Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Punishing the Persona: Correctional Strategies for the Virtual Offender

"Punishing the Persona: Correctional Strategies for the Virtual Offender" in Steve Jones (ed.) Virtual Culture: Identity and Communication in Cybersociety, Sage: London and New Delhi, 1997.


The development of cybersociety poses significant
theoretical and socio-political challenges attributable to a
social space populated by "bodyless" beings. This chapter
explores the phenomenon of bodylessness and its
ramifications for the criminal corrections process. In the
case of a well-known virtual rape, the perpetrator's account
was deleted following a meeting of the virtual community's
members. This virtual execution of his online persona is
rigorously analyzed to determine if punishment of virtual
bodies is a suitable means for meting out virtual
jurisprudence. Guided largely by Foucault's insight into
non-corporal or bodyless punishment, a standard of "just
adjudication" is developed to insure that the punishment
fits the crime. In part, this standard directs punishment
for virtual offenses primarily towards the virtual body.
Accordingly, offline offenses ought to be directed primarily
towards the user. To this end, a classification scheme is
proposed to differentiate virtual offenses from conventional
computer crimes. Three cases are examined in light of this
classification and standard. They are the "rape of legba;"
the University of Michigan student, Jake Baker, who was
arrested and expelled for his Usenet posting of a "sex
fantasy;" and Kevin Mitnick, the infamous hacker accused of
committing several computer-related crimes. It is hoped
that the guidelines developed herein for adjudicating
computer-mediated offenses will insure that the punishment
delivered is commensurate with the crime.


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