In historical times it was not uncommon for a person to be put to death for theft, speaking out against governing authorities, or heretical speech or activity against the official state religion.
These days, the death penalty is quite rare — even for the most depraved acts of multiple murder. This is becoming a problem in multicultural societies with high rates of violent crime. The expense of keeping large numbers of violent prisoners confined for their lifetimes must be weighed against the cost to society of releasing large numbers of violent men and killers into the general population.
A society that sees itself as “humane” will want to punish its prisoners in “humane” ways. Historically — as you can see above — that has not always been the case. Drawing and quartering was once a popular punishment. The breaking wheel was used to facilitate breaking all the bones with a cudgel or heavy rod. Death by boiling was another punishment used throughout Europe and Asia until the 17th century.
In more merciful modern times, the death penalty is rarely used in western countries. Even death by lethal injection is often considered a cruel and unusual punishment. So how can a multicultural society — overrun with violent crime, with ever more violent criminals in the pipeline — deal with a surfeit of killers without breaking the budget or letting murderers go free to kill at will?
The problem is complicated by a deep philosophical divide between those who prefer a more “practical” approach to reducing violent crime (death penalty, mandatory life sentences, etc.) — even if prison system costs go through the roof — and those who prefer an ideological approach (blaming society for crime and letting criminals run free) — even if violent crime rates steadily worsen.
The US, for example, was able to temporarily reduce violent crime rates by building new prisons and sequestering a larger proportion of violent criminals away from the general population. But now prisons have become overcrowded. Overcrowded prisons are forced to release violent criminals long before their sentences are served, and many violent offenders can plea-bargain significant reductions to their sentences at the very start.
What is a humane solution to this growing problem in multicultural societies?
First of all, prisons themselves are not humane environments. Jails and Penitentiaries are rife with extortion, violent assault, rape, predation of all types, as well as murder-for-hire. There are rules for how to behave in prison, but no one is safe there. No, prison is not humane. And besides, criminals often emerge from prison with more sophisticated skills to commit violent crimes without getting caught.
So if society feels that capital punishment is not humane, and if prison is not humane, how will a “humane” society deal with violent criminals?
First of all, convicted multiple murderers and murderers who are career violent criminals, belong in a special category. For the most part, they should not ever be released to the general population, nor should they be allowed to circulate in a population of other prisoners.
We turn to science fiction for one solution: “suspended animation.”
Suspended animation has … been used in many stories (such as the film Demolition Man and the Tekwar novels) as an alternative method of containing incarcerated criminals. The rationale behind this being that prisoners under suspended animation consume less resources (such as food, water, housing and medical care) and that the only significant expense is the maintenance of the suspension units and the security around them. __ http://nethelper.com/article/Suspended_animation
Suspended animation also effectively isolates prisoners from each other, so that criminal skills are less likely to proliferate, and there is no opportunity for a dysfunctional prison culture to develop.
Since it is mandatory in almost all philosophies of justice that murderers pay a price for their crimes, the bodies of any criminals placed in suspended animation or stasis would have to continue to age normally. That form of stasis should be easier to attain than the more conventional forms of suspended animation in science fiction — which generally involve the suspension of the ageing process.
It is crucial to understand that violent crime is primarily a game for younger men. As time passes, both the ability and the inclination to commit violent crime tends to wane in most men.
The convicted murderer in suspension would still be alive, and might even be awakened periodically for controlled visits. Legal appeals could be instigated on his behalf while in stasis. But he would continue to age, and eventually die.
All of this would take place in a secure facility designed mainly to keep outside threats at bay. Such a facility would be far less expensive to build and operate than modern maximum security prisons.
Punishment for other violent crimes less serious than murder — such as violent assaults, rapes, etc. — should be both humane AND tailored to the crime.
Remember that violent crime is typically a young man’s activity. Short periods of stasis — between 5 and 20 years, depending on the crime — might allow enough time to pass for the felon to escape the combination of factors that led him to his crime. If not, other approaches can be taken.
A rapist, for example, could be rendered incapable of rape for an extended period of time. Any “punishment” which does not achieve this goal is a joke.
Persons found guilty of multiple violent assaults must be rendered incapable of violent assault for a significant period of time, depending upon the nature and extent of injury to his victim.
If stasis is not used, what other approach might work?
We will first assume that these crime-prevention methods for violent crimes less than murder, will be temporary and reversible. This makes them more difficult, but not impossible.
What is the best way to go about temporarily disabling a habitual violent felon to prevent him from committing violent crime?
One of the most effective approaches would be to block specific functions of the central nervous system motor pathways. You want to leave breathing, swallowing, eating, drinking, coughing, speech, taste, etc. unaffected, while weakening the voluntary muscles of the limbs.
The felon would be unable to catch and overpower anyone older than the age of 2 who is not in a coma. His mind would function. He could have visits from friends, enjoy food and other pleasures — as long as others were willing to assist him. He would be too weak to walk, run, or handle weapons.
All of this would take place in a “half-way” house setting using very few paid personnel. The prisoner would have to fend for himself for the most part, and would not be actively defended or pampered at public expense.
And therein lies a more profound aspect of his punishment: If he has alienated everyone in his family and circle of friends, he is going to have a hard time of it. Having abused everyone around him using his strength, he will be at the mercy of everyone around him by virtue of his weakness. If the threat of such a condition of vulnerability does not deter a violent person from violence, nothing will.
How long should a violent felon be kept in a state of induced paresis, or muscle weakness? It depends upon his criminal history, along with the criminal specifics underlying his current conviction. A person guilty of multiple assaults over a several-year time period, is unlikely to reform easily, if ever.
Repeat violent offenders who do not respond well to induced paresis may require induced coma, or stasis.
More invasive approaches might include remote controlled brain implants — such as was pioneered by Jose Delgado (PDF) used to instantly stop raging bulls in the arena. Or remote controlled implanted cardiac fibrillators / defibrillators.
Implantable Tasers that hit a person with high voltage discharges whenever he tries to move beyond a particular perimeter, may also help to limit a criminal’s ability to commit violence — either as a primary method or an adjunct.
Exile is a traditional punishment for non-violent offenders. But if a place of exile could be devised that assured the safety of society while remaining more humane than the alternatives, it should be considered.
Essentially, prison is not humane, and releasing habitual violent offenders into the general population is not humane for members of society who must face these felons. Both aspects of “humaneness” must be considered when meting out punishment.
At this time, all methods of modern punishment fail — and in many cases are worse than some of the more gruesome historical forms of capital punishment.
These ideas are only early suggestions, meant to be debated, rejected, and built upon. Before any genuine solutions can be devised, society will need to face the truth about innate problems such as crime, poverty, and violence in multicultural societies.
It is never too late to have a dangerous childhood.