Once upon a time, someone had the “bright” idea that real punishment was exiling a local citizen to a building they couldn’t leave, in which they received food, clothing and shelter while they experienced their “punishment.” This building required taxes from everyone in town so that the “punished” could learn their lesson. Essentially sticking someone in the corner they couldn’t leave, but wouldn’t do without, either.
What prisons have actually allowed citizens to do is wash their hands of a prisoner without feeling guilty about doing what is most difficult — no longer giving them a chance.
We have deceived ourselves into believing that prison is the best way to rehabilitate people, but it’s proven to do anything of the sort. Going to prison not only attached a lifelong stigma to someone both legally and in the community, but often teaches them how better to craft their illegal activities, joining them together. Imagine taking a bad apple from a barrel and putting it in another barrel full of other bad apples and imagining that super isolating them will make them better apples. Is that logical to you?
Instead, consider a world without prisons or jails. If someone were to commit a crime, the law enforcement responsible would collect the person before a judge who would see evidence of crime and assign an economic punishment if found guilty.
Theft? The thief’s own belongings will be given to or sold and the money given to the person stolen from, recompensing their loss. The law shouldn’t deal in simple emotional damages since they are subjective and prone to fraud. Only that which can be measured should be adjucated, such as direct loss, time missed from work, etc. If murder occurs and corporal punishment is legal in a community, upon being found guilty, the perpetrator is taken out and killed as quickly and painlessly as possible. If not legal, the community will set a minimum financial cost for loss of life and the perpetrator will experience the same seizure of assets and debt to pay that amount, without option for bankruptcy, which will put that individual in such hardship that repeating the activity will never want to do the same again. And if they do, the community should reconsider if their punishment is high enough.
For those who commit crimes and cannot or will not pay for their crimes to their victims, they will have their photos and crimes displayed in a public forum so all within a community may know who did what, and offer them the opportunity to refuse service. Imagine having stolen something, been convicted of it, not pay the victim back, and then everyone knowing about it. Who will let you in their stores? Restaurants? Who will want your money if they think you stole it? And in today’s media-intense world, you could plaster up the face of those found guilty but won’t pay back their victim’s for their crime for a hundred miles instantly!
What if you raped someone? I’d personally advocate castration if against an adult and execution if against a child. No one would buy from you, sell to you, or employ you. And in a society where everyone is armed, you couldn’t get within ten feet of anyone without having a weapon drawn upon you, all within an individual’s legal right to show a willing threat of force against someone proven to abuse the natural responsibilities and rights of a community member.
Your life in that community is over and you will have to move on. While you could float from community to community hiding who you are and continuing to cheat people, communities will get smart — especially in today’s high-tech world — and either make corporal punishment standard or merely stop trusting people on their merits of their smiling faces.
I’ve said before that a nation of lions is better than a nation of sheep. I’d rather have to prove my trustworthniess as I travel the country than simply accept everyone’s naive hope that I am a good person on the inside. Such natural independence and self reliance is why one of the lead Japanese admirals during WWII warned against invading the US homeland, declaring they would find a gun behind “every blade of grass.”
In a society where you aren’t punished by a single anomalous force but in which every citizen in a community is invested in managing those within who would abuse their sensibilities and trust, the greatest punishment is a continual denial of the ability to make a living with anyone else.
What are the benefits? You don’t have to pay to feed, clothe or house someone who has hurt someone else through theft, assault, rape or murder. You don’t have to fear they will stay in your community if they know no one will trade or work with them. You don’t face judicial abuse by police hoping to arrest more to fill quotas, or entrepreneurial sheriffs building private prisons to gain federal funding. It does the most to return to a victim the value of loss while promoting the greatest rehabilitation by the guilty party. It ends the concept of debt to society and returns to the “Debt to Victim,” which is less vague and more powerful.
I don’t want to support a criminal in prison for five years! Why am I subsidizing people who commit crimes? They should either instantly pay back their victims or be banished from that community by advertisement of their crimes.
“But it’s unfair to the guilty party to plaster their face and crimes to the community!”
It was wrong for them to hurt others in the first place! When their actions create a community threat, it is the community’s right to know who and how. It does not mean the community has any right to know anything more. That privacy remains intact, but not which constituted the crime.
No individual in the community is bound to read the crimes, or participate in its publication, but by that token they willingly remain naive of those who commit crimes against others, and thus they select their own security through ignorance. Such a system would garner the highest community involvement not only in law and order, but also other areas regarding the health of a community.
Imagine a community where every citizen remained responsibly armed, prepared to defend themselves and others against those who would hurt them, who withhold trade of those to perpetrators, or might choose to take a chance with them and rehabilitate.
Best of all? Victims are recompensed directly for loss. No longer is there a judicial suit and a civil suit. There is only civil suit, and you will get back in value exactly what you lost directly from the person who committed the crime. That keeps crime and punishment at the lowest possible level. No longer is everyone paying for someone who did you wrong. The person who did you wrong is paying you back him or herself! Sometimes that payment can’t bring back the dead, or your purity, but to imagine that prison somehow improves either the criminal or your recover is a naive fallacy. Prison does nothing to change the heart or heal wounds.
True change comes from penitence, which comes best when the person who commits the crime is most responsible to pay back for the crime committed. Just like when your parents made you pay for the broken window or vase when you were a child. When you had to apologize and then do something in return for someone else you did wrong. And if you didn’t have to do that as a child, how well did you learn your lesson?
Being held directly responsible is most likely to bring the result desired.