The most important thing to society ought to be the preservation of
individuals’ self and property. Those who show that they can not help
but to encroach on others (murder, rape, assault) or their properties
(theft, fraud, burglary, etc.) should be removed from society.
It is positive to return those individuals back to society if and when they are capable of refraining from their previous activities. All productive members of society add to each other’s welfare. What we need, therefore, is a way of determining if an individual is rehabilitated – that is, is he capable of being productive and can he keep from hurting others or their property. Until an individual can show that he is capable of this, he should be kept away from society – i.e. no defined prison terms.
Currently, I don’t know if we have any way of accurately determining whether an individual is likely to commit more crimes. We do, though, have statistics that tell us that sex offenders are X% more likely to continue committing sex crimes than petty theives. Those individuals who exhibit behavior that has been found to be largely “unfixable” should remain away from society indefinetly.
Since criminals must be removed from society, society should not have to bear the costs of their incarceration. Criminals should be given the choice of self-sufficiency (growing own food – selling excess to pay guards or other such enterprises that can keep them away from society) or death – no free lunches. Any excess profits (i.e. more money than needed for administration) made by these “business” prisons should go towards a reparations fund to pay the prisoners’ victims.
Prisoners who can convince a subset of society (perhaps businesses could compete to serve this function – perhaps they could receive a percentage of his future earnings if he stays out of trouble or pay a hefty fine if he returns to his old ways) that they are rehabilitated should be released back into society. Obviously, each time a released prisoner returns to prison, his chances of ever getting out again should be greatly diminished.
Those prisoners who show they can’t deal with any sort of society
(assault other inmates, guards) should be either put to death or sent
to some remote location with no contact with the rest of society. Either way, society should not have to pay at all for the upkeep of prisoners.
The Millennium Bookshelf: <http://www.donaghe.com/mbookshelf.htm>