Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Don't prisons keep people safe from others who have caused harm?

+1 vote
Isn't incarceration a justifiable and effective way to punish and incapacitate people who murder, rape, abuse children, etc.? Should all of those people just face death, whether by the whim of the state or by the whim of the victims/those close to the victims? Should these people just be set free and loosed upon society at large?

I have rephrased my question after going through related tags and questions
asked May 16 by anonymous
edited May 18

i need more specifics about your question to give a response.

you may want to check out this thread that discusses prison and murder.

even liberal statists frequently make the case that incarceration does essentially nothing to reduce "crime". deterrent... apparently not.

the question ba@ links above is definitely relevant.

i think ultimately this question, from an anarchistic perspective, is the same one that has been asked in so many ways, so often:

how do autonomous, anti-authoritarian individuals deal with conflict, especially conflict that can get violent?

if you search this site for "conflict", you might find some other interesting discussion to chew on.

threat of going to prison isn't a good prevention plan of deterring someone from committing homicide or rape. perhaps you can ask these statist beings to support their claim. as far as im aware there is little evidence to support the idea that prison is an effective way to deter people from killing and raping another.
you may also want to click on the tags "police" and "prison" on this site in addition to the questions/tags that funky suggested.
i don't understand what you want to elicit from your questions that you can't find in the hundreds of responses to all the other similar questions on this site.

if you just want yes/no answers to your questions, i'd mostly answer "no" to all of them....but i hate yes/no questions first of all, and secondly, i don't have any prescriptive "answer" for you.....

absent the state and all the institutions that accompany it (courts, prisons, etc), any variety of situations could occur....and depending on the people involved, those who care about those people, and all the particulars of any given situation, any number of responses and actions could take place.

if a rape or murder happened to someone i care about, i can't even say with certainty what i would do.....my response would vary based on all the circumstances and people involved, as well as my own emotions, thoughts, and feelings....all of which would also vary by the moment.

your question is completely different. do you believe prison keeps people safe? if you do then why? justifiable is a loaded term of morals.

caging people in prison doesn't keep you safer. i would say caging people might make you less safe as these people are poorer and much more alienated than they were when they got sent there and have less opportunities in today's society when released.

in an anarchist society there would be no prison or controlling authority judging them on their actions so none of your questions apply in that regard. did you search for crime? there are many similar questions.

not to mention the other people in prison....and the guards.....they may not feel any safer as more people get sent there to join them...and the people getting sent to prison may feel less safe as well....

it seems you (anonymous) want an answer with an authoritarian perspective from people who want anarchist relations.

and all the people in prison that aren't safe from each other. ya kno living like that can make someone do some jank ass shit they wouldn't normally do. is it "justifiable" to put others into danger to give yourself a false sense of security?

edit: changed, "good into a monster.." to "do some jank ass shit they wouldn't normally do"

3 Answers

+2 votes
ok imma start with your use of the word 'should'.  these days i find the word almost completely useless.  of course there are many ways to use any word, for instance 'should' is often used to refer to likelihood; i.e. 'that should work'.  in your question however, 'should' seems to imply a questioning of what is 'correct', or 'right', 'righteous', what 'duties' and 'obligations' we have etc.  i do not think there is any such thing as 'correct' action, there are only situations, and what i choose to do in response.  can i reflect on the past, analyse past situations, my responses to them, and the new situation that my response helped creat?  of course i can, and through this i can inform my responses to future situations.  however what i cannot, and can never do is ascertain whether the action i chose was 'correct' or 'right', in any non-personal sense.  the concepts of 'correct', 'obligation' etc are abstractions that must be constructed from experience.  they cannot be experienced directly, at least i never have, and as such these concepts remain utterly personal, more so than other experiences that is.  similar issues surround the word 'justifiable'.  it seems you want some sort of universal, non-personal 'justifiable', but the fact is that every person is going to view 'justifiable' different.  you just need to read isis, or police statements after one of their killings goes public to see evidence of this.

now onto the question proper; do prisons keep us safe from others who have caused harm?  no, i would not say that they do.  indeed, i find the wording of the question very interesting.  'do prisons keep us safe' is in the present tense, with 'caused harm' in past tense.  clearly you dont mean that the prisons can keep us safe from 'past' events; imprisoning someone cannot reverse a murder, assault, rape etc.  i think a fair understanding of your question is simply 'do prisons keep us safe?', or perhaps 'do prisons help make us safer?', the tense being that of the present and future.  the 'from people who have cause harm' seems a concession to the fact that people are put in prison because they are perceived by the justice system to be a likely source of harm, usually because they have been convicted of some act that is thought of as harmful.  basically 'do prisons keep us safe from others who are likely to cause harm?'  my answer to this is still no.

how the legal system views harm is not necessarily compatible with what i think of as harmful.  there are many behaviours i think are harmful that the legal system does not target, and many behaviours the legal system targets that i dont think are harmful.  i reckon the average black dude imprisoned for possessing cannabis is not nearly as harmful any one of the politicians, lawyers, or policemen that put him there.  an even for he things that are illegal, the punishments are far more severe for those at the bottom of the economic ladder than for those at the top.  some bloke who murders someone will get put away for a long while, but arms manufactures, negligent pharmaceutical companies, or even just people who price hike food and life-saving medicine will likely never even be near a cell.  that is until they cheat rich people out of there money, then they go away for fraud.  and we havent even considered police and state violence yet.  the criminal justice system is not about protecting the public, its about maintaining the control of current power structures.  it does not put the people with the power and incentive to cause large scale harm behind bars, the military, the government, corporate leaders etc. because they are the people that benefit from the prison system.  just my two cents.
answered May 19 by shinminmetroskyline (1,710 points)
shin, your framing of this makes me think of something i wrote many years ago. something about how absurd it is to create "laws" in order to prevent behavior that is essentially inevitable. (as if that were really the motivation, but that's a different point.)

"well, we have ownership and property, so let's outlaw stealing." that sure worked/works well.
+1 vote
They don't. The criminal justice system that is supposed to do these things (at least in the minds of people who want it to do these things) is always far removed from the "criminals" that they prosecute. If there is any hope that people can deal with each other in a just manner that ameliorates a situation (and believe me, sometimes i'm just as cynical as experienced cops about this), there needs to be very specific knowledge of context that relates to everyone involved. The justice system is not capable of this, it is a system of rigid and unchanging laws, and the people who control and enforce it are also controlled by this machinery. Also, given the impossible nature of judging real life situations through this framework, people tend to want to break their opinions down into who is a "good" and "bad" person, and just want to punish the latter. Prevailing opinions can always be manipulated regarding this. The justice system is supposed to be guided by objective evidence but depending on the type of crime and situation this is hard to come by.

I firmly believe that the only justice that exists in this world we live in is poetic and ironic justice. Otherwise we are all just merely dealing with the reality of people, which at best can be restorative, at worst vindictive and punitive.
answered May 19 by Nihilist (30 points)
0 votes
isolating people from their people/communities/support networks (etc.) through incarceration (whether involuntarily like in jail or prison, or semi-involuntarily like in loony bins and skilled nursing facilities) provides the illusion of safety for the non-loony, the non-elderly, and the non-"criminal" elements of polite society. but really it's just "out of sight, out of mind" to keep scary people from interfering with the lies of bourgeois culture.
answered May 23 by boles (70 points)
...