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There are now 15 comments on pg 29. Retaliation: Civilized?.
What are your thoughts?
  1. You can read this entire chapter in its original single-page scroll on the comic’s old Tumblr site here.

  2. Jeff says

    Assuming we are talking about crime and punishment in the United States, it seems like this section would be incomplete without at least some mention of the for-profit prison industry.

    The perverse economic incentives are obvious, not only for private contractors but also for struggling towns that build and host prisons as their sole means of economic activity. Simply put, we are putting more people in jail because of a profit motive. A simple glance at incarceration rates since the early 1980’s makes this painfully obvious.

    If the author is willing to mention Retaliation as a motive for incarceration, then they should be more than willing to also mention Profit as a motive.

    • Except there is little reason to believe — except in one case of obscene corruption — that judges impose sentences in order to profit a private-sector business.

      You’re seeing two related trends and concluding that one is causing the other. But the evidence really points the other way: that the rise in prison sentences has created an economic incentive for private jails to exist.

      In other words, it’s not the profits that drive punishment, but the increased punishments that are being exploited for profit.

      • For profit prisons reduce the cost of putting someone in jail, lowers the tax burden, and thus reduces the consequences of jailing people. This means the public is less likely to evaluate whether they really want to imprison someone for certain behaviors. By keeping the cost of jailing people high people are less likely to ignore the prison system.

      • Except they DO lobby for: immigration laws that result in more detention as well as for harsher sentences in general. On top of that they profit from paying slave labor rates to inmates, fight against regulation or competitive markets for services like phone calls (preferring, obviously, to get a cut of artificially inflated rates.) and force inmates and their families to take on additional financial burden to buy basic need items through commissary.

        Why pay lobbyists if there were no effect?

        • I don’t claim to be knowledgeable about this, but isn’t the costs of maintaining prisons high? If so, how can there be a profit made from them? And because of the high incarceration rates, prisons are packed to the point where inmates have to sleep on the floors because all the bunks are taken. If I’m wrong, please correct me. I just have a hard time believing that the state is somehow profiting from crime rates.

          • I don’t think the state in general profits from imprisonment, but the private corporations must or they wouldn’t be so eager to get into the business. (and that’s not just in the US, anymore.) The cost (to the taxpayer) is indeed high. It costs $47,000 a year to keep an inmate in California: (of which about $1600 is for rehabilitation, so that tells you something) but of course that cost to the state is income to the corporation.

            • Most prisons are government-run, not private. To the extent politicians are being venal in building them, it’s more “job creation I can take credit for” than stuffing a businessman’s pockets. Lots of jobs are “created” in the construction and staffing of prisons.

              • It California the prison guard’s Union is supposedly huge and wealthy. What you’re talking about is more likely to be the combined aims of a politician and the union then pay-for-stay deals?

            • Remember also that the CA prison guards union and the companies that run the prisons both lobbied hard against legalizing marijuana (and thus releasing all the pot users and dealers).

              • Legalizing something does not necessarily result in freeing all the people who did it when it was illegal. Ex post facto cuts both ways. It doesn’t matter whether it is legal now. It only matters that it was illegal at the time.

      • That’s a fairly narrow view of it – the judges aren’t the only ones involved in the punishment side. There’s also legislative input, and the for-profit prison industry lobbying for harsh laws and mandatory sentences is documented.

        (It’s also more expensive than the state doing it‚ and fundamentally immoral, but those are separate issues.)

  3. Jeff says

    I think retaliation gets short shrift on this page. It does serve a very important function in society. Retaliation by the state deters retaliation by those who were wronged. In less civilized areas, groups get locked in tit-for-tat conflicts that last for generations. When the state comes and declares a monopoly on retaliation, its justice removes the need for injured parties to exact their own vengeance to settle scores.

    • Huh.
      Does it deter them? Or would they not have to begin with? How many people who aren’t trying to kill George Zimmerman also wouldn’t kill someone else?
      When retribution is expected and not delivered, there is rarely a targeted backlash. Mostly people just grumble and move on. Riots happen once in a while, but that’s more a general expression of frustration at a similar circumstance -the Rodney King Riots weren’t done _for_ Rodney King, they were an expression of fury at the abuses of the LAPD.

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