[LMB] SP: Prison Reform

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Tue May 29 18:53:35 BST 2018


From: WILLIAM A WENRICH <wawenri at msn.com>


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Snippage.....
In the time of isolation, we mostly see death sentences but the crimes we hear about are mostly treason.......

Gwynne: A few random thoughts....
In a society that's only one meal from starvation prison isn't a good option for offences -
why should criminals sit and do nothing, and be fed, while workers are starving? And
why lose the work ability of strong men (who tend to be the bulk of the criminal classes
most of the time.)

So more inventive penalties are used: executions in various entertaining forms are always
seen as a deterrent for the worst crimes and most determined offenders.
But for lesser crimes floggings are also a fun day out for the whole town (well, except for one).
Removing various body parts is sometimes popular, but it can reduce the ability to work,
and that's what's most important.

We do hear jokes about armsmen being sent out to beat people up when they've annoyed
a Count. In more robust times that was probably a major part of law enforcement.

Fines (if the offender has any money), assorted methods of pain - all work better than
expensive prisons, in a poor society.

It's interesting that Barrayar has a really strong ban on slavery - maybe it was once used
as a punishment too, but it didn't work out (they did have serfdom, but that's bound up
in District loyalties. Slavery was a step too far even for Barrayar, it seems.)

There's also some particular Barrayaran circumstances: especially in the earlier times there
wasn't much terraformed land, so criminals couldn't just go bush (er, run away? take to
the hills? Insert your national saying here) and hide out away from law enforcement; for a
long time it just wasn't possible to live off the land. That would be another pressure to
deter offences, since most proles couldn't run away, and make exile a real punishment.

We see a tiny remnant of those earlier, inventive days when Miles passes judgement in
MoM; he comes up with an unusual but very appropriate punishment, and nobody sees
it as odd. Suitable punishment, stops further offending from her, teaches a lesson to
everyone else, doesn't use up meagre resources, and means that Harra doesn't have to
watch her mother die. Justice is seen to be done, village life isn't impacted. Works well
all round.

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