This actually is a reply to M. Pigliucci’s post on the American prison system.
By contrast, I admire the American prison system. Besides it is like the Russian system, and both countries share some features that probably make such a prison system more likely.
- Both are large countries. Nor primarily in the sense of a large population—China and India have even larger populations—but rather in the sense of vast and sparsely inhabited areas that make it easy for a criminal to disappear from a region where the crime was committed and reappear elsewhere to commit the next crime.
- And even more important. Both countries harbor a highly heterogeneous multicultural population that requires a high degree of tolerance which in turn makes it much more difficult to control potential criminals by customs such as neighbor watch.
Given these two reasons for a more severe penal system in large countries, I wonder if the present European system will change now that Europe becomes larger, easier to move home, and multicultural by significant immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. And those changes can be sensed already. Not surprisingly though, in Western Europe, Moslems are more likely to be imprisoned, same as Latinos and African Americans in the US. With the population of Moslems rapidly growing by immigration and height fecundity rate, the number of prisoners will happen to rapidly increase too.
That immigration in Europe has something to do with imprisonment can be sensed from the next chart. Switzerland and Scandinavia have a low prisoner rate as they also have greater impediments to immigration: A language difficult to learn, especially Finnish, a restrictive immigration policy, Switzerland for instance, and no former colonies that often serve as bridgeheads to immigrate to the motherland, UK is the predominant example.
It is rather naive to gauge the effectiveness of a legal system by summing up the cost of their prisoners alone. Criminals are always a burden to a society either by draining a society’s wealth when pursuing criminal acts or by consuming society’s resources during legal action or imprisonment. By contrast to the US, the Europeans legal system chose other priorities. In Europe they try to keep calm those criminal elements outside prison, but this also comes at a price. Add the costly European social systems, the various subsidies, and all kinds of social transfer payments and you get a rough estimate of that cost.
At this point, you may argue spending money for a social system is more beneficial to a society than say spending it for a penal system. That fits only partly. The way of bolstering the social system to prevent crime has serious drawbacks too.
- Laziness is infectious. If people learn that you can live a decent life based on social subsidies without work, it will spoil others.
- The increasing number of people who depend directly or indirectly on social transfer payments exerts a ripple effect on politics. Influential political parties exist that exclusively rely on such potential criminal elements. The effect of an altered constituency on the outcome of democratic election is described elsewhere by a mathematical model.
I strongly disagree over the five reasons why we want to incarcerate people. It is neither retribution, crime deterrence, rehabilitation, restitution to the victims, nor social denunciation that makes incarceration necessary as all these goals can be achieved by other probably cheaper methods. The only reason that makes practical sense is isolation to prevent people who are a burden to society from influencing the course of society.
Back to Fauceir Theory, a legal system in its capacity to isolate criminal elements is a fauceir and therefore its control function is characterized by imprecision and consumed resources. We talked about consumed resources already. Imprecision is an other issue. Imprecision not only includes those who are sentenced despite their innocence or vice versa. Imprecision also includes punishments that are either not effective to isolate criminal attributes or isolate favorable attributes as well. To give an example, a child abuser probably may become a valuable member of the society on an island where there are no children around. Same with a rapist. Put him into a coal mine and allow occasional well observed trips to a brothel and he probably will make a decent contribution to the society’s wealth.
Thus Fauceir theory does not tackle the rather ideological question why which legal system is better. Fauceir Theory asks how to evolve an existing legal system in term of improved precision and reduced resource consumption. This according fauceir rules can only be accomplished by including additional sub-fauceirs.
This work by Paul Netman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Fauceir theory is developed and © by Mato Nagel and available at www.fauceir.org.