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Not in favor of the death penalty?
June 18, 2001 2:12 AM   Subscribe

Not in favor of the death penalty? How about a gulag in Alaska? It sounded ludicrous to me at first, but after reading the article I'm a little more open to the idea.
posted by RylandDotNet (56 comments total)

 
A gulag. In America. A gulag in America.

Hold on a second. I need to wrap my head around this.

A gulag on American soil. Holy weeping Solzhenitsyn. We are actually at the point where we are willing to consider building a gulag?
And they said we weren't entering a fascist state.

I have just begun seriously considering expatriating, because I refuse to believe that it is possible to live freely in a nation with a fucking gulag.
posted by Ezrael at 2:31 AM on June 18, 2001


I don't really care for the idea of cutting their food rations if they refuse to work. I'm not much for "making them suffer", either. And "gulag" is such a loaded term.

Otherwise, the idea sounds alright - hard work plus confinement minus unnecessary comfort items equals a good enough solution for me.

Ezrael - I expatriated about a year ago. No complaints here.

Ryland - Good to bump into you. Hope things are going well in Austin. I am still loving Vienna.
posted by syzygy at 2:44 AM on June 18, 2001


Get O'Reilly on the first one, and I'd warm up to the idea.

Oooh, what a shockingly tough stance for Upright Americans Everywhere.
A gulag. (Bemused snort).
How ever did this saggy-skinned cartoon troll become so popular?
posted by dong_resin at 2:57 AM on June 18, 2001


Isn't it better than the death penalty?
posted by andrew cooke at 3:03 AM on June 18, 2001


For pundits? There's a circle of hell specially reserved for pundits, so I'd be happy to leave that judgement to eternity.

But faced with a life of constant pain and deprivation, would not some of these degenerates think twice before pulling a trigger or brutalizing a woman?

Um, no. Transportation was no more a deterrent in Victorian Britain than hanging.
posted by holgate at 3:16 AM on June 18, 2001


This is worse than the death penalty because of what it says. Because a fucking gulag is more than a simple prison, it is a weapon of terror against a people who must be kept in line at all costs. This is something documented by Eugen Kogon, who lived it.

We're talking a concentration camp. It may start out as something to punish the worst of the worst, but history shows it will not stay that way. The guards will take advantage of their power, or crack from the unremitting harshness. The convicts will plan escapes. Eventually, death will be commonplace and unquestioned.

I already ranted about this on my own blog, about how a state that banishes people to Siberia...sorry, Alaska (fifteen miles, that's all that separates them, fifteen miles, and if I'm not exactly right it's close enough for this purpose) will eventually broaden the definitions of who gets sent there and who doesn't. Let's use O'Reilly's own definitions. Killers? What about someone guilty of involuntary manslaughter? That's a killer. Drug Kingpins? What about the man who allows a cannabis cooperative to use his land to grow pot? He's a drug kingpin. Terrorists? How long will it be until the definition of a terrorist is anyone who dissents, and fancy show trials round up the loudest voices...and send them to the gulag.

Don't tell me it can't happen here. It can. Ask the natives on reservations, ask the Nisei who were herded up in the 40's. This is too much freedom to sacrifice in the name of security. I'd rather walk through a thousand metal detectors than live in a nation with a gulag. To quote myself, this isn't just a slippery slope. This is a cliff wall that someone dumped a fifty gallon drum full of grease down.
posted by Ezrael at 3:25 AM on June 18, 2001


Still sounds better than dying. People tend to try to survive, even in gulags.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:40 AM on June 18, 2001


I'd rather die than be put in a gulag. I'd rather die than be someone who put people in gulags. It's a door we cannot open. It's not a question of death penalty or gulag here. We don't have to pick one or the other.
posted by Ezrael at 3:44 AM on June 18, 2001


Well, you'd have that choice - people in gulags are welcome to commit suicide. Most don't. People killed by the state don't have that choice.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:45 AM on June 18, 2001


Are you not getting the bigger picture (the crushing of dissent, the destruction of free speech, the permanent detention of people on flimsy pretexts) or are you simply convinced that a gulag can somehow be run humanely? You're making this all about the issue of punishment of the guilty, without considering the cost to all of us who are not guilty of anything. If we want to work people in chain gangs, or keep them in solitary, we can already do that.

We do not need to build a gulag to do those things. It is solely for the purpose of scaring everyone into behaving in a state that does not trust its own citizens. One of the consequences of living in a free state is taking the risk that people might break the law. If you set up places of exile, you have stepped over the line of public trust.
posted by Ezrael at 3:55 AM on June 18, 2001


Ezrael, I totally agree with you -- this is pretty scary, Orwellian stuff.

Anyway, it isn't a real and actual risk. It's just a stunt pulled by a not very interesting, right-wing second rate columnist on a slow day

I'm not saying that right-wingers can't be interesting, sometimes they are (The Wall Street Journal editorial page, even with all its sweatshops-are-good, Augusto-Pinochet-is-a-hero, Jesse-Helms-is-a-great-statesman rhetoric, very often manages to make good points).

O'Reilly is just not that sophisticated, and not that interesting either, simple as that -- he just sounds like a guy who had too much to drink.
posted by matteo at 4:07 AM on June 18, 2001


I get the picture, I just don't see how it's worse than killing people. Maybe you've just become de-sensitized to state murder?
posted by andrew cooke at 4:09 AM on June 18, 2001


I've already received a couple of emails telling me that...but the fact that anyone would propose this just feels like a hand wrapping around my neck, and I must react. (Possibly with more vehemence than is required. I'll admit to that.) It just reminds me of those articles in Der Sturmer or Henry Ford publishing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as if they were a real blueprint for Jewish world dominance instead of a hateful hoax concocted by a Russian nobleman to justify some pogroms.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." -- John Philpot Curran: Speech upon the Right of Election, 1790.

That says it all to me.
posted by Ezrael at 4:13 AM on June 18, 2001


Again, I point out that a gulag is not any sort of solution to the death penalty. Do you really believe that we'd repeal the death penalty if we were willing to put people in gulags?

I am anti-death penalty. I'm also aware of how easily I could lose all my rights, and become a cog in a wheel, if I let myself lose them.

Create a gulag and watch how fast the prisoners die.
posted by Ezrael at 4:15 AM on June 18, 2001


One last quote, and then I'm shutting up, because I'm dominating this thread and I know I need to get away from it before my head explodes.

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression." -- Thomas Paine

The death penalty scares the hell out of me. I think it unjust, in many cases. I think it is applied in a racist manner, that it is often used when it does not need to be. But I do not see how creating a concentration camp is the solution. The gulag is the very symbol of oppression. It is thought control and terrorism. Too many people have died oppressed, guilty of crimes manufactured by states to remove dissidents, for us to pick up the instrument of their destruction and apply it here.
posted by Ezrael at 4:20 AM on June 18, 2001


Ezrael says "[a gulag] is solely for the purpose of scaring everyone into behaving in a state that does not trust its own citizens." That's the way gulags (forced-labor camps) were used in the old Soviet Union, but prison camps don't create the sort of legal system that imprisons political dissidents. A basement cell in a downtown jail can just as easily be made a fearsome destination for people who don't think the right way.

Otherwise, I agree: you don't need a gulag to imprison a criminal. Regular prisons isolate and punish criminals, and nothing has ever deterred the worst crimes.

Other reasons this dimwitted O'Reilly guy is wrong:

• Purposely inflicted suffering is a step toward torture. If you reduce food rations for non-compliance with prison work regulations, do you flay a guy who murders his cellmate?

• Prisoners have law-abiding families who have rights, including the right to visit their imprisoned relatives. If you send a Florida murderer to Alaska, are you going to fly his loved ones out there regularly to visit? Or are you going to punish the entirely family?

• Where, exactly, would this gulag be built? What part of Alaska's wilderness is too nice for oil wells but fit for the construction of a massive prison system, including support facilities for the many guards and other staff it would require? Where is this horrible place whose location alone makes it fit punishment for evil men, and yet is nice enough to attract prison guards and their families?

• Prisons are very big business; other states might not want to give up their own cash crops of prisoners. (And under Nafta, shouldn't Mexico and Canada get to bid on this?)

People who seriously want to consider prison reform should always concentrate on ways to offer prisoners positive reinforcement for self-control and self-improvement, and ways for prisoners to work toward their own rehabilitation and long-term self-fulfillment. If you want prisoners to work, give them rewards for good work, and make the work constructive and educational and transferrable to the outside world.

Even a man who can never be trusted outside again may become a good and productive member of society from within prison.
posted by pracowity at 4:50 AM on June 18, 2001


I'm not arguing for gulags per se. I'm arguing for them as an alternative to the death penalty. That was the thread of the original link.

Better a festering wound on the face of America than the silent, anonymous, mechanised, ignored process that exists now.

If you object to the death penalty then it seems odd not to support this - especially when the objection seems to be that it will make the country look bad. The country already *is* bad. Replacing the death penalty with gulags *improves* it (ok, it might *look* worse, but I think we're aiming for substance, rather than style here...).
posted by andrew cooke at 4:51 AM on June 18, 2001


Gulag, schmulag. I don't understand the whole debate here. Granted, I think a Gulag is a bit of a scary concept... and I can see people's fright about it being a step toward fascism...

Instead, I see some kind of happy (for lack of a better term) medium, I guess.

Our current prisons allow the inmates TV, the ability to work out, etc.

So we're entertaining our criminals. We're also letting them work out and get huge - which is JUST what we want right? Bigger, stronger, more physically fit criminals! Hooray!

If memory serves, and please correct me if I'm wrong - we used to have criminals do work, such as hammering out license plates, etc -- but that was scrapped because people cried out about how it was mean.

Why is that mean? Why is making them give something back to society inhumane? They should have to do work, for NO wages - because money is being put into paying for them to live in that prison. They should have to do work because they committed crimes, and in my ever so humble opinion, are therefore endebted to society.

I'm not trying to convince anyone that being in prison is a happy experience for inmates. It's surely not. Being afraid of being killed by each other can't be enjoyable. Having to constantly watch one's back isn't enjoyable. But let's face it people - we're putting a ton of criminals in the same place and letting them socialize. What's that do? It teaches them more ways to be criminals. They come up with new ways to fashion weapons, to hide them during frisks. They come up with new ways to trade drugs and other contraband. They're in jail becoming BETTER criminals!

If you ask me, they should be locked in cells alone, with regular bars so they can go ahead and yack to each other all they want, but not come into physical contact with one another. Their food should be brought directly to their cell every day rather than being allowed to go eat together. They ought to be doing some kind of work for the government, be it fashioning license plates or some other work that the government is currently paying for.

I'm tired of giving criminals a place to work out, get large, and train themselves to be better criminals through extra practice -- all the while providing them with cable television and conjugal visits.

I may not want a gulag, but any argument that our current system is sufficient is standing on really thin ice in my opinion....
posted by twiggy at 5:53 AM on June 18, 2001


Prisoners have law-abiding families who have rights, including the right to visit their imprisoned relatives.

Not really. Supermax prison inmates are placed far out of state (and presumably away from people who want to visit them) all the time.

O'Reilly shows a remarkable lack of knowledge about existing prison conditions if he thinks his "gulag" is unprecedentedly harsh punishment.

People who think that American prisons aren't already subjecting inmates to torture should read about Supermax prisons, where inmates are isolated "for 23 hours per day in conditions of sensory deprivation that drive many insane" (source) and some are only allowed to exercise in isolation in an adjoining area so small guards call it a "kennel" (source). Most inmates in those conditions would beg to be assigned to a work prison in Alaska.
posted by rcade at 5:58 AM on June 18, 2001


Boy, Ryland - I wish this had popped up a week ago when we did our monthly death-penalty go 'round; except people woulda thought it was just another of my sarcastic posts.. ~smile~

For the record, I see this as reprehensible - but then, I'm in favor of the D.P., seeing that as more 'humane' than this sort of solution. But it does bring up the very valid question of what people consider society's responsibility towards D.P. offenders would be acceptable. Size of the cell, for 50 years? is 8'X12' not enough? 10'X10'? 20'X20', to make up your universe for the remainder of your life? Are plain gray walls fair, or should they be allowed to paint their permanet home a more soothing color? (No sarcasm, folks - honest question - we're talking about a LONG time incarcerated.)

Stuck in a cell for life, should we give them a television, to while away the 438,000 hours of a 50 year term? Internet access? In a way, a life sentence indebts the state to a criminal to provide a 'humane' level of quality-of-life. When does one 'turn off the spigot'?
posted by Perigee at 6:26 AM on June 18, 2001


I'm always amazed that people think prison is a cushy gig because they have gyms and televisions.

My brother is a corrections officer at a juvenile detention center, and I gotta tell ya that from his stories of juvy, prison just isn't a warm fuzzy experience.

I'm also always amazed that people seem to assume that every inmate in prison is some psychopathic baby-eater who deserves a hideous torture. People go to prison for a pretty broad spectrum of crimes. Is everyone who is guilty of any crime worthy of the Stalinist tortures you all imagine for them?
posted by briank at 7:01 AM on June 18, 2001


There's only one small problem with this plan: it would violate the Eighth Amendment.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:25 AM on June 18, 2001


Who needs a gulag? Half of America'sWanted are living in rural villages in Alaska already. Besides, you don't need a gulag to suffer in Alaska, just make them live in Fairbanks.
posted by Brilliantcrank at 7:28 AM on June 18, 2001


I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with the idea of a gulag per se...

FWIW, I came across this over the weekend and was stunned that anyone could promote an execution as something to be enjoyed "with the whole family":

"Cheering or Jeering?" (newspaper ad)

Thankfully it was rejected by the major dailies, but... !
posted by skyboy at 7:39 AM on June 18, 2001


what's the eighth amendment? (i'm not american)
posted by kv at 7:42 AM on June 18, 2001


Eighth Amendment: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
posted by bilco at 7:46 AM on June 18, 2001


hm, thanks.
posted by kv at 7:59 AM on June 18, 2001


We just spent over a half century condemning the Soviet Union for the way it treated its people, and now you're calling for gulags. I refuse to particpate in this thread beyond this point. You people are seriously fucked up, and I'm embarrassed to be part of MeFi today.
posted by jpoulos at 8:00 AM on June 18, 2001


Andrew Cooke, giving people ice cream and cookies is ALSO preferable to giving them the death penalty. You sound as if O'Reilly is giving the only available option to the problem.
jpoulos, I understand your disgust, but there's only a handfull of cretins who are for the Gulag in this thread. The rest of MeFi has actually come out against it.
posted by Doug at 8:28 AM on June 18, 2001


you could threaten to force-feed criminals their own skin and waste and they would still commit crimes. there are many many more factors involved here than have yet been addressed.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:32 AM on June 18, 2001


McSweetie, please don't give them any ideas.
posted by Doug at 8:37 AM on June 18, 2001


Clarification in case my first response was ambiguous (though I don't think it was).

I do not support the idea of gulags in America.

I tried to make my response a little humorous (remove all of the things that make it a gulag, as well as the name "gulag", and I am all for it). Not 100% certain it worked, though.
posted by syzygy at 9:04 AM on June 18, 2001


There's something no one has mentioned that irks me about our current prison system, and it was also mentioned in the linked column.

O'Reilly said "work" camp. Eight long hours a day, six days a week of work. What kind of work would be suitable for prison labor in the US?

We already have prison labor programs in this country, and it's not all roadside cleanup and conservation work. Private corporations can enlist good, cheap prison labor for things like telemarketing, meat packing, and yes, even shrink wrapping Microsoft products (think I made that last one up?).

I understand the need to try and restore some schedules into the lives of prisoners, and give them something to do, something to possibly feel good about, and most importantly society can benefit from it, but doing cheap labor for private corporations is a bit sickening to me. I'm shocked that anything like this (company closes a plant, lays 150 off, then reopens using prison labor) could happen in this country. It's also disturbing to think how big a business prisons in America are, and how we're creating this steady stream of new prisoners that quite possibly could become some bizarre new cheaper workforce for business.

A tiny part of me believes a segment of the population that believes business is always right and should never be impeeded wants to see a gulag, so they can have a nice, steady labor pool from which to draw from.

What kind of country is America becoming?
posted by mathowie at 9:07 AM on June 18, 2001


wow. thanks for that info.
posted by kv at 9:27 AM on June 18, 2001


The demagogue has spoken! Obviously, this is a Stalinist nightmare and the sad part is, which mathowie just commented on is "What kind of country is America becoming?"

O'Reilly is a popular fellow and I expect zero fall out from this outrageous article. His fans are going to buy it hook, line, and sinker and talk about the "easy life" that prison is and vote in the next zero-tolerance tough on crime politician who secrectly believes Stalin had a decent thing going. As an optimist I'm certain most O'Reilly watchers don't vote, but bitch and moan and make the occasional $1.95 phone call to some lame 1-900 TV poll. I really hope the mainstream press takes him up on his words, he needs a thorough chewing out.

As for "Drug Kingpins" who exactly is he talking about? A couple sheets of acid puts you away for quite a long time, as long as any "Kingpin."
posted by skallas at 9:55 AM on June 18, 2001


The Eighth amendment is virtually meaningless. Excessive bail? What's that? Is it seven million? What about those held without bail? That happens all the time.

What about an excessive fine? What's that? Five billion?

It's all in the eye of the beholder. And then there's the cruel and unusual punishment. In Furman v. Georgia, the death penalty was determined to be cruel and/or unusual. Just four years later, in Gregg v. Georgia, it isn't. Has anyone ever made this damn amendment stick?
posted by norm at 10:09 AM on June 18, 2001


Considering this was written by Bill "I'm a faux libertarian, my ego's bigger than Alaska and all I can do peddle is a bunch of easy answers to problems that I know absolutely nothing about" O' Reilley, I'm not too surprised by his final solution.

Believe me, I'm not for coddling criminals, but the problem with this kind of thinking is that it becomes very hard to turn off once it gets rolling along.

People that we disagree with? Send 'em to the gulag.

People who don't think like we do? Send 'em to the gulag.

People who don't worship the same god we do? Send 'em to the gulag.

Out of sight, out of mind. Totalitarianism always starts in slow and suble ways. . .
posted by dr. zoidberg at 10:24 AM on June 18, 2001


mathowie: Methinks the prison industry thing goes on as it has because few Americans have a clue as to what is really going on. It also does not affect people like them, or at least seemingly does not. One of the goals of populist parties and politicians at the turn of the 20th Century was, however, to stop the leasing of convict labor to private organizations. Why? Because the followers of these politicians had to compete with the contract labor. They also feared going to prison and being forced to work for a private concern without just compensation. But who's going to complain about that today? Ralph Nader or Jesse Jackson? Oh, that'll get millions of average, middle-class Americans stirred up.

The bigger question is, could you get Americans so fired up about the same issues today? If there is a deep recession, absolutely, maybe even if there is a mild one. You've also seen backlashes against certain types of privatization across the country. I know of some private prison failures out there. Not an expert on this by any means, but it seems ever-clearer to me that there is a wedge issue out there for someone willing to pound away at it. In a recession, it would be a cinch.
posted by raysmj at 11:15 AM on June 18, 2001


Norm, your referenced seven billion dollar settlement was in a civil trial. It wasn't a "fine" (which can only be imposed by a criminal proceeding) and it doesn't fall within the purview of the eighth amendment.

And to claim that there is some confusion in the application of any rule is not to say that it is meaningless and can never be applied at all. The eighth amendment does indeed function quite well.

Finally: "cruel and/or unusual". For the eighth amendment to apply, a punishment must be both cruel and unusual. There is no "or" there, and the courts have interpreted it as not being "or".

Unusual but non-cruel punishment is acceptable. Cruel and usual punishment is also acceptable. (In a sense, all punishment is cruel.)

But a gulag would be both cruel and unusual, and thus would violate the eighth amendment.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:48 AM on June 18, 2001


Thank God.

I was beginning to think I was the only person who thought this might be cruel and unusual. And it has nothing to do with making the country look bad, and everything to do with beginning the process of camps that manufacture state sponsored terror, and death.

Look at Andersonville. Supposedly a camp to hold the soldiers from the other side of a nasty sectarian war. Not even criminals. Inherently, when you warehouse people and work them like slaves, you strip away the thin veneer that keeps them even remotely tractable, and you strip it away from their keepers as well.

While we're thinking up ghastly alternatives to a ghastly situation, why not lobotomize every convicted murderer? A simply neurosurgery...it probably wouldn't take that long, and we could be sure that they would never hurt anyone again. They took a life, we take their life, but they wouldn't actually be dead. That's preferable to the death penalty, isn't it?

Of course not. It is, in its own way, just as horrible. And just like lobotomizing someone, you cannot rectify forced labor prison camp time. It is an experience that will be with the victims forever. No one who has ever gone into a gulag has come out better for it. I am not arguing that the death penalty is humane...I do not believe that it is. But if you are against the death penalty, I do not see how you can fail to oppose creating a place where we attempt to starve and work people to death. Indirectly murdering them is still murdering them, and gulags are a step towards that theory and practice Kogon warned us about.
posted by Ezrael at 11:59 AM on June 18, 2001


If we stuck with 'Usual' punishment as defined at the time of the eighth amendment, we'd have stocks, public floggings and public hangings...

Not advocating, but just musing on the use of the word 'Unusual'...
posted by Perigee at 12:22 PM on June 18, 2001


Two point's I've not made before:

1 - In any country that does have gulags/concentration camps etc, they are considered less severe punishment than death.

2 - Isn't it likely that people living within a country that (a) has capital punishment and (b) defines (defined) itself in opposition with places that had gulags that there will be a strong cultural bias to accept (a) and condemn (b) (isn't this the kind of thing Chomsky cautions against in the Responsibility of Intellectuals?).
posted by andrew cooke at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2001


If we stuck with 'Usual' punishment as defined at the time of the eighth amendment, we'd have stocks, public floggings and public hangings...

Gawd, that takes me back.... :) kidding.

I am a death penalty advocate, but a gulag opponent, for the same reason I oppose giving current death-row inmates commutations to life in prison: There are simply some crimes that are so heinous, so horrible, that there really is only one just punishment - death. While there is life, there is hope - to escape, to be paroled, to victimize other inmates.

I made this point earlier today, and I'll make it here: we have a Social Compact here in America; through it, we allow each other certain rights and, in doing so, we also command of each other certain responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is that we do not murder one another. When you shirk that responsibility and murder someone, it does not lessen our own responsbilities to each other - in fact, it focuses them, since we now have a collective responsibility to each other to prevent the murderer from ever murdering again. That is why we have the death penalty - that's why we should have the death penalty.

I agree that there may be some problems with the death penalty as currently practiced. However, I contend that those problems stem at least in part from an unwillingness to hold up our responsibilities under the Compact. Execution is an ugly job - but when we shirk our responsibility to protect, how are we different from the murderer?
posted by UncleFes at 12:46 PM on June 18, 2001


If we stuck with 'Usual' punishment as defined at the time of the eighth amendment, we'd have stocks, public floggings and public hangings...

Pshaw, that's the problem with America today. Not enough public flogging, and too much sermonious criticizing of the private kind.

But really.

Let's take a look at what we have here.

Law-abiding citizens usually:

- have to work hard, and work steady, to buy food to feed themselves;
- have to work hard, and work steady, to indulge in life's little amenities (like, oh say, television and/or work-out equipment);
- have to work hard, and work steady, to pay the bills that will keep them with a roof over their heads, clothes on their back, electricity/other methods for warmth and preparing the food that they worked so hard to get.
- have to fear/worry about criminals who want to take that away from them in all kinds of violent and pervasive manners.

[ There are, as with anything, exceptions to the rule, but we're speaking in general (and last I checked, the majority of Americans weren't on some form of public assistance/welfare). ]

Then you've got people who break laws, usually causing damage or harm to others in some manner. They get everything that the law-abiding citizen gets--except for the inconveniencing "locked behind bars" part--for FREE.

No, strike that--the law-abiding citizen's paying for it.

Yeah.

Right.

So maybe a gulag isn't the answer. I'm personally rather fond of the concept of tossing them into prison, then informing them that if they want food, electricity, etc, they'll have to work (gov't-provided jobs) and pay for it themselves with the wages earned or they'll go without.

Anyone who feels that -that- is cruel and unusual is by all means welcome to start paying for the groceries and day-to-day bills of law-abiding Americans--starting with me, preferably. The cost of baby food and diapers are killing me.
posted by precocious at 1:34 PM on June 18, 2001


Stephen, your point about the fine is entirely irrelevent. Fines are assessed in that range every few years; it's not common, but it happens. I just linked the first big fine I found. Administrative fines are also levied by regulatory agencies, will you argue those aren't fines but something else too? In fact, your differentiation between civil and criminal fines is merely another warrant for my claim that the eighth amendment is a toothless article. What is excessive? Ever heard of a fine overturned on that basis? Please cite it.

As for cruel and unusual punishment, that remains a worthless bit too. Furman was decided based on method, not actual cruelty of the punishment. While gas chamber remains a legal method of execution, you won't convince me that that section means anything.
posted by norm at 1:55 PM on June 18, 2001


So it is agreed.
Gulags for some, home lodging of murderers for others.
The system works.
posted by thirteen at 2:59 PM on June 18, 2001


precocious: whether you like it or not, the "inconveniencing 'locked behind bars' part" is the punishment, whether it be in a gulag or the Trump Plaza. If you want to append "with hard labour", that's your campaign; but as it stands, your justice system doesn't specify the conditions when it deprives the imprisoned of their liberty.
posted by holgate at 3:10 PM on June 18, 2001


Work farm? Guards? Military? Not, he got it all wrong. Here's how.

Take a big island, put a big slippery 150-foot stainless laser-protected wall around it. Drop lifers into it with a helicopter and a week supply of k-rations. No guards, no guns, just meat and sticks. Air-drop commodity food in now and then. Let Darwin sort it out... sort of like the Weakest Link. Throw in a TV transmitter and let the businessmen negotiate with the outside world for live shots of cannibalism and bubba doin' his thang.
posted by Twang at 4:01 PM on June 18, 2001


Why Alaska anyway, if you want to be really cruel? So much of Alaska is rather beautiful, or so I have heard and read. Also, it would be wildly expensive to get people there, since it's separate from the greater 48. Why not throw prisoners in a marshy and humid part of America? Is no one here familiar with prison movies? Cool Hand Luke, anyone? Sure, Luke escaped three times, but he was always caught, and look what he had to go through! In any case, cruelty advocates should remember that Luke died smiling.
posted by raysmj at 4:17 PM on June 18, 2001


I'm all for sending a child to his or her room when she misbehaves, there is some punishment value to being unwillingly confined.

But there's something rather ineffective about that maneuver when that child's bedroom has toys to play with, a television, and their friends are allowed to come over to play.

"My" justice system would, in actuality, make the 'locking behind bars' bit an actual punishment (by taking out the 'free food, fun and games' aspect), as opposed to merely being inconveniencing--as many criminals find it.

How do I know ? Eh, I'm related to a couple of them (and have had the pleasure <sarcasm></sarcasm> of knowing/having spoken to several more), of the repeat offender variety. Forgive me if I don't have anything positive to say about the current system of imprisonment, and it's general ineffectiveness at daunting bad little boys and girls from misbehaving again.

Coincidentally, one criminal relative says that the best turkey dinner he ever had was for Thanksgiving when he was in lockup.
posted by precocious at 4:20 PM on June 18, 2001


Who gives a rat's ass?

1) O'Reilly only came up with this silliness because he couldn't think of anything intelligible today.

2) We'll never have anything like this in this country. Period.

3) andrew cooke will never be put in charge of our criminal justice system.

What the hell are we arguing about? Even if it wasn't unworkable, indefensible, and unrealistic, it's still 100% unconstitutional.

If O'Reilly next insists that we enact laws requiring democrats to wear toilet plungers on their heads are we going to go ape shit over that too?

People! O'Reilly is a TROLL. Please ignore him.

We had an article about Phil Hendrie yesterday. Same thing. Phil Hendrie = Bill O'Reilly.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:28 PM on June 18, 2001


precocious: You wouldn't feed prisoners, eh? You'd leave them with fewer protiens and vitamins, etc., in order to make them sick. Nice. If you're going to be a sadist, go all the freakin' way! (Making them work for food is . . . well, go read a history of southern prison farms sometime. It's called "slavery under another name, only worse." And you couldn't feed an entire prison population off such anyway.)
posted by raysmj at 4:36 PM on June 18, 2001


When did I ever suggest making them literally work/slave (as in farm) for food? That is rather brutal.

I'm personally rather fond of the concept of tossing them into prison, then informing them that if they want food, electricity, etc, they'll have to work (gov't-provided jobs) and pay for it themselves with the wages earned or they'll go without.

I have to do it. You have to do it (and if you don't already, you'll have to eventually, unless one plans on making a career out of living off of public assistance). You go to work, get a paycheck, buy what you need out of it--or you go without. My argument is for at least making them have to do the things that law-abiding citizens have to, I didn't say anything about making them pick cotton to weave their own clothes.

Along the same lines, they'd have to pay taxes too. No reason why they shouldn't contribute to paying for the facility that's housing them. They could view it as "rent."
posted by precocious at 4:51 PM on June 18, 2001


precocious: Then tell that to the corporations currently making a fortune off free prison labor, maybe not in your state but in others throughout the nation and private prisons all over. They're not paying anything for the labor of prisoners.
posted by raysmj at 4:56 PM on June 18, 2001


...

I'm sorry, I guess that last comment wasn't specific enough. I'll try again, just for you. :)

I'm personally rather fond of the concept of tossing them into prison, then informing them that if they want food, electricity, etc, they'll have to work (gov't-provided jobs) and pay for it themselves with the wages earned or they'll go without.

- Gov't is short for "government," not "corporations" or "private businesses." I by no means advocate companies getting free labor out of prisoners in any of my posts.

In fact, I think they should be allowed to earn wages (as shown above). How else are they going to buy their own groceries and pay rent the way everyone else does? Being a criminal shouldn't equate to being given a free ride. Having one's freedom taken away is a punishment, and shouldn't be negated by then giving them, for free, all the necessary little things of life that the rest of us have to work hard and pay for.

Can't believe I'm the only one who sees the logic there.
posted by precocious at 5:16 PM on June 18, 2001


precocious: And my comment was pretty specific too. Sorry if I'm not communicating. Not being sarcastic. This wouldn't be such a bad plan. Sounds great, in theory. The problem is, no one one wants prison labor, apparently. You have people unskilled at what they are doing, in many cases, if not most. You don't have a whole lotta love and care going into the product. You give the labor away for free, or for 45 cents an hour, you're talking another story. And then who do you turn around and sell the products to, for next to nothing? Corporations. It matters not whether the government is the wholesaler or not.

I don't know if the alternative has been tried, but I doubt it would work. Or should they just do something, specifically for no one, and given prison dollars of a sort in return? I'm not at all sarcastic there. What's the alternative? I don't have any idea -- learning trades or job skills sound good in theory, but it's expensive, especially when society wants more people in prison. Maybe the alternative is to have only the worst and/or violent offenders in prison, and then talk about alternatives.
posted by raysmj at 5:49 PM on June 18, 2001


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