A 1927 quote about the worthlessness of prisons (and more)
Posted: 20 November 2006 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]
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[b:4b3e435587]Its been almost 80 years since this was written. and yet our criminal system has only gotton worse and more aimed at the poor and at racial minorities.  I would submit a humanist would begin his/her arguement something like this:[/b:4b3e435587]

"The prison does not prevent anti-social acts from taking place.  It increases their numbers.  It does not improve those who enter its walls.  However it is reformed it will always remain a place of restraint, an artificial environment, like a monastery, which will make the prisoner less and less fit for life in the community.  It does not achieve its end.  It degrades society.  It must disappear.  It is a survival of barbarism mixed with Jesuitical philanthropy. 

"The first duty of the revolution will be to abolish prisons - those monuments of human hypocrisy and cowardice.  Anti-social acts need not be feared in a society of equals, in the midst of a free people, all of whom have acquired a healthy education and the habit of mutually aiding one another.  The greater number of these acts will no longer have any raison d’Õtre.  The others will be nipped in the bud. 

"As for those individuals with evil tendencies whom existing society will pass on to us after the revolution, it will be our task to prevent their exercising these tendencies.  This is already accomplished quite efficiently by the solidarity of all the members of the community against such aggressors.  If we do not succeed in all cases, the only practical corrective still will be fraternal treatment and moral support.

"This is not Utopia.  It is already done by isolated individuals and it will become the general practice.  And such means will be far more powerful to protect society from anti-social acts than the existing system of punishment which is an ever-fertile source of new crimes." - [i:4b3e435587]Peter Kropotkin (from Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets; 1927)[/i:4b3e435587]

[b:4b3e435587]Interesting essays on similar concerns:[/b:4b3e435587]

www.naturalism.org/criminal.htm#Young - "In the light of science, we can see that there is no ultimately blameworthy agent, independent of the conditions that shape a person, that merits either execution or degradation by punitive imprisonment.  In the light of our best ethical instincts, we can see that retribution is unworthy of us as creatures who seek our better natures.  We can and must deny its legitimacy if we are to make moral progress and build a more enlightened society." - Tom Clark

www.naturalism.org/maximizing_liberty.htm - "In a deterministic universe, we understand that a criminalÌs career is not a matter of an unconditioned personal choice, but fully a function of a complex set of conditions, genetic and environmental, that interact to produce the offender and his proclivities.  Had we been in his shoes in all respects, we too would have followed the same path, since there is no freely willing self that could have done otherwise as causality unfolds."

Two by Ted Honderich:

www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/punhumdeath.html

www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/PunishmentMixedTheories.html

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Posted: 20 November 2006 12:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I agree that prisons are worthless, however, the author’s idea that crimes are caused by poor social conditions is only partially true.  We know that many who had terrible childhoods turn to crime, but how does this explain the many corporate executives who commit crimes?

Possibly we should get rid of all prisons and redefine all crimes as either misdemeanors or felonies.  Those who commit misdemeanors would be liable for a fine large enough that it would be unprofitable to continue doing so.

All felonies would be capital offences.  That way we get rid of prisons, and repeat offenders.  Only six months would be allowed for appeals.  However, if anyone was shown to be innocent after being executed, the judge, jury, police officers involved, and prosecuting attorneys would have participated in a murder and therefore be liable for capital punishment themselves. 

In the case of financial crimes such as the Enron case all found guilty would have all their assets including family assets confiscated and used to reduce the national debt.

LOL

Occam

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Posted: 02 March 2007 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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rehabilitation, not retribution

People’s behaviors have causes.  If a behavior is unacceptable, we must
identify its cause and correct it.  Obviously, the general public has little awareness of what neuroscience has found the last few decades.  Still, I think people should be made to compensate those they harm to a reasonable degree.

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Posted: 02 March 2007 05:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Prisons as currently constituted are more problem than solutin-agreed. But it is naive to think that we will ever be able to prevent all individual acts of violence or abuse. Such things will happen often enough to matter even in the most just society. It is not enough to say

Anti-social acts need not be feared in a society of equals, in the midst of a free people, all of whom have acquired a healthy education and the habit of mutually aiding one another. The greater number of these acts will no longer have any raison d’?tre. The others will be nipped in the bud.

“As for those individuals with evil tendencies whom existing society will pass on to us after the revolution, it will be our task to prevent their exercising these tendencies. This is already accomplished quite efficiently by the solidarity of all the members of the community against such aggressors. If we do not succeed in all cases, the only practical corrective still will be fraternal treatment and moral support.

What, in practical terms does this mean? Are violence against perpetrators of violence, or confinement/banishment ever appropriate. The most peaceful societies you point to in your posts, those small bands of hunter/gatherers, supressed antisocial behavior with forms of ostracism that, in the most extreme cases, amounted to capital punishment by denying the perpetrator the support of the rest of the group in an environemnt when fending for oneself meant dying. This was a deterrant to crime, as well as a response. So what exactly is “fraternal treatment and moral support?” What does it do for victims and potential victims?

I’m not in favor of retribution, since it accomplishes nothing. And I think detrrance only works for those with something to lose and the ability to consider and control their actions, so you need both economic equity and rational citizens to employ this. But the idea that no-one need ever be confined or banished from society to prevent their abuse of others is not creditable.

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Posted: 16 June 2007 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I do agree that prisons for many crimes do no good. But what about for serial killers and and other repeat offenders? These people need rehabilitation or their crimes will never stop. If they cannot be changed into law abding citizens, then what else can be done than to detain them to protect the public? I certainly don’t propose that we execute them. Prisons seem like the best thing to do when rehabilitation fails.

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