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If your world has prisons or an equivalent of such, how are they run?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by BloodyHellSausage, Sep 6, 2017.

  1. BloodyHellSausage

    BloodyHellSausage Troubadour

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    Is there a list of rules that prisoners are required to follow, and if so, what are those rules? What kind of outfits do prisoners wear? How are prisons designed? Is there any kind of segregation that goes on, such as by gender, age, race, etc? How common is abuse, whether by guards or by other prisoners? How effective is it at rehabilitation? What other details can you think of?
     
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  2. Solusandra

    Solusandra Minstrel

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    They're the Matrix as a LITRPG, and you only get sent there if you're a NEET. :p
     
  3. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    Depends on the culture; as any fantasy world should be. Prisons in the real world have developed basically the same wherever you go in the world because they all came from the same concept centuries ago; perhaps even further back than the ancient Egyptians, and really the only things that vary are the quality of the facilities, the safety of the prisoners and the crimes that will get you put there.

    In the as yet unnamed valley dwellers, they use a tent village within walls to keep the prisoners in. Originally, they were just designed to hold prisoners and little else, but as time has gone by, they have become villages in truth; with churches, hedge-healers, even a bit of trade amonst the prisoners. There are guards for patrolling the grounds, and they are firm yet fair. They even permit prisoners to leave for short periods of time (less than 4 hours); because they know the mark will bring them back, and if it doesn't... they aren't the guards' problem anymore. This allows the prisoners to taste the freedom they are missing, and to get resources to make things for trade.

    When they are sentenced, each prisoner is engraved with a mark. This mark serves two purposes. First, it allows mages to locate the prisoner wherever they go in the realm (and even beyond the realm in some cases); but this generally only happens with important figures, or high-profile ones. The second purpose is to kill the prisoner if they either go too far from the prison (usually about 10 miles), or are gone too long (more than 6 hours.) Starting at around hour 4, the prisoner begins to feel sick, a slightly queasy stomach and a headache; a warning to return to the prison. The symptoms compound the longer they linger beyond that 4 hour mark. By hour 5, they are probably doubled over in pain, and their head is pounding like a chorus of drums. By hour 6, their heart is racing; and usually before they reach hour 7, they die of a stroke or heart-attack, whichever comes first.

    *****

    Among the Talutah Ooljee, they don't have prisons at all. Violent crimes are not that common, but when they do happen, the perpetrator(s) is/are engraved and banished from the realm for a period decided by the elders' counsel (the society revolves around that egalitarian concept). They always consider the circumstances of the crime during their deliberations, and their judgement is final. The criminal is marked (like among the valley dwellers), but to a different purpose; that they cannot return until their sentence is over, or a scion finds them and removes their binding.
     
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  4. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    Well, this depends on which prison/gaol/dungeon you're in. Imprisonment is about punishment, not rehabilitation.

    In many ways conditions reflect attitudes to and within law enforcement and justice. As a general rule, those run by the watch are possibly the most pleasant. In some places you can get out by bribing certain members of the watch. You can avoid landing inside by bribing certain watchmen - and you can arrange for others (even innocent people) to end up in the cells by bribing watchmen or judges. Other cities take a hard line on corruption, and consequently only the guilty end up inside. Either way, there is no prison uniform, and you usually share a cell with several others. Abuse is not uncommon, but its worse in those cities where corruption is normal.

    In all cases, hygiene is poor. Basically, you lie on straw, and there is a gulley in the passage outside. Food is... edible (just). Sometimes they throw a bucket of water over the you to clean you up. No-one cares much if you die of an illness like dysentry.

    Worst of all is the dungeon run by the Inquisition. Here, the aim is to extract information, with all that this implies. Most of those who go in don't come out. There are no windows, and very few sources of light. You are alone in your cell, in the darkness.
     
  5. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    When you get sentenced to jail in the Empire you will spend only a short time in a prison because they're only used as a transit stop. These prisons have only basic facilities like communal latrines and showers, dormitories with bamboo bunk beds and kitchens in which only the most basic food is served. In most cases, if you're a minor offender, your sentence will have been completed before you actually end up in a re-education camp or a penal colony.

    It is expected of prisoners in a prison to do some form of labouring so you'll be working either in a mine or quarry or on a road gang. It will surprise you how many of the Empire's highways have been built using prison labour.

    As soon as there are enough prisoners to fill a prison ship you will either be sent to a re-education camp or a penal colony.

    In a re-education camp you will be "shown the errors of your ways" and "expected to reflect upon the shame you have brought upon yourself, your family and your community". The use of shame is a very powerful tool that will be used to get you to clean yourself up, learn a skill or trade and return to society a reformed person. Of course, you can expect plenty of beatings as well. After all, you still have to atone for your crimes.

    A penal colony is basically somewhere remote (usually an atoll or remote island) where you will spend a very long time among the scum of the earth. You can expect to be provided only with enough food and medical care to allow you to perform tasks like scraping up bird shit that'll be turned into fertiliser, free dive to collect hard to find delicacies that'll be sent to the most exclusive restaurants and homes or mining very rare - and often enchanted - ores. Your clothing will be changed about once a month and your accommodation will be almost as bad as those on the prison ship you arrived on. Penal colonies are not about reform. They are about punishment.

    Prisoners wear striped uniforms. One stripe is always black but the other colour indicates why they are prisoners.

    Black and white - people convicted of corruption, crime bosses
    Black and blue - violent offenders
    Black and pink - sex offenders (in some parts of the Empire this includes people involved in inter-racial sex)
    Black and green - public nuisance offenders including flashers, drunks, drunk drivers and prostitutes operating outside of designated areas or without a licence
    Black and purple - heretics, rogue mages
    Black and yellow - drug dealers, lower end criminal offenders such as hobos and pickpockets
    Black and brown - adulterers

    Prisoners are segregated by the colour of their uniforms rather than by gender or race.

    Your guards will change all the time as it's standard practice to have guards moved from one penal institution to another approximately once every month to prevent any bonding between guards and prisoners - and reduces the opportunities for bribery or other forms of corruption to take place.
     
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  6. Solusandra

    Solusandra Minstrel

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    And to prevent sadism, probably. Some people can't really handle being guards according to several psychological experiments and left too long with someone they look down on would become worse criminals than the one they're guarding.
     
  7. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    Moving the guards around wouldn't prevent that. They'd just come to see every prisoner as a generic prisoner, interchangeable with any other prisoner. They'd feel free to treat the prisoners however they wanted, as long as they could get away with it.

    Nazi concentration camp guards saw different prisoners all the time, not because they themselves moved that much, but because the prisoners kept getting killed and new ones brought in. They certainly did not fail to be sadistic!

    What could prevent sadism would be creating a climate from the top down in which sadism is not tolerated and no guard will get away with it. Any guard who violated those rules would be instantly dismissed, and possibly charged with a crime himself.

    In practice, prison systems usually don't manage that except on paper. But in theory, one could.
     
  8. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    For my main wip, there's no prison system, at least not as we know it. The closest thing to a prison is a town jail, which is just for holding the accused until trial and the convicted until their sentences can be carried out. Time in jail is not a sentence in and of itself, and most towns are small, everyone knows everyone, low crime. The jail doesn't get that much use.

    I'm still ironing out the details of the penal code, but for now, I've concluded that they have three--or four, depending on how it's looked at--categories of crime. The first is, essentially, misdemeanor, with the only punishment being a fine, calibrated to the culprit's means, and, if relevant, financial restitution. The jail might not even be used in a case like that; usually the accused can be counted on to show up for trial and, if convicted, fulfill the terms of their sentence.

    The second level is crime considered serious enough to require punishment (not just a fine/restitution). Typically that's a flogging, done publicly. Fines and restitution may also be involved, but once the flogging's over, the crime is forgiven in the eyes of the law. (Usually not in the eyes of the community; the culprit still has to earn back people's trust, and they're going to be socially disgraced for quite some time, but they have a chance to get their life back on track.) Crimes at that level are mostly property crimes--theft, vandalism, that kind of thing--but not crimes involving violence against people.

    Third would be crimes considered too serious to punish with just a flogging. Violent crime falls into that category. For that, my working premise is that the culprit gets sentenced to a term of penal servitude. That could mean some sort of prison labor camp exists, but for now I'm working on the premise that people serving that kind of sentence are usually not concentrated in one place; their living situation would be more like a low class servant. In other words, not pleasant, and they certainly aren't free, but it's not really prison, either.

    Fourth level is capital crime. Premeditated murder or treason against the government qualify, but nothing else. However, this is a society that has moved away from using the death penalty. At least in murder cases, a more likely sentence would be lifetime servitude. That way, at least, there's some appearance of the murderer making restitution for the crime. (A traitor would probably still be executed--the reasoning being that they can't be trusted even as a slave--but my story doesn't deal with that kind of scenario.) So, for all practical purposes, the fourth level is rolled into the third.

    In practice, most crimes are either at the misdemeanor level or the second level. Serious enough crimes to earn a servitude sentence happen just rarely enough to be sensational when they do, and just often enough that everyone will have heard of, if not witnessed, cases of it in their lifetime. At least, that's how it is in the small town communities. Like in our world, bigger cities would see more crime, due to the greater anonymity they offer.
     
  9. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    Corruption can only exist in a prison environment when there is enough time for the prisoner and guard to see each other as individuals rather than just another uniform or they are around long enough to work out how things work within that facility - and to exploit any loopholes and blind spots.

    For example, in Auschwitz-Birkenau the vast majority of people who entered the camp were gassed upon arrival. They were never registered so there was no way of knowing exactly how many people had been gassed. This allowed the inmates who were deployed in the crematoriums and gas chambers to steal items, especially those that had been hidden in clothing, and use them to bribe the SS guards and block kapos (inmates who were in charge of individual barracks).

    I didn't mention the organisational structure or training of the guards in the penal system of the Empire. This is key to how they reduce corruption.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2021
  10. Slartibartfast

    Slartibartfast Minstrel

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    I haven't written a proper prison yet but I have a set of holding cells for soldiers. They're only for short term occupancy, normally because the prisoner gets tried after a short while and then sent to a real prison (or another punishment that doesn't require them to be there anymore). Sometimes the cells are used for locally administered, unofficial punishments for minor offences like drunkenness. Unofficially imprisoning someone is, of course, not allowed but nobody complains because (a) there's nobody to complain to (b) their lives wouldn't be worth living after complaining about their officers and (c) even if they could work those kinks out they'd still be guilty and in line for some sort punishment which might not be any better.

    There is a single sergeant in charge of discipline and the cells so they are not attended 24/7. The cells are old, insecure, and are more symbolic than actually capable of preventing someone from escaping. They are often not even locked, although I'm sure the sergeant could find something solid to chain you to if he ever felt it was really necessary. The sergeant is a famously poor host and the main reason that nobody has starved to death in the cells is that they are never there for very long. Hygiene is maintained by the occasional chucking of a bucket of cold water into the cell, generally around three in the morning.

    [edit; line spacing]
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2021
  11. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    But that wouldn't reduce sadism. SolusandraSolusandra and I are talking about sadism, not corruption.
     
  12. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    Corruption creates the perfect environment for acts of violence (including rape and sadism) between prisoners, between prison staff and prisoners or even between prison staff.

    Here's one news article that highlights what I mean:

    The prison in the Alberta capital already faces a rash of allegations that have led to seven staff dismissals, criminal and internal investigations, and a number of lawsuits by guards and inmates.

    Former female prison guards accuse co-workers of sexual assault, torture and discrimination, and guards are accused of pitting prisoners against each other in a fight club.

    Defence lawyer Tom Engel urged prison watchdog Ivan Zinger to use his power under legislation governing the Correctional Service of Canada to call a public inquiry. CBC spoke to four more lawyers who have represented inmates at Edmonton Institution and support the move.

    ('Cesspool of cruelty, corruption and violence': Advocates call for inquiry at Edmonton prison, CBC, October 31st, 2018)


     
  13. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    Okay, but you just used Nazi concentration camps as an example, implying that there was no (or little) corruption among the guards. Would you seriously say there was no sadism in those camps?

    And that's not even addressing the fallacy that Nazi camp guards were not corrupt. They got away with everything they did because it was legal, it was considered a service to the Reich (at least until the end of the war, when the highest level people got charged with war crimes), but not corrupt? Seriously?
     
  14. Patrick-Leigh

    Patrick-Leigh Sage

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    Because my story setting has people with magic powers, most prisons have to be able to contain individuals who could use magic to either escape or hurt/kill people in the facility. Historically, this was primarily done by putting these individuals in special cuffs or collars that prevented or at least inhibited their Arcane or Psionic powers. These collars/cuffs were made of materials which interfere with Aethyr (Arcane Energy) or Psi (Psionic Energy.) While by no means foolproof, they are at least able to make sophisticated Spells or Technics extremely difficult or at least dangerous to the one attempting them.

    Beyond this, I'm still working out the details, mainly by doing research on how prisons worked in the 18th and 19th Centuries, since that is the time period that most inspires my story setting.
     
  15. OberonLordofSylva

    OberonLordofSylva Troubadour

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    I haven't figured out the prison system of most of my worlds, but I do have one interesting idea. The Undercity is a massive underground network reminiscent of DND's Underdark except urban. Criminals, homeless, illegal immigrants, and other people deemed "trash" by the establishment are sent there. When the Undercity's population reaches a certain amount, the doors between sectors of the Undercity close and the Freedom Tournament begins. Each individual Undercity citizen, no matter the circumstance, is expected to pick up a gun and fight for their life. The last man standing wins. Magic and magic items are prohibited, a rule enforced by anti-magic field devices attached to the roof. The "sentinels" also have cameras in them, so that the Tournament can be livestreamed. Since most people have become part of gangs by the time the Tourney begins, it becomes faction warfare that eventually devolves into a desperate struggle between key players. Those key players are treated as celebrities back on the surface, with merchandise and fan clubs. As a reward for winning, the lucky guy gets not only their freedom and a full pardon for whatever crimes they may have committed, but also a free rehabilitation into society courtesy of the nobles in charge of their home sector. Winners are chosen for every sector of the Empire, since each sector is effectively it's own tournament. In some sectors, nobles may even offer the winner a wish to be granted.
     
  16. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    They are pretty much just temporary holding before the imprisoned parties get the punishment the legal system has decided for them.
     
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