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No Prisons, No Death Penalty: How would they deal with serious crime?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Rosemary Tea, Feb 28, 2021.

  1. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    As per Chasejxyz's response - to make your penal system effective for the reader it must reflect the values and psychology of the society in which it is generated. Otherwise readers will be picking holes in your logic.

    If you want to use the penal system suggested (which sounds pretty permissive by our standards - both now and historically) then maybe you need to make a strong point about the naturally forgiving nature of the citizens? Turning the other cheek is a major virtue in your society?
     
  2. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    Which penal system suggested? Several people have made different suggestions. Most of them don't sound like turning the other cheek.

    I don't think of this as a society where people are naturally more forgiving than we would expect. I'm exploring that as I write. I think they would be forgiving up to a point, but that doesn't mean wrongdoers go unpunished. Rather, they get punished and then, over time, reintegrated. Unless they've committed a beyond the pale crime, which might not end with any forgiveness at all.
     
  3. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    That sounds like a possible punishment for not so major crime, but not a risk worth taking if the crime was something like rape or assault. What community would want to risk the criminal doing it again? Or have him roaming around outside the village, knowing what he's capable of?
     
  4. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    I think I just wrote that in, unintentionally. Not that magical binding is an official punishment for the crime, but there's a situation in my story where a serious crime has been committed, the mage knows whodunnit but actual punishment of the crime (since it did not involve magic users) is up to the law, and there are complications with getting the law involved. It can't happen right away. The mage doesn't have the authority to punish the crime, but is permitted to do anything to keep the victim (and others) safe, so what the mage does is cast a binding spell on the perps, to keep them from doing any further harm.

    Somehow I don't think the mage is going to remove the binding spell, even when the law finally does get involved and the criminals are dealt with accordingly. So, in practice, not being able to commit violence even in their own defense might come of it.
     
  5. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    The gentle penal system proposed in your opening post.

    In order for readers to accept something like that when bad crimes do occur, there needs (I think) to be a quirk of their psychology that makes it realistic.
     
  6. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    I don't think of it as a gentle system. There's nothing gentle about a flogging. And keep in mind, that's the punishment for less serious crimes. It doesn't cover the very bad kind of crime that would make any reasonable person think the culprit is a menace to society.

    All I'm looking for here is a way that could be escalated without using the death penalty and without prison sentences as an option. Right now, what I'm playing with most is the penal slavery idea. That would be a kind of confinement, but wouldn't necessarily require a specific institution for it.
     
  7. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    I think you also need to consider who decides when a crime has been committed. That will to a degree determine what sort of punishment is seen as neccessary. Don't underestimate the power of social disgrace as a way of keeping people in line. In some cases, the fear of social disgrace will be enough for the family of the suspected (they need never be accused) to "deal" with the person concerned. Sadly, as can be seen in places like the Middle East or parts of Africa, that can mean that just being suspected of doing something that might bring the family into disgrace is enough to get the person killed. In a society like that, rumour and gossip can be very unpleasant weapons indeed.

    I can still remember the feeling of failure I got when I and my troop turned up in a village too late to prevent an innocent young woman being burnt alive by her parents, just because she was thought to be too friendly with a young man they and their neighbours thought was unsuitable. Arresting the parents had no effect, they were seen as having preserved the family honour.

    When you build your world you need to think through your society, its mores, morals and social structures, before you work out your system for meeting out justice.
     
  8. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    Legally, the courts do. There is a legal code that lists what kinds of actions are not permitted and what punishments should be used in case of transgression. That's the kind of justice I'm looking at here.

    Socially, of course, things may work a little differently. Certain things that are not technically illegal may be disapproved of. Certain people who have committed actual crimes, in the legal sense, may have so much social support in their community that many are unwilling to believe they're actual criminals (communities can get divided over a thing like that). And those kids who went out and damaged some neighbors' property last summer, but weren't hauled into court, just disciplined by their parents, because they're only kids? Now everyone's talking about what bad kids they are, such disgrace to their families, they'll end up real criminals some day... and they might live down to that expectation.

    But to get anyone punished legally, their guilt has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt (and they have to be an adult), and to add some disincentive to just trumping up charges, false witness (knowingly accusing someone of a crime they didn't commit) is a crime in itself. A difficult to prove crime that rarely results in convictions; in most cases where the accused is found innocent, there's reasonable doubt that the accusers might just be mistaken. Still, if someone's making an accusation of a crime, and it gets as far as trial, it's a pretty good bet that they at least believe what they're saying.

    I find that taking shape along with the meting out justice portion of the story. Keeping in mind that I'm not going to write out a whole long legal code for the reader, just let them catch a glimpse of it here and there. Most of the story is from the point of view of a teenager, who, while she's grown up in this world and has a basic sense of how it all works, doesn't really have personal experience with the working of justice... until she witnesses a crime, has to give evidence, and gets a much closer view of how it all unfolds. So the reader, and I, get to learn along with her how it really works.
     
  9. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    Um. Maybe. The thing is, what the law and legal code say and the way they are interpreted and implemented aren't always the same thing. In the example from life which I mentioned, we arrested those who'd done the murder and handed them over to the authorities. Being the cynical sort I wasn't especially surprised when they were found guilty of a lesser charge and given a small fine. Why wasn't I surprised? Because the way the law was interpreted meant the judges (who shared the social mores and conventions of the parents and neighbours) took the view that it wasn't murder, more a sort of mild punishment which had gone wrong. And the locals saw this as justice...

    Justice, and especially whats seen as justice by the locals, is more than the letter of the law and may not be the same as the letter of the law. You might want to explore that through the eyes of your teenage character.
     
    Rosemary Tea likes this.
  10. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    Was that a case where the official law of the land was what had been imposed by colonizers upon the indigenous? That's a whole other level of clash between what the law says and what the people believe. If the lawmakers are as indigenous as the villagers, there may still be some variation between how the locals see it and what the law officially says, but it wouldn't be as great a conflict.

    I've already seen a few hints creeping in that it might not be exactly what it's cracked up to be. Some of them emerged unplanned as I was writing. Follow it and see where it goes.....
     
  11. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    I won't get into the discussion on whether the concept of universal human rights applicable to everyone is colonial in nature or not, its way outside the boundaries for this web site.

    But, what that particular case does illustrate is what can happen when the rulers, living in towns and cities with more outside contact and exposure to new ideas, start to create laws before those living in the countryside (who don't have as much exposure to new ideas and concepts) are ready to accept the changes. Its something your character might want to reflect on.
     
  12. Carol

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    Castrating rapists either physically or chemically does not do anything to alter the fact that rape is about power and control. If there is magic in your world, then for sexual offences, maybe that is what can be used to alter the mind set of the offender.
    On another aspect, do people never leave their communities, go adventuring, seek a different life elsewhere? If not, then your small communities will become big communities. Or do people go and start a new small community elsewhere?
    If people do move about, then being exiled to wander won't work. If they 'wander' far enough away, who would know their terrible deeds?
    I do not like the idea of branding or limb removal, it leaves no room for remorse and rehabilitation.
    I'm world-building myself at the moment, and these issues (and more) are very much in the front of my mind.
    What to do? What to do? :)
     
  13. Carol

    Carol Scribe

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    The darker side of my nature loves the idea of Azkaban with Dementor guards. :sneaky:
    However, I'm working on this issue myself. I rather like the idea of an island community where everyone has to work to provide everything - from shelter, to food, to clothing - everything. The main thrust is on rehabilitation, and generally segregated male/female - I considered rapists and sexual offenders but may put those types of criminals in their own prison community.
    My world is British medieval in look and feel, but with many societal and cultural modifications and not tied to actual history. So I can play with the set up on all aspects.
    Are guards harsh soldier types? Or are they specially tested to reveal their darker natures and so not employed? I'm leaning heavily on the later otherwise its just a repeat of the brutality of the past. I'm also considering some limited form and use of magic.
    Would love to know what people think.
     
  14. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    Perhaps. Or perhaps they buy into the idea that castration is an appropriate punishment for rape. Plenty of legal codes in history, including some current ones, include that, never mind that it isn't really effective.

    People move around some. It's not too uncommon (though not universal, either) to be apprenticed in a different town from where you grew up, or marry someone from another town and move there, or to move during your adult life for professional or personal reasons. Some people stay put all their lives, and most families have some continuous line in at least one village--at least one of each generation stays, even if they have siblings who move elsewhere--so communities shift but still have some continuity.
    I've already used that concept, though not in reference to a crime. People who've run afoul of vicious gossip and harsh judgment in their own villages (not because they were criminals, but because they, or their families, got on the wrong side of the wrong people) can move to a larger city and not have that village reputation follow them. Criminals would have the same option if they're not too notorious (and possibly even if they are). So I agree, exile won't work that well.
    I don't like those ideas for the same reason. I suppose branding would work if it's intended to be a life sentence. If the sentence is temporary slavery, maybe they'd put a collar on the slave, that they couldn't remove on their own, and it would be removed at the end of the sentence. Or a bracelet, or something. (I did a little bit of research on historical slave collars. The American ones were pretty extreme, I don't think anyone could wear one for weeks on end, let alone months or years, but the Romans had slave collars that were lighter, more like jewelry, they just marked the wearer as a slave.)
     
    Carol likes this.
  15. Carol

    Carol Scribe

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    Lots for me to think about. Thank you. :)
     
    Rosemary Tea likes this.
  16. berkeleyjake

    berkeleyjake Dreamer

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    Why not go with a self-punishment system? Like some kind of mechanical or magical implant that triggers pain or some other reaction based on the guilt, people feel for your actions. Obviously, sociopaths would be a huge problem, but those would be a minority of issues. People would generally avoid actions where their own guilt would cause them discomfort.
     
    Saigonnus likes this.
  17. Eztlirald Clarinda

    Eztlirald Clarinda Dreamer

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    Ok so what about magic? If this is a magical realm could there be curses that are placed on them? Each one could be specifically tailored for the individual based on their personality and the crime they committed.
     
  18. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    This both is and isn't a magical realm. Magic exists, but only the mages, who are a very small portion of the population, can use it to any great extent. (Priests have some magical abilities, but mages are the real specialists in it.) The vast majority of the population is made up of non-magic users.

    The mages are, to some extent, a law unto themselves. They are required to follow the civil laws that apply to everyone, but the primary authority a mage answers to is the mages' guild, which has an even stricter code of conduct than civil law. Mages who break that code of conduct are punished by the guild, and since the guild's law is stricter--it covers everything that civil law would consider a crime and more--in practice, mages never face criminal charges in court. The guild deals with them much sooner than the courts would, and no less severely. Magic would figure into their punishments, but the guild doesn't deal justice to non-magic users. That is handled by the courts, which don't have magic at their disposal. So, the punishment of an ordinary citizen who's committed a crime would not involve magic.
     
  19. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    In reality, the majority of people are not criminals for that reason. No implants needed. The same is true in this fictional world. So who's going to commit serious crimes? People who are not deterred by guilt, at least not in the moment when they commit the crime. Either they find a way justify it to themselves, or they're blinded by rage when they do it, or, quite possibly, they're sociopaths.

    Perhaps they'll feel guilty after (except the sociopaths), but this is a world with a criminal justice system that, like the criminal justice systems we have in our world, demands some concrete form of punishment. The convicted must be deprived of something, and/or have pain inflicted on them, and/or labor to atone for the deed, and/or suffer in some other way. That's usually how justice systems work, and no different in this fictional world.
     
  20. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    In the case Mad Swede was referring to, the relatives were pressured into inflicting the death penalty themselves. It's not that there was no death penalty, it's that there was an especially nasty version of it, and for something that wasn't even really a crime.

    Some of my wip does deal with shaming and social pressuring, kind of along those lines, though it doesn't get anywhere near that extreme. Nobody would kill a family member because of that kind of pressure (and they would be considered a murderer if they did), but getting stigmatized because of what a family member did, or perhaps was rumored to have done, can certainly happen.
     
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