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Thread: Prisons, community service, crime-and-punishment controversy, and more

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    Default Prisons, community service, crime-and-punishment controversy, and more

    Certain posters here like to make drive-by, off-topic remarks dealing with the broad area tying prisons, community service, other related stuff, and especially crime-and-punishment controversy. As well there have been comradely discussions in scattered areas on this board posing concrete solutions or non-conventional alternatives to much more controversial proposals.

    Perhaps I'll cite these in due time, but the basic idea is that typical prison terms and executions just don't work, that rehabs are becoming more problematic, that even prison labour for the benefit of private parties sheds more illusions in any "progressiveness" on the part of the bourgeoisie, and that the various drive-by and increasingly irritating remarks offer no alternatives beyond cheap liberal moralism.

    Thoughts?
    Last edited by Die Neue Zeit; 19th February 2011 at 03:38.
    "A new centrist project does not have to repeat these mistakes. Nobody in this topic is advocating a carbon copy of the Second International (which again was only partly centrist)." (Tjis, class-struggle anarchist)

    "A centrist strategy is based on patience, and building a movement or party or party-movement through deploying various instruments, which I think should include: workplace organising, housing struggles [...] and social services [...] and a range of other activities such as sports and culture. These are recruitment and retention tools that allow for a platform for political education." (Tim Cornelis, left-communist)

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    The current semi-private prison system in the USA creates weird incentives, you know stories like the one with the prison guards lobbying against decriminalizing cannabis or the one with the corrupt judge who profitted from dishing out long sentences.

    Suppose after a civil war there are huge labour camps where many of the former ruling class have to work. Thing is, however justified this may be in the beginning, such a huge complex won't simply disappear in a puff of embarrassment when it becomes anachronistic, those who have administrative jobs there where they feel important will want to keep them. The whole idea of being efficient with that labour also strikes me as problematic in the long run. Once such a prison-labour force with less rights and less income is established as a "provisional measure" to help building the new society, what will prevent bureaucrats from forming a habit of planning with huge numbers of this cheap resource?

    I admit though that it strikes me as absurd if there's a duty to work only for those outside of prisons. So, I think that work in prisons (and also education) should be as similar to conditions outside of prisons as possible, not some type of punishment by crappy work conditions or something where the state retains a bigger part of one's income. (A part of the income going to a former victim is something different though.)

    Verdicts should be reached by juries, these juries should be educated about a common cognitive bias and recidivism rates.

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    Well, I don't think there's too much of a risk of GULAG labor returning unusual returns; although Stalin's GULAG management tried to squeeze every rouble out of Kolyma, the fact is, ceteris paribus, the GULAG was labor-inefficient since its coerced labor was itself extracted from the general domestic labor pool.

    Contrariwise, Nazi slave labor was labor-efficient because it robbed other countries' domestic labor (aside from Germans Jews, Communists, etc., but they were a minority of slaves),
    Last edited by Jose Gracchus; 19th February 2011 at 06:59.

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    But it doesn't have to be as inefficient as under Stalin.

    Today's technology makes it possible to have a much higher number of workers per guard, and to use them for cheap temp work everywhere. Imagine you wear a little ankle bracelet with an emitter/receiver. That bracelet also has another feature: electroshock whenever the guard or the manager pushes a button. Giving you a little warning when you come close to the boundary of your designated area and giving you a shock when you try to cross it can be done automatically.

    This would be like what the iPod is to the gramophone, but with Gulags.

    Or the shock function isn't used liberally by everybody and their mom and 95% of the ankle bracelets don't even have a shock function and the ankle bracelets replace 99% of the prison terms and the work you do as a convict is like the work of other people and paid like the work of other people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kotze View Post
    Once such a prison-labour force with less rights and less income is established as a "provisional measure" to help building the new society, what will prevent bureaucrats from forming a habit of planning with huge numbers of this cheap resource?

    I admit though that it strikes me as absurd if there's a duty to work only for those outside of prisons. So, I think that work in prisons (and also education) should be as similar to conditions outside of prisons as possible, not some type of punishment by crappy work conditions or something where the state retains a bigger part of one's income. (A part of the income going to a former victim is something different though.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Kotze View Post
    Or the shock function isn't used liberally by everybody and their mom and 95% of the ankle bracelets don't even have a shock function and the ankle bracelets replace 99% of the prison terms and the work you do as a convict is like the work of other people and paid like the work of other people.
    I completely agree with you in the cases of those with shorter sentences and doing things like "community service," making toys for kids in a manufacturing setting, etc. While they'd have to be conscripted to work, in all other respects they should be treated equally under labour laws as ordinary workers (comrade Miles also suggested the ability to unionize).

    That definitely means that there would have to be other means of effective deterrence for the lesser crimes.

    Two distinct problem cases (each with separate treatment) arise, though:

    1) Those who have to pay hefty fines
    2) Class enemies, serious counter-revolutionaries, serial murderers and other capital offenders, grossly corrupt officials, serial rapists, etc. which in proportion to the global population can have sufficient numbers

    In the second case, the utility I speak of is primarily that of deterrence (ethically speaking those arguing for de jure capital punishment argue more about "retributive justice" and not deterrence) and not necessarily the potential for "value... surplus labour at below subsistence costs," hence why the driver-by who said that quote is wrong about my not seeking for utility. The use-value is prioritized over the value, because the greater the deterrence, in the long run (and perhaps even medium run) the lesser the "surplus labour at below subsistence costs."

    And again I cite another comrade's alternative for serious offenses caused by neither economic conditions nor political inclinations, but by serious psychological imbalance (serial rapists and generic serial murderers):

    Quote Originally Posted by mikelepore View Post
    They should spend each day strapped to a laboratory table with electrodes and scanners attached to their heads, while brain researchers try to figure out what caused them to be that way. To do anything else with them is a waste of scientific data.

    (Checking "other." Thank you for being one of the few poll creators who remember to include an "other" option.)
    Last edited by Die Neue Zeit; 19th February 2011 at 07:35.
    "A new centrist project does not have to repeat these mistakes. Nobody in this topic is advocating a carbon copy of the Second International (which again was only partly centrist)." (Tjis, class-struggle anarchist)

    "A centrist strategy is based on patience, and building a movement or party or party-movement through deploying various instruments, which I think should include: workplace organising, housing struggles [...] and social services [...] and a range of other activities such as sports and culture. These are recruitment and retention tools that allow for a platform for political education." (Tim Cornelis, left-communist)

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    It would depend on the seriousness of the crime and the context in which it was perpetrated that would determine the punishment. Petty crimes like drunkeness or stealing a small commodity could probably be solved through public criticism in grassroots courts organized in the workplace, the neighborhood, community hall, etc.. I honestly don't think there's a need for revolutionary violence or rehabilitative labor for such small injustices. But in a socialist society, most of the incentive for stealing would not exist.

    Murder, rape, sabotage, etc. would probably require some form of labor as retribution. Even still, the conditions for it shouldn't be hell. I know in socialist Albania's rehabilitation system, there were arrangment for conjugal visits, and each jail had a complaint box, and each complain had to be investigated, by law. Not to mention the death penalty was rarely used (the last use of it was in the late seventies/early eighties, I think).

    Not to mention I've heard that it's actually more costly to kill someone than it is to keep them in detainment, although I cannot back that up at the moment. Anyone know if there is truth to this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red_Struggle View Post
    It would depend on the seriousness of the crime and the context in which it was perpetrated that would determine the punishment. Petty crimes like drunkeness or stealing a small commodity could probably be solved through public criticism in grassroots courts organized in the workplace, the neighborhood, community hall, etc.. I honestly don't think there's a need for revolutionary violence or rehabilitative labor for such small injustices. But in a socialist society, most of the incentive for stealing would not exist.
    What about community service for graffiti?

    Not to mention I've heard that it's actually more costly to kill someone than it is to keep them in detainment, although I cannot back that up at the moment. Anyone know if there is truth to this?
    Depends on the country and method of execution. All I know for sure is that lethal injections and electrocutions are each more expensive than either hangings or firing squads.
    "A new centrist project does not have to repeat these mistakes. Nobody in this topic is advocating a carbon copy of the Second International (which again was only partly centrist)." (Tjis, class-struggle anarchist)

    "A centrist strategy is based on patience, and building a movement or party or party-movement through deploying various instruments, which I think should include: workplace organising, housing struggles [...] and social services [...] and a range of other activities such as sports and culture. These are recruitment and retention tools that allow for a platform for political education." (Tim Cornelis, left-communist)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red_Struggle View Post
    Not to mention I've heard that it's actually more costly to kill someone than it is to keep them in detainment, although I cannot back that up at the moment. Anyone know if there is truth to this?
    I believe this is the case currently only in America and Japan, the only two liberal democracies with a vigorous court system and separation of powers that retain capital punishment, where appeals can drag on for a person's lifetime (many people die of natural causes while still on death row) and the cost of prosecuting capital cases is enormous. It is probably also true in Taiwan and South Korea where the death penalty is rarely employed and costs of litigation are high.

    In almost all of the remaining retentionist countries (with the possible exceptions of Guatemala, and India, though there I'm not sure if figures like these are kept), this is most definitely not the case, esp. when the alternative is detainment for life.

    But the actual cost of a carrying out an execution, in the sense of procuring the chemicals ropes guns and securing the space etc... absent paying government lawyers to work on a case for decades and have the courts deal with it, does not exceed the cost of incarceration for life.
    百花齐放
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    Quote Originally Posted by Die Neue Zeit View Post
    and that the various drive-by and increasingly irritating remarks offer no alternatives beyond cheap liberal moralism.
    Opposing slave labour is cheap liberal moralism. Gotcha?

    I don't see how you can blame people for responding to one liners in response to you,

    I think there are two reasons for this,

    1) No offence intended here (Honestly!) but I don't think many people take you seriously.

    2) I think you advocate some things which people find obviously really bad and don't feel the need to explain why. To make an analogy, could a fascist come here and advocate some things we thought were obviously false/immoral and expect to get a "serious" response?

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    There's no excuse for the state working people to death. Its not "moralism". I mean I think DNZ wouldn't tolerate that bullshit from Trots who want to brush over the treatment of peasants inherent in some of their hollow images of "permanent revolution", so I don't know why he does here.

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    This has nothing to do with the peasantry, though.

    Peasants /= class enemies, serious counter-revolutionaries, serial murderers and other capital offenders, grossly corrupt officials, serial rapists, etc.
    "A new centrist project does not have to repeat these mistakes. Nobody in this topic is advocating a carbon copy of the Second International (which again was only partly centrist)." (Tjis, class-struggle anarchist)

    "A centrist strategy is based on patience, and building a movement or party or party-movement through deploying various instruments, which I think should include: workplace organising, housing struggles [...] and social services [...] and a range of other activities such as sports and culture. These are recruitment and retention tools that allow for a platform for political education." (Tim Cornelis, left-communist)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Die Neue Zeit View Post
    This has nothing to do with the peasantry, though.

    Peasants /= class enemies, serious counter-revolutionaries, serial murderers and other capital offenders, grossly corrupt officials, serial rapists, etc.
    You say that, but clearly one of the primary motivations for you calling out those who respond to you with "base liberal - liberal - anti kautsky - moralist - one liners" or whatever is the thread where youe said the slave labour in Russian gulags was a good thing. I can't recall, and it is entirely possible I am being too harsh here in not giving you the benefit of the doubt, but you didn't then correct that too "If the gulags had only imprisoned murderers and rapists." And even then, the idea of introducing forced labour is controversial etc.

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    What exactly is "liberal moralism"? If it is merely opposition to overly harsh punishment then surely holding that criminals deserve to be treated harshly due to what they have done is "conservative moralism"? Also isn't the problem with liberals that they are not progressive enough, not too progressive? That always irritates me when people turn down some progressive notion with the words "we are not liberals". No we're not, but we aren't Conservatives either.

    Forced Labour, harsh punishment and the like are wrong for two reasons, firstly because they don't make society any safer anyway and secondly because any decent society has to hold to certain standards as to how to treat other people and that includes its prisoners. Especially its prisoners as it happens; because if a society is using prisoners as an "acceptable" outlet for sadistic impulses it shows that the society has a severe problem in that such impulses have reached boiling point. Society ought to be humane and be able to treat people well. There is value in mercy.

    That should guide the broad guide to justice policy and a good start as we look at moving beyond principles to practicality. First of all we want society to be safer and fortuitously this principle walks hand in hand with compassion because we know that harsh "justice" simply makes crime worse. Next to that we want to be able to reintegrate as many criminals as possible into society so active rehabilitation is vital.

    In terms of concrete policies this means first off that the death penalty should never be used. I mean that under any circumstance whatsoever, so anyone who wants to query that don't fire back a "what about...?" because I include that too. If capitalism can manage to abolish the death penalty completely in most developed countries, socialism certainly shouldn't be about to undo that. For any socialist to recommend reinstating the death penalty where it has already been abolished would be as absurd as calling for the removal of female suffrage or the reinstatement of child labour.

    Life Imprisonment ought to be avoided too. Some very unusual cases may be severe enough for it but in the normal run of things it is best avoided. Some countries have in fact abolished it too as well as the death penalty. Brazil and Venezuela for instance do not jail anyone for longer than thirty years, Norway for no more than twenty one and so on. Again if capitalism can manage that level of progress (albeit only occasionally) socialism certainly can. Some people may be too dangerous to release, but dealing with them should be solely about keeping them away from society, not punishing them.

    As for more ordinary crime. First of all sending people to prison is usually not very helpful so should be reserved for more serious crimes. Community service is an appropriate punishment here. I mean actual community service, not some people's notion of "forced labour" keeping people in camps and forcing them down mines or whatever horror in question.

    Where prison is necessary again it has to be based on the twin pillars of benefiting society and showing mercy. That means prison should be about keeping people away from society while they are rehabilitated, not trying to inflict misery on them to nobody's benefit. So prisoners should retain full political rights while in prison, be allowed to work and unionise, have access to education and so on. Keeping prison as close as possible to what normal life should be and not stripping them of any rights except their liberty makes it most likely that they will adjust properly when they are released and mean that some at least are able to avoid the "revolving door" prison syndrome.

    None of this is "liberal moralism", it is actual progressivism drawn up with what is best for society in mind.

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    Lord only knows why, like his fixation with posing some suggestion of programmatically justifiable criteria for an independent politically organized working class conditionally supporting something like a Lukashenko or Chavez where the revolution is unlikely to break out with genocidal warlords of Classical Antiquity, he feels the need to line up behind conditional support for working people to death who current death penalty supporters happen to fetishize.

    As someone put it, its just a lame sop to conservative moralism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Demogorgon View Post
    What exactly is "liberal moralism"? If it is merely opposition to overly harsh punishment then surely holding that criminals deserve to be treated harshly due to what they have done is "conservative moralism"? Also isn't the problem with liberals that they are not progressive enough, not too progressive? That always irritates me when people turn down some progressive notion with the words "we are not liberals". No we're not, but we aren't Conservatives either.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Inform Candidate View Post
    Lord only knows why, like his fixation with posing some suggestion of programmatically justifiable criteria for an independent politically organized working class conditionally supporting something like a Lukashenko or Chavez where the revolution is unlikely to break out with genocidal warlords of Classical Antiquity, he feels the need to line up behind conditional support for working people to death who current death penalty supporters happen to fetishize.

    As someone put it, its just a lame sop to conservative moralism.
    There's no "conservative moralism" in my citation of comrade Mike Lepore re. serial rapists and generic serial murderers becoming the lab rats of brain researchers.

    Nevertheless, I think the "sop to conservative moralism" argument would have made a much, much better counter in the heat of the controversy. I did, after all, post the thread below and OI material by the "Radical Centrist" Michael Lind:

    The Second International and social conservatism

    Quote Originally Posted by Demogorgon
    Forced Labour, harsh punishment and the like are wrong for two reasons, firstly because they don't make society any safer anyway and secondly because any decent society has to hold to certain standards as to how to treat other people and that includes its prisoners. Especially its prisoners as it happens; because if a society is using prisoners as an "acceptable" outlet for sadistic impulses it shows that the society has a severe problem in that such impulses have reached boiling point. Society ought to be humane and be able to treat people well. There is value in mercy.

    That should guide the broad guide to justice policy and a good start as we look at moving beyond principles to practicality. First of all we want society to be safer and fortuitously this principle walks hand in hand with compassion because we know that harsh "justice" simply makes crime worse. Next to that we want to be able to reintegrate as many criminals as possible into society so active rehabilitation is vital.
    Would that not depend on the "harsh punishment," though? If I'm a repeat offender under a regime of lengthy jail terms and/or executions, I'm thinking, "What's the big deal? I'm going back to my jail cell anyway" or "What's the big deal? I'm going (back) to death row."

    The only situation I see as being very problematic would be if there's high unemployment (transitionally speaking) and the repeat serious offender just wants a job, even under Depression conditions. Then he'd think the corrective labour is an avenue to that job, gambling that he'll survive.

    Life Imprisonment ought to be avoided too. Some very unusual cases may be severe enough for it but in the normal run of things it is best avoided. Some countries have in fact abolished it too as well as the death penalty. Brazil and Venezuela for instance do not jail anyone for longer than thirty years, Norway for no more than twenty one and so on.
    That's rather interesting to read.

    Again if capitalism can manage that level of progress (albeit only occasionally) socialism certainly can. Some people may be too dangerous to release, but dealing with them should be solely about keeping them away from society, not punishing them.
    The likes of Magnitogorsk and severe propiska restrictions for criminals kept them away from society.

    As for more ordinary crime. First of all sending people to prison is usually not very helpful so should be reserved for more serious crimes. Community service is an appropriate punishment here. I mean actual community service, not some people's notion of "forced labour" keeping people in camps and forcing them down mines or whatever horror in question [...] So prisoners should retain full political rights while in prison, be allowed to work and unionise, have access to education and so on. Keeping prison as close as possible to what normal life should be and not stripping them of any rights except their liberty makes it most likely that they will adjust properly when they are released and mean that some at least are able to avoid the "revolving door" prison syndrome.
    I already said this merciful and rehabilitative stuff in Post #5 above.
    "A new centrist project does not have to repeat these mistakes. Nobody in this topic is advocating a carbon copy of the Second International (which again was only partly centrist)." (Tjis, class-struggle anarchist)

    "A centrist strategy is based on patience, and building a movement or party or party-movement through deploying various instruments, which I think should include: workplace organising, housing struggles [...] and social services [...] and a range of other activities such as sports and culture. These are recruitment and retention tools that allow for a platform for political education." (Tim Cornelis, left-communist)

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