
    • Barefoot Sanders … Guest
    • Rush Limbaugh