My life is hell

By By Alex Steele

By Alex Steele

This country puts people in prison to punish them, not for rehabilitation, said defense attorney and U professor Ron Yengich at an Honor’s Program lecture on Dante’s Inferno.

Yengich strongly advocated a system that favors restorative justice with rehabilitation facilities and programs rather than incarceration.

“I assure you that the purpose of our system is to punish,” Yengich said.

The lecture, held in the auditorium of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on Feb. 24, discussed the three sections of Dante’s epic poem: heaven, purgatory and hell.

“I do have some credibility when it comes to hell,” Yengich said. “I spend essentially every day in hell as a defense attorney.”

Nearly 3 million people are currently in prison in the country-the most per capita of any nation, he said.

This staggering number is partly due to the violent and vengeful society in which we live, he said.

“Groups like the National Rifle Association, the Utah Legislature and gangster rappers are singing in harmony about violence-we are a country of malice.”

Yengich concluded his lecture with words of counsel and warning.

“We love to punish. There is a rage to punish?(but) fundamentally, if we look to punishment to solve our problems, we lose,” he said.

Biology freshman Derek Denney said he agreed with Yengich’s take on restorative justice.

“I really liked how the lecture fit in with the current justice system. He made a lot of points that I never would have thought of before,” Denney said.

Classmate Yang Liu, a freshman in philosophy, was more impressed by the references Yengich made, specifically to Dante.

“I was somewhat taken off guard by the legal direction Yengich chose to pursue in the lecture. However, it’s a testament to the enduring relevance of Dante’s works, even to modern society and people,” Liu said.

The lecture was scheduled by the Honors Department and coincided with some Honors classes currently studying Dante.