The Justice system

One subject that comes up only occasionally in sci-fi is how future societies punish criminals.

In modern western societies almost all punishment come in one of two forms, either prison time or money.

While people may sometimes speak of rehabilitation little is done on that front today.

Prisons are very expensive to maintain, not only in terms of money but in terms of manpower. They rely on a large tax base and on having a good amount of manpower.

While fee’s have the benefit of not costing tax money, they do have the disadvantage of being asymmetrical. What is a small fee to one person is a large one to someone else. Its very hard to have a set fee work on both a wealthy businessman and someone who makes minimum wage.

When you are making a future society think about how they will punish those who wronged them. Maybe more importantly, consider what they want more; punishment, recompense or rehabilitation. You also have to consider how important productively is. If a people need workers badly enough, they might not be willing to take them out of the workforce so any punishment can’t remove them from the workforce.

Even if punishment stays the focus, there are many other ways we could go about it. Humiliation was common at one point, as was mutilation.

One idea I could see taking hold is having a chance at death be the punishment for every crime. If you killed someone, you have a 1/3 chance of drawing a death penalty. If you messed up someones lawn you have a 1/500, ect.

Its possible that punishment will not be the focus of the justice system at all, it will instead be recompense. If you kill someone you have to make up for it.

Maybe you have to support his family. If he was donating to a charity you have to as well. You have to in every way possible make up for him not being alive anymore. Maybe even to the point of organ donation.

Under this system the rich might be able to kill poor people without much problem. It would just mean a day in court after which you tell your accountant to pay them and you never think about it again. Legally nothing could be done against you.

I would probably make faking injuries and framing people much more common. If you make it look like someone made you unable to work they would have to pay for lost wages. Maybe a lot of lost wages.

Such a system would be contingent on the ability to enforce. How hard would it be to run away? If we are talking about a cashless future where everything is done electronically and its all tied to your ID then it might be very hard.

Rehabilitation is the third option, a more compassionate society then ours might not want revenge or even for the offenders to fix the problems they caused but for the offenders to become better people. They might not want a murderer to be punished. Rather they may want the murderer to know why what he did was wrong and to never do it again.

While it may be tempting to go in a Star Trek style direction with this I think it would be more interesting to go the other way. What if you had brainwashing technology and used it when someone committed a capital crime. The murderer would be forced to believe that murder was wrong.

What effect would that have? What would it be like to be an unrepentant murderer who was forced to feel that what he did was wrong?

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