Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Prisons In A Free Society

Rate this topic


Matthew J
 Share

Recommended Posts

I very nearly caught myself asking "who will pay for the prisons in a free society", but then noticed the similarities to the question "who will take care of the poor in a free society". Instead, how would criminals be punished in a free society, and if prisons are necesary, who will build own and run them? Private parties or government?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 65
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I very nearly caught myself asking "who will pay for the prisons in a free society", but then noticed the similarities to the question "who will take care of the poor in a free society". Instead, how would criminals be punished in a free society, and if prisons are necesary, who will build own and run them? Private parties or government?

I'd say privately owned possibly under government supervision and they should make the prisoners work in their factories and whatnot to pay for their upkeep. I haven't given much thought to it myself, but I imagine along those lines.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Prisons are a proper function of government. If it is convenient, these can be subcontracted to private companies. Such decisions would be amde by governments at the local, state and federal levels as required.

I have some qualms about using prison labor. If prisoners can be forced to work for X company, wouldn't that depress wages? After all, convicts would either not be paid, or be paid a pittance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The key principles are:

  • The government should have the say over how the prison is operated and what treatment the prisoners are subjected to
  • The prisoners should bear the costs of their food and "accommodation" to the extent possible
  • Initial investment and any extra funds needed should be obtained on an entirely voluntary basis

Whether a private individual builds the prison and donates it to the government, or whether he sells or rents it for money donated by others, etc., are details that may vary case by case.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have some qualms about using prison labor. If prisoners can be forced to work for X company, wouldn't that depress wages? After all, convicts would either not be paid, or be paid a pittance.

I wouldn't see them as earning any wages at all. Simply using their labor to create a product to sell to pay for the prisoners upkeep, lodging, medical care, etc instead of out of tax money.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The government's job is to provide justice, not to keep wages high. Besides, the availability of cheap labor increases wages in the long term.
I imagine these wouldn't be highly competitive manufacturing jobs, too. Highway repair, trash collection, municipal property maintanence, digging ditches for sewer lines in new development areas, etc.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In addition to the insights already offered, I would suggest an additional option: "bonding out." This might apply to some prisoners. A fictional example would be Mallory in The Fountainhead. His attempt to kill Toohey was not the act of a career criminal.

Bonding out means that the prisoner or his supporters would put up money for a bond (if that is the right word) as a sign of their commitment to making sure the prisoner will not commit another crime once he is let loose. To avoid losing that money, the prisoner's supporters will need to watch him very closely.

The amount, I hold, should be enough to pay for any likely police investigation and trial, assuming he is found guilty of the next accusation. (Perhaps there should be a fee to cover parole supervision for this kind of prisoner.)

One added advantage of this approach is that it might put an end to the whining about some creep having the full support of the ___ community (fill in ethnic name) so he should be freed regardless of his crime.

Either the bonding-out works or it doesn't. If it works, that means the prisoner is under close supervision at no big cost to government. If it doesn't, the bond will pay for handling the next crime -- and eventually the ___ community will run out of money and become a little more in touch with reality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I intensely dislike the prison system and I'd like to see something else replace it, although I'm not entirely sure what. I realise this doesnt add much/anything to the thread, but meh.

At least you could explain why you dislike the prison system. If you don't, I'll delete your post.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The government's job is to provide justice, not to keep wages high. Besides, the availability of cheap labor increases wages in the long term.

It's not the government's job to keep wages low, either.

While there should be a complete separation of state and money, the government's action will always have an influence over the economy, just as everyone else's actions do. Already the armed forces must compete with private industry for talented people.

Anyway, first and foremost prisons must perform the purpose they are built for. To punish criminals, to keep criminals apart from decent people, and to do whatever is possible for those criminals who must get released not to go back to crime. Once that is settled, then we worry about how to pay for it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not the government's job to keep wages low, either.

While there should be a complete separation of state and money, the government's action will always have an influence over the economy, just as everyone else's actions do. Already the armed forces must compete with private industry for talented people.

Anyway, first and foremost prisons must perform the purpose they are built for. To punish criminals, to keep criminals apart from decent people, and to do whatever is possible for those criminals who must get released not to go back to crime. Once that is settled, then we worry about how to pay for it.

Is it really the purpose of the prison to reform the prisoners and not just punish for the allotted amount of time? Is it the job of the government to teach morality or enforce the laws?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't like the bonding out idea.

I think you need to be held personally accountable for your crimes, regardless of whether your friends have the money to "bond" you ought.

EDITED TO ASK: Perhaps I misunderstood what you mean by "bonding out"

Or we talking about a parole situation (where someone has done some time, has behaved well, showing he is a good risk to be put back out in the world, and people saying, hey we will put up some money and show we will keep an eye on him for the duration of his parole period? THAT I think is a marv idea.

OR....are we just referring to: Guy does crime, rich friends come in and say "aw...come on, he is really a swell guy, here is money for a fine, we'll keep an eye on him from now on." I don't like that idea.

Edited by Sherry
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is it really the purpose of the prison to reform the prisoners and not just punish for the allotted amount of time? Is it the job of the government to teach morality or enforce the laws?

It is the job of government to protect the rights of its citizens. If it can do something with/to the criminals while they're in prison to reduce recidivsm, shouldn't it do so?

The government has a monopoly in the use of force. Delimmited by law to be used only in retaliation only against those who initiate the use of force. Effectively the government has the power to enforce one part of the moral code. The part against violating other people's rights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is the job of government to protect the rights of its citizens. If it can do something with/to the criminals while they're in prison to reduce recidivsm, shouldn't it do so?
No, no more so than it should compete with grocery stores to provide food while protecting rights. Rehabilitation is a service that is properly on the open market, where differenc providers can offer their talents at whatever rate the market will bear. The government should not compete with private businesses. Edited by DavidOdden
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is the job of government to protect the rights of its citizens. If it can do something with/to the criminals while they're in prison to reduce recidivsm, shouldn't it do so?

The government has a monopoly in the use of force. Delimmited by law to be used only in retaliation only against those who initiate the use of force. Effectively the government has the power to enforce one part of the moral code. The part against violating other people's rights.

Yes, the government has the power to enforce the moral code in so far as protecting the rights of it's citizens, I will not dispute that. But I do not see how that leads to the government trying to 'rehabilitate' the prisoners, which to my eyes, would be the government trying to teach morality, not enforcing it. The punishment metted out by going to prison or being fined should be as far as the government goes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, no more so than it should compete with grocery stores to provide food while protecting rights. Rehabilitation is a service that is properly on the open market, where differenc providers can offer their talents at whatever rate the market will bear. The government should not compete with private businesses.

Do you see criminlas lining up for such a service? I doubt more than a small portion would.

Many criminals go right back to crime as soon as they get out. That means any criminal now in prison is likely to go on violating your rights. Shouldn't the government try to prevent it?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you see criminlas lining up for such a service? I doubt more than a small portion would.

Many criminals go right back to crime as soon as they get out. That means any criminal now in prison is likely to go on violating your rights. Shouldn't the government try to prevent it?

Perhaps this is where the charitable private organizations can come in if they want to do their "good works".

OR an situation where Capitalism can save the day. Supply and demand of the employment pool.

Here is a thought: a local factory needs some low level workers, and perhaps they are hard to find because the average Joe in the community has put themself in a position to have better skills, so that they work better jobs. So...hmmm...where to get these low level employees?

Hmm...they call up the prisons and say: hey, you know, I need some guys that may not already have a lot of skills, but are not already hardened criminals. Do you perhaps have some of those? (Perhaps the young and foolish that got caught up in some foolish crime that didn't involve physical harm or, etc.) Then, the factory owner, should he decide too, could go in and fund a program for these guys to learn a trade. Let him pay for it. IF these guys behave, do well on the program and make parole, require them to go work for this employer while on parole. The employer could pay them a training rate, and after the parole period is up, they can leave if they want. Or, the employer can invite them to stay, and perhaps give them a raise if they are working out. (I wouldn't make the wage a law thing...but it should all be contractural so that neither the worker nor the employer gets screwed.)

Of course, the factory owner would probably not want to do this if the market didn't require it: IE...if he could do this with high school students, or with the non convicts.

This is just one thought. I don't offer this as something that would offer a solution to all cases, but just one idea.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you see criminlas lining up for such a service? I doubt more than a small portion would.

Many criminals go right back to crime as soon as they get out. That means any criminal now in prison is likely to go on violating your rights.

Note that the majority of criminals are not rights violators, and that because government does get very actively involved in rehabilitation (and other social) efforts, there is no incentive or even opportunity for private rehabilitation firms. I would not claim that even the majority of morally corrupt type criminals would see the error of their ways, although I suspect that habitual rapists do understand that they are mentally wrong and that they need help. But if participation in rehabilitation is voluntary, then there is no rational reason for an inmate to prefer the government program to a private program, except that the government program would be totally lame. So you have to separate the question of how you get people into the program from who runs the program.

Rehabilitation is education: if it is not the function of government to provide education to non-criminals, it is not the function of government to provide education to criminals. In fact, the "prevention of rights violation" argument is a stand-in for a whole raft of state-sponsored social services. There is no denying that providing free housing, food, transportation, child care, medical care (etc. etc.) would prevent crime, on the premise that people are economically desparate and turn to a life of crime because they don't know how to survive ethically. This is how the welfare clause of The Constitution got morphed into the welfare-state clause.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you had a privately run prison, it would have to make a profit. So they get the prisoners to produce goods which they then sell to pay for the prisoners food, prison upkeep, etc. The money left over is profit.

Is this kind of a system not creating an incentive for the prison system to want there to be more crime? Ie. if there is more crime, the prison gets more prisoners which makes them more profit. You can even imagine a situation where a corrupt prison actively frames poor vulnerable people, knowing they will end up in their prison making more profits for them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rehabilitation is education: if it is not the function of government to provide education to non-criminals, it is not the function of government to provide education to criminals. In fact, the "prevention of rights violation" argument is a stand-in for a whole raft of state-sponsored social services. There is no denying that providing free housing, food, transportation, child care, medical care (etc. etc.) would prevent crime, on the premise that people are economically desparate and turn to a life of crime because they don't know how to survive ethically. This is how the welfare clause of The Constitution got morphed into the welfare-state clause.

That is a very good point........

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is this kind of a system not creating an incentive for the prison system to want there to be more crime? . . . You can even imagine a situation where a corrupt prison actively frames poor vulnerable people, knowing they will end up in their prison making more profits for them.

We must rely on the eternal vigilance of the voters not to allow this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you had a privately run prison, it would have to make a profit. So they get the prisoners to produce goods which they then sell to pay for the prisoners food, prison upkeep, etc. The money left over is profit.

Is this kind of a system not creating an incentive for the prison system to want there to be more crime? Ie. if there is more crime, the prison gets more prisoners which makes them more profit. You can even imagine a situation where a corrupt prison actively frames poor vulnerable people, knowing they will end up in their prison making more profits for them.

There is room for corruption in any system. That does not make the system any less viable. If the cost for care of the prisoners is not covered byt the prison itself, then it has to come from somewhere, i.e. tax payers. I don't very much like the fact that part of my income is used to support criminals.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is room for corruption in any system. That does not make the system any less viable.
Indeed, the cynic's objection comes down to this. Man has free will, man can chose to be evil, therefore is is always possible for any human institution that it will have a corrupt person in it. Non-corruptness cannot be guaranteed, so rational life is impossible. Pfft. Judges don't encourage crime as a way to assure themselves employment.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Judges don't encourage crime as a way to assure themselves employment.
Their employment is assured by the fact they are paid via taxes and don't have to make a profit. However a private prison system would be under pressure to find prisoners. Edited by brit2006
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...