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Prisons Of The Future – In Sci-fi, Galaxii, & Their Relation To The Contemporary

Hello again, friends and fans!

Modern prisons have been the setting for movies, books and series too numerous to mention. Some writers and movie makers have speculated about what form futuristic prisons might take – and they range from the ambitiously humanitarian and rehabilitative concepts of “Star Trek” and “Magnus, Robot Fighter“, to the opposite extreme of positively brutal dystopian prison environments as seen in movies like “Fortress” and “Death Race” for example.

In this article I’ll be discussing the concepts of crime and punishment, and prison – in reality as well as in sci-fi settings – and the role of these in my own world-building in the Galaxii Series universe.

I’ve been meaning to address the subject of prisons in the futuristic setting of my sci-fi stories for some time, seeing as the topic has come up before in the already released titles in Galaxii, though as little more than in passing mention. This time I’d like to lay out my thoughts on the subject in more detail, as the topic comes to the fore in at least one of the new unreleased (and as yet unfinished) titles yet to come. The topic of prisons in space, where the Earth might banish it most irredeemable citizens, appears in the next book in the Galaxii series, “Sentinel“.

This is as good a time as any to take a look at this topic, so here goes!

Prison Systems, Earth In The Present Time:

There are generally four major types of formal prison known today which form part of international criminal justice systems, and they are:

Additionally, there are also other types of detention centers, such as political prisons (gulags etc.) immigration detention centers, and of course from history, concentration camps which were used to detain prisoners of war and civilians – for example, the British concentration camps of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) and the Nazi extermination camps of the Holocaust (1939-45).

In our modern world of the early 21st century, prison is generally meant to be a punishment for transgressing criminal law. Most of us like to pretend that the lie told to us by most governments – that prison is meant to be rehabilitative, prison is meant to reform the characters of criminals and is supposed to be a learning experience – is true. If it were true, then prisons wouldn’t be a breeding ground for criminal gangs whose reach extends outside prison walls, or a school where minor offenders go inside barely knowing anything about their particular criminal trades, and pick up tips, tricks and skills from their more advanced, experienced peers. Also, if this were so, then being sent to various prisons around the world – including the “3rd-world” and within the so-called “Western world” – wouldn’t be so widely regarded as being “tantamount to a death sentence”.

Another phenomenon prevalent in todays prison systems which echoes the concept of private, corporation-run prisons – such as illustrated in the aforementioned film “Fortress” – notably in the USA, is that of for-profit prisons run by private corporations operating on contracts with the state, while traditional old state-run facilities have been shut down in large numbers. This has resulted in some peculiar tendencies over the past two decades, such as the politically motivated skewing of convictions and sentences by a judicially compromised legal system in order to keep these for-profit prisons operating – and profitable.

To illustrate the point (using stats from Prison Studies), there were 4 455 prisons of different forms in the USA in 2005 (3,163 local jails at 2014, 1,190 state confinement facilities at 2005, 102 federal confinement facilities at 2005). To extend this example further, the official prison capacity, in other words, the total number of inmates the US prison system could accommodate to all levels was 2 150 000 in 2017 – while the actual occupancy level (based on official capacity) was rated at 99.8% in the same year! That means – officially at least – that by 2017 the USA had over 4000 prison facilities (4 455 in 2005) and 2 145 700 people incarcerated in its prison system! That’s over TWO MILLION people – a STAGGERING amount!

Well, the USA is a big country you might say – it’s obvious it’ll need more prisons! Obvious. Right, sure. Okay, it’s a big country – but overall there are other problems with its prison system as well, mainly with what people are imprisoned for, but mainly with how it treats its inmates during and after incarceration. Being so close to their maximum capacity, US prisons are overcrowded, and most inmates tend to pass through the system more than once, with many being habitual repeat-offenders who serve a series of sentences in prison for similar offenses – or even crimes which gradually worsen (i.e. graduating from petty theft, to rape, to murder).

Making Bad Worse:

“In general, prison should have five goals, as described by criminologist Bob Cameron: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation. In his words though, ‘Americans want their prisoners punished first and rehabilitated second.'” – Why Norway’s prison system is so successful, Christina Sterbenz Dec 11, 2014.

One of the biggest issues I have with many if not most prisons is that inmates convicted for violent and non-violent crimes also tend to mix freely within the prison population. For example, an inmate serving a sentence for fraud (a non-violent so-called “white collar” crime) could eat at the same table with a convicted multiple murderer. There is a huge opportunity, in my opinion, for cross-contamination.

Not only can entry-level, non-violent criminals rub elbows with much worse, violent criminals, but they can pick up skills, ideas, tips and tricks, and even training – making the entry-level criminal that much more worrisome when they’re released back on the streets. That, and also the risk of that entry-level prisoner falling foul of a more violent convict’s temper – or falling prey to the gangs operating in most prisons – or the thing nobody really wants to talk about: the culture of rape and sexual abuse that exists within prisons between inmates themselves. Statistics reflect 4135 prisoner deaths (from a spectrum of causes) IN USA prisons between 2001 and 2018, over a 17 year period.

To make matters worse, the USAs’ prison system makes it difficult for inmates to reintegrate back into society – parole hearings, while necessary, also dehumanize the inmates in a blanket sense – up to an including first-time offenders and minor criminals. In addition, once inmates are released on parole, they have to find employment in order to remain free – without the state making any kind of provisions or guarantees that former inmates can find the gainful employment they’re expected to, resulting in a likely (even expected) return to crime – and prison.

Some US states also strip former-inmates, i.e. people with criminal records to varying degrees, of voting rights, adoption rights, and also the right to own a firearm. The focus then appears to be firmly on punishment rather on rehabilitation. This skewed, loaded, prejudiced system is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy, which implies that those who end up in prison, belong there and don’t deserve a chance to redeem themselves and have no place in society.

The concept of imprisonment as a punishment also challenges one of the primary foundations of criminal justice systems – in that the punishment should fit the crime – and I say this because more often than not, a person incarcerated for a slight misdemeanor, say possession of a small quantity of narcotics or the like, might be seized upon by a rougher, violent intimidating inmate who then molests that individual sexually and ruins their life permanently.

Gang rapes of this type, of inmates by other inmates are common and frequent in prisons, and especially I would say, in South African prisons. I have personally witnessed individuals commenting on such cases being discussed on social media that they were glad of these events and that the individuals “deserved it” – without even knowing the details of who was involved, or what they’d been imprisoned for.

Hypothetically, a man incarcerated for insurance fraud (without any previous criminal record) has lost his job, his family and is serving a thirteen year sentence can be gang-raped by four other men sharing his cell and threatened with death if he protests. What then would be the motive for this man to survive for the next day, let alone for the day he is released, and beyond? He certainly wouldn’t be the same person who entered the prison, that’s for sure.

This hardly seems fair, just or commensurate with the crime, does it?

I mean, in terms of restorative and rehabilitative justice, one doesn’t expect a person to be sent to prison to be raped, assaulted or killed by either prison guards or fellow inmates, does one?

Yes there are hardened criminals who commit horrific violent crimes, and repeat offenders who keep on committing the same sort of crimes over and over again, often progressing to worse forms of crime – but in my opinion, those who start off on the road of crime with a petty misdemeanor while young, are too easily thrown among the hardened, vicious criminals instead of being handled separately with the aim being rehabilitation.

The difference I think, is in the approach of governments and societies to crime and criminals. The Norwegian approach – and that of the Netherlands – appears to be starkly different, and vastly superior to the American model.

“In the law, being sent to prison is nothing to do with putting you in a terrible prison to make you suffer. The punishment is that you lose your freedom. If we treat people like animals when they are in prison they are likely to behave like animals. – Norwegian prison governor & clinical psychologist Arne Wilson, Guardian interview.

The reality of modern prisons in their mediocre (i.e. the USA example) and worst (third world examples) forms evokes the harsh dystopian concepts of future prisons found in the aforementioned examples: “Fortress” and “Death Race“. In a weirdly similar turn-out in which life imitates art, modern inmates are at the mercy of brutal and corrupt guards and wardens, each other, and prison gangs operating across different prisons – and afterwards, the parole system makes their re-entry into normal society difficult, if not unlikely. A for-profit prison industry which is paid per head for each “guest” housed in their facilities, and which also has powerful ties in the form of political investors in their companies assists in keeping the prison system running close to full capacity.

Now let’s take a quick look at how some other countries on different continents deal with crime in relation to the USA.

Comparison Of Prison System Capacities Between Countries:

In comparison to the USAs’ prison system, those in Europe appear starkly different. Not only are there far fewer prisons in relation to the size of the populations in each country, but the overall capacity of each country’s prison system is also far smaller in context. For example, the USA had a population of 325.1 million in 2017, while the Netherlands only had 17.08 million.

In spite of the obvious size difference between the two, there are still disparities in the size of the US prison system versus the that of the Netherlands. Compare the US prison system’s over 4000 prison facilities with a capacity to hold 2 150 000 people, with 2 145 700 people incarcerated, to the Netherlands with just 53 facilities, 14 630 inmate capacity and 10 887 incarcerated. On top of that, in 2016, the Netherlands actually began to close some of it’s prison facilities due a lack of inmates! In 2016, Business Insider reported that the Dutch were closing 5 more prisons just three years after previously closing another 19 others!

According to the same article, crime in the Netherlands has been going down each year since 2004. The incarceration rate is just 69 per 100,000 people, which contrasts with the US, where the rate is 716 per 100,000 — “the highest in the world”. The US recidivism rate — that is, how often people who’ve been to prison end up going back — is 52%, according to 2013 data. The Netherlands’ was closer to 40% (in 2016) and had been declining for over a decade. For comparison, Norway has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world at 20%.

Yes, but the Netherlands (and Norway) are so much smaller than the USA, right? However, that still doesn’t account for the differences (and disparities) which are evident in the percentages – as follows:

In the Netherlands, a country of 17,08 million people, they had a prison capacity of 14 630 (0.08% of the total population) and which was 74.4% occupied in 2018.

By stark contrast, the USA – a country of 325.1 million people, they had a prison capacity of 2 150 000 (0.66% of the total population) and which was 99.8% occupied in 2017!

But what about the “third world” countries? What about “Africa”?

Alright, simply for the sake of context, let’s look at South Africa – my home country (which slipped into the “third world” category about a decade ago) – and even here the disparity when compared to the USA is simply astonishing: South Africa is a country of 59,62 million people with a prison capacity of 118 572 (0.19% of the total population) and which was 124.8% occupied (over capacity!) in 2020. South African prisons are much more poorly equipped than American prisons, and overcrowded (by 124%!), with tens of prisoners jammed into communal cells! Of course, prison conditions in neighboring Zimbabwe are even worse, on a scale comparable even to some of the very worst prisons in South America.

According to Safe Spaces, “Inmates and remand detainees experience extreme overcrowding and inhumane living conditions, including: poor ventilation; inadequate ablution facilities; lack of sanitation and privacy; a shortage of beds and bedding; insufficient supervision and oversight; and poor healthcare provision.” Added to that, statistics recorded from 2015 to 2018 by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services show that more than 550 inmates die every year – and that most deaths are due to inmates killing each another!

I’m simply blown away that South Africa – whose cities appear three times on a listing of the top 50 cities by murder rate in the world somehow STILL has a lower comparative percentage of convicted felons catered for and housed, than the USA! South Africa slots in neatly between the Netherlands and the USA, but it has to be said, far closer to the former than the latter in terms of the scores!

Some countries take the concept of “justice” to barbaric extremes, visiting such fates as torture, painful execution, beheading, and enduring amputations of various limbs for what most people would see as trivial differences of opinion rather than for actual crimes. Aside from that, there are also much worse prisons than the ones I’ve covered so far, with much, much worse and frightening reputations, but aside from revealing the vastly differing underlying Human views of crime and punishment, they do little to indicate what prisons and restorative or rehabilitative justice should look like in order to actually make things better – if not any worse.

What Demographics Reveals About The US Justice & Prison System:

This incongruity seriously calls into question the level and type of attention the USA appears to give to the subject of crime and criminals, beyond just writing them off as people altogether and stuffing them out of sight into a dark gloomy box where they are left to their own devices – fester, and then if they ever come out again, are even worse than they went in! The focus in American prisons (and in fairness, most prisons around the world) is on punishment rather than rehabilitation.

Take for example the number of inmates being repeat-guests of their governments in the USA (52% in 2013) who are rearrested for other crimes committed after being freed from prison, versus the Netherlands (+-40%). Also, bear in mind the relative sizes of those percentages – 52% for the USA in 2013 (1,574,700) which is significantly larger in relation to 40% for the Netherlands who only had a negligible 10,115 inmates in 2016!

There is a number of worrying conclusions offered by all these bewildering statistics, chiefly of which for me, is the thought that either Americans have far more criminal tendencies than people from other countries, or they’re just doing it all wrong.

I mean, aside from their punitive approach to criminal justice in the USA, there is a glaring disparity between how people convicted for the same or similar offenses are sentenced – which is usually determined according to race. According to a 2017 report on sentencing disparities from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly 20 percent longer! What’s so deeply disturbing about this is, it isn’t the 1950’s USA I’m talking about, but 21st century America!

Perhaps what reveals the most disturbing thing about the US prison system is the demographics of its inmates in relation to the demographics of the USA as a whole. You see, the vast majority of inmates in US prisons are African-Americans (according to Prison – with the second-smallest racial group in prison being Caucasians. Caucasians – or whites, statistically make up the majority of the US population at an enormous 77% (2016) – while African-Americans account for only an estimated 13.4% of the population – and yet they somehow account for the vast majority of inmates in US prisons! If that doesn’t give you pause, what will?

There’s a lot of talk about how, after the end of the American Civil War, the Southern former Confederate states made new laws that made staying out of prison virtually impossible for newly freed slaves – and turned prison labor for hire into a commodity – replacing the labor force the South had lost through abolitionism. This mindset has continued to the present day, as witnessed by archaic racist laws still in force in some US states, coupled with more recent additions which attempt to restrict access to voting rights based on demographics – so this to a degree, offers one quite compelling explanation for the current state of affairs.

The law, you see, can also be used as a weapon to be used against those whom the people in power despise and wish to subjugate or destroy. The Nazis – supported by law-abiding “good Germans”, friends, colleagues and neighbors also used the law to make dissent and diversity a crime, but that – while on topic, is a discussion for another day.

Don’t We Want A Hopeful Future?

Rather than being a means of rehabilitation, most modern prison systems – even the one in the country which bills itself as the “best country in everything on Earth”, the USA – completely write off the future of any of their inmates and not only expect them to fail at any attempt to reform, but set them up for failure – i.e. planned recidivism. The root of this obsession with punishment versus rehabilitation is to be found in the USA’s historic obsession with religion, undoubtedly beginning with the puritan fanatics booted out of England three centuries ago.

On the opposite end of the scale, we have the Utopian societal concepts found in “Star Trek” and “Magnus, Robot Fighter” – where criminals, if they exist at all, are regarded as sick individuals suffering from some form of insecurity, psychosis or other mental illness, which can be fairly easily adjusted either through talking solutions or by means of advanced medical technologies or other forms of treatment. In the idyllic settings presented by both these series, villains suffering from megalomania or other “anti-social” conditions are pitied, cared for, mentally adjusted, cured, and allowed to continue living their lives. Crimes committed out of mental illness are regarded as symptoms of that mental illness – and how does one expect to hold someone who is truly mentally ill criminally responsible for their actions? It would be immoral to do so, wouldn’t it? Their solution then would be to treat or cure the mental illness (which, being in a technologically more advanced future, is possible for them).

In the movie “Demolition Man” 1993, offenders are handled in a similar way, being placed in cryogenic suspension for the duration of their sentence and their minds programmed with rehabilitative materials, taught hobbies (like knitting) to offset aggression and hostility, taught new languages and skills and treated in order to become the model citizens society of the time wants them to be by the time they are finally released.

It’s clear to me then, that these societies are not only more advanced than our contemporary one (where scientists are spending more time arguing with conspiracy theorist nut-bags who claim the Earth is flat – but can never seem to find the Edge), but also a bit more than my own in Galaxii. After all, where’s the fun in reading stories about villains who can become good guys after a brief session in a mental adjustment booth (or a spell under the tinfoil hat and battery clamps)? As a sci-fi writer, I deal in fiction – but there needs to be some kind of basis in fact, and also there needs to be something about the future which makes people hopeful rather than depressed to read!

I decided to revisit this whole conundrum of crime and punishment and do it the way I thought best within my own world-building exercises, and as I thought best according to the needs of the stories I plan to tell.

Prison Systems In The Galaxii Universe:

The concept of crime and punishment has to be one of the oldest foundation stones in this thing we call “civilization”. After all, if people are going to live together, to co-exist as next-door neighbors, there has to be a sort of agreement between all neighbors that they will try to respect each other’s spaces, not make loud noises between certain hours to avoid keeping the kids (and old grouches like me) out of sleep, and so on.

Lulu Penitentiary on Deanna.

This obviously gave rise to child-concepts like laws, and then further, those whose purpose is to enforce laws and take action when they are flouted – and those whose job it is to judge guilt or innocence and decide appropriate forms of punishment. The oldest most comprehensive legal code containing forms of punishment, restitution and retribution can be found in the Code of Hammurabi, a king of ancient Mesopotamia.

Terry Pratchett said that words are magic, because they have power. This rings true to me because in the sense of laws, these are words which set out what is permitted and what is not permitted – and lays out various consequences of any infractions – by which everyone is bound to abide or suffer the consequences. Far from just being spoken or written down and forgotten, words which make up laws are words of power, because they are formed from will and intent and have far-reaching, long-lasting effects beyond the transitory. Through laws and edicts, these words of power in turn create things and bring them into being – like contracts, governments, civil rights, liberties and freedoms – and that all-important habeas corpus.

Law, as most students of law will probably tell you, is the glue which binds civilization together. It’s also the gloopy mess that will stick to everything and make life really unpleasant for anyone caught up in it.

That said, when I started out building the Galaxii universe inside my head, I wanted it to be a well-oiled, smoothly running society. I wanted people to be advanced, intelligent and mature creatures who showed some interest in the universe around them and also in others. I wanted Terran society to be beneficent, based on science and intellect and also compassion and humanitarianism. I created heroes, like Mykl d’Angelo, Ripley Jones, and Joe Lofflin who epitomized those values.

At the same time, I also needed to create villains – and in Galaxii there are the ubiquitous Corsairs, space pirates who are really the lowest, meanest sort of individuals you could ever meet! I invented a whole back-story for them, how the Corsairs left Earth following WW3 and eked out a bleak, hard life in the black of deep space – and when they came into contact with their long-lost Terran cousins who started exploring space decades later in their neck of the woods, turned to piracy to sustain themselves! I birthed Corsair characters like Sona Kilroy, Captain Tonk and Green Beard – and the Hell Queen still holds a special place in my dark little heart! That said, I also created Blachart and gave him a Human face and a soul – he became an anti-hero, a man who’d spent most of his life as a Corsair, who changed sides and became one of the ‘good guys’ – at least most of the time!

Against the backdrop of all this futurism, futuristic technology and advanced civilization, I found it hard to justify thinking a society like the one I wanted the Terrans to have, would indulge in cruelty and barbarism – especially towards helpless individuals in their power. That seems cowardly too, don’t you think? In fact, realizing this resulted in some serious introspection and also changed my own outlook on life, crime, justice and punishment!

The Terran Judicial System – A Fresh Start:

How would the Terran judicial system handle crime and criminals? Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought!

Under normal circumstances – that is, under the guidance of sociologists, criminologists and psychiatric specialists – prison in the Galaxii sense largely means rehabilitation and eventual reintegration back into Terran society, in which case a highly efficient system in essence reprograms inmates through applied psychology, access to free education, arts and culture, a temporary loss of personal freedom, austerity, and a back-to-basics approach to discipline. If you can’t behave like a responsible adult by yourself, we’ll teach you how!

This brings to mind the sentences given to criminals upon conviction. To my understanding, when someone is given a life sentence, it should mean “until they’ve stopped breathing” – but imagine my surprise when I discovered that this is not the case, generally speaking! In South Africa for example, 25 years is considered a ‘life sentence’ – although to be fair, I doubt anyone could survive a 21 year stint in a South African prison without some serious preternatural interventions, so yes, maybe it is. In Norway, judges dole out “life sentences” of 21 years – but with a difference. “With few exceptions (for genocide and war crimes mostly), judges can only sentence criminals to a maximum of 21 years. At the end of the initial term, however, five-year increments can be added onto to the prisoner’s sentence every five years, indefinitely, if the system determines he or she isn’t rehabilitated. That’s why Norwegian extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a bombing and mass shooting, was only sentenced to 21 years.”  It’s also why it’s unlikely that Breivik will ever take a breath of free air again.

Unfortunately, South Africa doesn’t follow this Norwegian model – they not only give hardened murderers and serial rapists frivolous 25 year sentences and time off for good behavior, but they also allow them to go out on bail while on trial (allowing them to rape or kill again – and many have, as has come to light) and then also to release them early because our jails are at 124% capacity and over-full (with no new prison facilities having been built since 1994, and in fact, some having been closed and repurposed as political-themed museums). And while in prison, inmates simply develop into worse, more skilled, more dangerous criminals, eager to get out and do some more crime – with little to no opportunity to reform or be rehabilitated, other than to turn to “Jesus” via vain, optimistic church outreach programs – which in my view is hardly an improvement.

It seems that neither does the prison system in South Africa satisfactorily remove criminal elements from society, nor does it make any serious attempt to rehabilitate them. Justice in South Africa, sadly, is a sick year-round April fool’s joke in all aspects being played on the public.

Like the USA then, in spite of reams of twaddle espoused in the 1990s about South African prisons being about rehabilitation rather than punishment, South Africa’s prison system is firmly entrenched in the punitive rut – albeit by the weight of corruption, incompetence and disinterest rather than by design.

I’d like to think the Terran courts would be much more fair and conditions in Terran penal facilities would be much more humane than they are in our world. Indeed, while I believe that – as indicated by the Norwegian precedent, most inmates who’d been through the vastly more humane prison system of this future time – would rarely relapse to become repeat offenders – although it probably wouldn’t be entirely unheard of. There would be those for whom rehabilitation was ineffective, who would remain wards of the social rehabilitation system.

Since the Terran Empire extends across a multitude of outposts and colonies across space, it’s more than likely that colonies would have their own prisons – from the ordinary lock-up jail cells at Sheriff’s offices to larger penitentiaries. Lulu Penitentiary on Deanna springs to mind. Of course, these would house the co-operative inmates, and inmates not imprisoned indefinitely – inmates for whom rehabilitation is still possible, even probable.

There are the worse ones though – the ones whom today, we would say need killing, and deserve it – and that brings me to the subject of capital crimes.

Capital Crimes & The Death Penalty:

We often see in the international media, social and otherwise, portrayals of grief from the relatives of murder victims (or the victims of other serious crimes themselves) crying out for vengeance, for the blood of those responsible to flow. They want to visit pain and suffering on the person who killed X, raped Y, or crippled Z. I too am guilty of feeling and thinking such things – it’s after all only Human to feel that – it’s something akin to instinct, an animal outrage. We want to hurt them back because they hurt someone dear to us – and in fact, us.

In many cases this is not possible because many countries (and states) have abandoned the death penalty in favor of life-term sentences and less barbaric punishments. In other countries, such as some in the Middle East, for example Iran and Iraq, people regularly get murdered with the official blessing of the state for things which in civilized countries wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow: being LGBTI+, children adopting Western fashions (Emo), or being a woman demanding equal rights etc.

Then it comes to the law – and in places where execution is regarded as a valid reaction or punishment for whatever capital crime. People in custody don’t simply just die on command – someone has to carry out the order to execute that individual – by whatever method. In most countries today, as least those which still allow executions, hanging is the traditional method employed. In France, the traditional method (since the Revolution) was beheading by a devilish device called a guillotine. In the USA, several methods have been employed – death by hanging, lethal injection, electrocution, and the gas chamber.

In some cases, the state would invite guests to watch the executions, separated only by a glass window, to witness the person who hurt them and deprived them of something which was important to them, take their last breath – overcome by fear, remorse, and sometimes religion.

In all cases, what was common between all executions since time immemorial, was the detail that in order to carry out the execution, someone had to escort the condemned to the place of execution, restrain them or secure them in place – then to swing the axe or sword, or light the pyre… later, when technology came into the process, a button had to be pushed, or a lever had to be pulled in order to carry out the sentence, someone had to perform this action – upon which weighed a life.

There have been many arguments about whether or not how many innocent, wrongly-convicted people have been executed by mistake – but to my view, the argument is moot. There have been – the only point that should be ascertained is how many. That said, we accept, hope and understand that the majority of people executed for crimes like murder, at least earned that fate. But that’s not the point I’m coming to here.

My point concerns the individual carrying out the sentence – in relation to the system which claims to cherish the value of Human life.

Yet it (this system) orders one Human being to end the life of another? Non sequitur.

What’s really surreal to me is that the executioner is not only paid for their services to the state in carrying out the sentence of death, but is allowed to live freely among everyone else. To frame this for you, let me explain it thusly:

  1. a killer has killed and the state decrees he must be killed in retribution or as a warning to others.
  2. the killer is then killed by another person in the employ of the state, who is not punished for killing.


  1. Human society claims to be hostile to murderers and lives in fear that murderers exist among them, unpunished.
  2. Executioners are murderers who not only go unpunished, but are rewarded by the state for killing, and exist freely among them.

It does seem a mite hypocritical, don’t you think? While you may think I’m being flippant about this, let me ask you this: while all the debate about the death penalty has raged on and on – is it just, is it moral, etc., etc. – has anyone considered the following:

  1. what does the act of murdering someone as a state-paid executioner do to that person carrying out the sentence of death?
  2. what sort of person would voluntarily perform this act – once or repetitively – in the first place?

In reply to the second-last question, I’d have to say there would be some definite psychological trauma or damage suffered by such a person – what sort of society would choose to inflict such harm on someone else to take upon themselves the mantle of a killer? This is especially relevant in the light of the next question.

In reply to the last question, my answer can only be ‘a killer’ or ‘someone with a predisposition to cruelty and murder’! It would be someone who enjoys the act of killing and gets a thrill out of being rewarded for it – or worse, someone who feels nothing at all about it, a pscyhopath.

Regardless of reason, both the condemned and the executioner are killers – the only difference then is the degree to which they are killers. – and any debate surrounding the issue of which one is worse and why is purely semantic. How is the executioner any better than the condemned he is to kill? How is the condemned then also – by implication – any better than the person they have judged as deserving to die?

My main argument against the death penalty then is not just the perceived guilt or innocence of the party – but the harmful consequences to the individuals responsible for carrying out the execution, as well as the implications of these to the surrounding society.

The Terrans then, no longer indulge the death penalty. Executions are forbidden – but something would have to be done with murderers and rapists – and pedophiles – especially those nasty Corsairs who themselves didn’t recall their own crimes they were so many! They couldn’t be locked up indefinitely either – especially Corsairs, who represented a great multitude of new inmates following the fall of their base-world, Meradinis! Most of the colonial prisons were small, medium security facilities more like psychiatric hospitals by that time, than hardened penitentiaries we know today! Besides, the thing with Corsairs was, they try to escape – and they were always escaping – and their comrades still free on the outside were always looking for ways to free them! What then, was to be done with them?

In a humane, Human-rights-oriented time, this created something of a moral dilemma, which after a brief time, was resolved. The Terran justice system no longer practiced capital punishment, principally because no matter how twisted, evil or dangerous an individual considered beyond rehabilitation was – or how tempting it might be to inflict pain and suffering and unspeakable horrors upon them for their equally abhorrent acts – the institute of justice took into consideration how this would affect the persons charged with carrying out such sentences. Although cheaper and perhaps more convenient – and even satisfying on some levels – Terran society in general did not wish to indulge or encourage any latent character flaws it didn’t have to. Instead, the notion of removing such people from Human society permanently – and keeping them so removed – rose to the fore and became the accepted norm.

In most cases, low-level criminals would be processed on their home planets, reintroduced into their home communities and their criminal histories ended there. For the others, the ones who were not inclined to reform themselves, or who for whatever reason still represented a danger to people around them, there are the maximum security prisons. These, as you might guess, are not like the others.

Banishment – A Good Alternative:

In the 18th century, Britain established the colony of Australia and increased the colonial population by stuffing ships full of criminals – mostly petty thieves, and mostly people shanghaied into the dock on trumped-up or petty charges like stealing bread to survive – and sending them to that far-off land.

The Terran Empire has a sound human rights value system, which not only prevents such a debasing and corrupt practice. Instead, a number of maximum security prisons has been set up at secure remote locations in quieter parts of Terran space. A good example of such a maximum security prison is the facility called Kobarr, on the planet it’s named after – which isn’t a Terran colony – and neither is it near a Terran Colony – it’s well off the beaten path, so much so that even the shuttle pilots bringing fresh inmates to Kobarr often tend to get a bit lost along the way! For some – even in those times – it is often considered a lot of effort to accommodate and transport people whose continued existence would be nothing more than a thorn in the flesh of Terran society… to some, a waste of resources. Even so, in maximum security prisons, the inmates are put to work growing and processing food, processing water and air to feed and sustain themselves. Kobarr is not a rehabilitation center, and as a maximum security prison, the inmates sent to that far-off place are the absolute worst of the very worst, and for nine point nine out of every ten inmates – generally speaking, it would be a one-way trip. Very few would ever leave there. This would be far from idyllic for the inmates however – they’ve lost their freedom, the hope of ever returning to their old lives – or any other life at all, and of ever seeing anyone they used to know again.

Thus, the objectives of 1) permanently removing the individual from Human society 2) without killing them 3) without any chance of their escaping 4) and without pandering to the less civilized impulses of Human nature, are achieved.


It’s more than philosophy when I say that how we treat other beings defines us as individuals – and how Humans treat other beings and each other, defines the Human race.

There are those who feel that if some people take it upon themselves to act like animals, then they deserve to be treated like animals – but they fail to realize that by perpetuating the same behavior, nothing will ever change. You can’t fight racism with more racism – as the ANC is learning to its cost – and in the same vein, rewarding cruelty with more cruelty will only beget more cruelty.

There’s no reason why something similar to what I’ve suggested couldn’t be done in our time – such as banishing murderers and rapists to isolated facilities on deserted islands, or in the middle of the Sahara for example. And yes, I can hear a few people bouncing up and down shouting about how much they deserve to die – and how much they’d be happy to carry out that sentence themselves. I’m sorry to say that yes, I partially agree with you – but that only says more about us as Humans as a fractured species, doesn’t it? I really believe my way is better.

Humans are really very similar to each other in the aspect that they don’t mind if incredible suffering is visited on someone else – as long as it’s not they who are the ones made to suffer. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the recent pandemic, where everyone is criticizing those reluctant to have one of many dubious vaccines which have demonstrated potentially lethal side-effects. The risk is only to 3% of those who take it, they say – which is acceptable, they say – but when asked “what if you’re unknowingly part of that 3%?” they suddenly don’t know what to say further.

My solution won’t appeal to everyone – but then, neither has my view that the malicious politicians who lead countries to war with each other should be made to face each other in an arena in single-combat for the entertainment of the masses of both countries instead – to settle disputes that way! The world would be a far nicer, more peaceful, stable place if it was so. Millions of dead, crippled, widowed and orphaned people would likely agree if they had voices to be heard.

As I said, my solution won’t appeal to everyone – but at least it’s nice to know that a start has been made – in Norway.

I hope this adequately explains my thoughts and concepts of Terran justice in the time of the Galaxii Series! Some of this will form part of the backdrop in some upcoming stories, most especially the fourth title in the series, “Sentinel“.

Feel free to email or message me via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn if you have any comments or questions!

Until next time, keep reading!


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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2021.

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