[ExI] prisons

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Fri Apr 17 01:37:54 UTC 2020

On Thursday, April 16, 2020, 02:06:31 PM PDT, Adrian Tymes via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote: 
> On Thu, Apr 16, 2020 at 1:26 PM Dan TheBookMan via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> 1. Is imprisonment moral per se?
> As opposed to...?  There are cases where it apparently is, such as where
> the only alternative being considered is no action, which results in a
> murderer killing other people, a rapist raping more people, and so on.

Sometimes no action might be better than imprisonment. Imagine someone who isn't infected and both they and you (and everyone else knows this) spits on you. Imagine in this supposed incident, there's a bizarre legal system where either the spitter gets a year in prison or no action at all is taken. Would you say a year in prison in this case is better than no action?

Now, in the real world, there's almost always many more actions to be taken than merely "no action" (by which I take it you mean the person suffers no penalties whatsoever, including, in the case of spitting, you don't change your behavior regarding them, such as you see them getting ready to do the same thing and you just let it happen). Let me return to the alternatives.

>> 2. Does imprisonment actually achieve positive results? 
> As opposed to...?  See above.

As opposed to not imprisoning someone. See below.

>> A subsidiary question to my second one is: Does prison achieve
>> better positive results against other means of dealing with crime?
> What are the other means?

Fines, restitution, loss of property, loss of social status, and monitoring (such as probation).
>>  (A good reason to consider this is the overall high cost of prison in purely
>> monetary terms. For instance, imprisoning the serial burglar might be far
>> far more costly in monetary terms than the monetary loss from their
>> burglaries. There might other factors to consider here, as I know as a
>> person who’s been burglarized before.)
> It seems highly unlikely that it imprisonment would usually cost more.
> https://www.google.com/search?q=cost+of+imprisoning+someone+for+a+year
> shows as the top result $31K per year.

Actually, it states "incarceration costs an average of more than $31,000 per inmate, per year, nationwide." It doesn't say how much more than that, so let's accept that as the low end of the average...

>  Just one burglary can easily result in more than $31,000 of cost and damages,
> and a burglar can burgle more than one time per year - and that's just burglarly.

Now you've moved from average to what you believe a good burglary might net. In fact, the average burglary nets about $2,000.* So the average burglar would have to commit over 15 average acts of burglary over a year to balance out the average prison cost. To be fair here, the article citing this figure mentions there are other costs.

> If we want to phrase things in monetary costs, then what's the economic
> damage of an average rape or an average murder?

Crimes like these and including other acts of physical violence (what's the "cost" of having one's face kicked in?) are a tougher sell for prison abolition, of course.



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