Penalties in space
I wanted to react to something that bitcoin space said in this topic:
But, I didn't want to derail the topic, plus the subject is so interesting that it should probably have its own topic.
(For the record, I am not a fan of the death penalty, but we're dealing with the harsh environment of a space colony. Anything that threatens the survival of the colony or leads to the death of colonists should be dealt with as firmly as possible.)
I have been wondering about that a lot. in another topic it was suggested to have a "prison" colony, but that was for the real terrible, dangerous criminals from earth, who should never be let back into society.
What about crime inside a colony? As sad as it sound, I wouldn't exclude murder. People will be living in close quarters, and fights are nearly inevitable. The Biosphere 2 project is an example of that.
Stealing food is also a very realistic possibility, and could result in a colonist and his family not having enough food to get by on.
Greed is a built-in feature for many humans, and so is jealousy. I am certain that there will be crime.
I guess there could be a prison cell in a colony, but what about vicious or repeated criminals, who should be locked up forever? (e.g. someone totally flipping out and becoming a danger to the colony). How should those be dealt with? They would be in the cell forever, and make no contribution to the colony. Eat the food and give nothing back.
Like Bitcoinspace, I am against the death penalty, but what to do?
What I think is that the harsh environment of a space colony will necessitate some harsh penalties. Here on Earth, in developed countries, we can sentence someone to life in prison instead of death because we can spare the resources to support them. And there are cases where someone who is serving a life sentence can still contribute to society in some way even though they can never be allowed out of the physical jail for any reason. They could, for instance, do freelance work as part of paying for their "keep" and paying their debt to society. Here in the U.S., we don't necessarily like that idea because it smells of debtors' prison, but it would be a way to compensate a crime victim or the family of a victim. I tend to think that an ideal justice system will include putting the victim back to rights as much as possible.
On a space colony, though, there may not be very many ways to deal with a colonist who has snapped and become dangerous short of killing the snapped colonist or risking that colonist becoming an unproductive burden on the colony. It's a less than ideal situation and space does not count as a "developed country." This is where you start getting into shades of grey when it comes to morality and ethics. Do you put the good of the individual colonist who may have become a danger first, or do you put the needs of the colony first? I don't like the death penalty, but realistically, viable colonies will include societies that acknowledge that crime, sometimes serious violent crime, happens and needs to be dealt with. And in a harsh environment, dealing with it will include harsh penalties for colonists who have become a danger and will continue to be either be a danger or a burden the colony may not be able to afford.
I really think that this should be something that gets discussed before space colonization starts. It would make more sense to set very strict rules in advance. That way when someone goes to live in a space colony, they'd know the rules, and they'd know the punishment.
Space colonists should not wait to figure out what to do if or when someone snaps or commits a crime. They should already have rules set up in advance. If not, they'd run into the situation where they have to make a decision, and they might not agree over what should be done and how the situation should be handled.
On the other hand, if rules are already set up and the space colonists have agreed to live by the rules and to accept the consequences of breaking them, then there will be no arguments and no divided opinions over what to do or what not to do when action needs to be taken against someone.
It is probably not something people would feel comfortable discussing, but it would be for the greater good of the community to know how to act and when. Making up rules and punishments on the go wouldn't be the best of ideas.