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Play to Evolve

Alternatives to Incarceration

by Scott Swain

What if we can create a system to deal with acts of violence/coercion without using coercion ourselves? This assumes "coercion" includes forcing anyone to pay (tax) for force (police, punishment, and incarceration) to be used on people.
The system I'm proposing does not preclude communities voluntarily creating/organizing "community police", "community courts", and "Homes for Violators and 2nd Strikers".
I am basing this system off the principles of NAP (the Non-Aggression Principle) and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD.
IMPORTANT: We want our system to be resistant to corruption. In a region where multiple "courts" or dispute resolution organizations (DROs) compete for business, reputation would be an important factor. More on this here: law without government.
Prison funny but possible
Behind bars
Let's take the most extreme case: 
Bob killed a person, not out of self defense
(1) Community Volunteers meet with Bob OR apprehend? Can we (do we want to) justify using force to apprehend and temporarily restrain Bob because Bob violated the rights of another? If we do not, then Bob may flee and/or hurt others. Ideas? Would we call it "Temporary Loss of Rights"?

(2) Our Court/Trial system would have many similarities to our current system and some important differences. Our goal would be to create a system that works like:
(a) Determine: Did he do it? A chance for Bob to defend himself and/or convince a group of his peers it was self defense or some other excuse. Let's say Bob's action is deemed to be a violation of a person's right to not be coerced by others and he had no "excuse".
(b) Assess a fee for damages and Bob's income potential and agree upon out a sum of money that Bob will be required to pay every month to the family of the victim for the rest of Bob's life?

(3) Community Volunteers identify Bob's unmet needs to be power, expression, and connection. Bob's strategy for meeting those needs was to harm a person.

(4) Community Volunteers spend time with Bob and figure out new strategies that will meet Bob's needs for power, expression, and connection.

(5) Community Volunteers assist/advise Bob in finding a job if he does not have one.

(6) Community Volunteers may offer guidance or counseling to Bob.


(1) How do we keep Bob from doing it again or even know if he did? And how do we insure he makes his payments to the family?

One method would be Community Volunteer-created web sites that have profiles of people who use unacceptable strategies, keep track of their payments and whereabouts. These web sites would work similar to Wikipedia, constantly updated by Volunteers.

First, we acknowledge that just like knowing we can not keep a "reformed criminal who spent 20 years in prison and has paid for his crime" from killing again, we can't guarantee Bob will not kill again. Our current system can not make guarantees and neither will a fully non-coercive system.

(2) But what if Bob does it again?

Do we then stray from our non-coercive strategy because Bob has shown himself to not be responsible? Has he given up his rights by taking those of another?

What alternatives exist where we avoid incarceration or other coercive "punishment"? Perhaps Community Volunteer created "Homes for 2nd Strikers" where there is less privacy as well as other freedoms?

Note: If we do decide "2nd Strike" means incarceration or death, we have at least moved quite far in the direction of treating unproductive strategies as "poor choices".

One idea I have is that the money-paid-to-family-of-victim-forever will be cumulative so if your monthly payment is set at 33% of your income and you repeat the offense, you are paying out 66% of your income, and real quick it becomes impossible to even sustain your own life if you choose to repeat the offense.

(3) With no threat of "real punishment" what will motivate people to "be good"?

First, some beliefs I have:
- Rarely do people want to hurt other people. 
- Most people understand it is in their best interest to not hurt other people.

Second, as you saw above, there are consequences, including:
(a) if you murder someone, you pay their family for the rest of your life;
(b) if you murder someone, everyone will know about it and your face will be known as someone who did it; and
(c) if you do it again, you will get... ? See (2) above.

Benefits of this system:
(1) Completely Voluntary and thus self-sustaining. No cost to taxpayers. Prisons cost a HUGE amount.

(2) The "Violator" is allowed to continue their enrichment of the economy.

(3) The Family of the "Victim" gains monetary compensation, which has much more practical value than "knowing he is in jail".

(4) Removing the stigma of certain strategies and vastly increasing the chance of rehabilitation.
(5) If you spent 10 years in prison not getting laid, how peaceful would you feel when you got out?

 Contact Scott Swain for mediation and Emotional Intelligence Tools training for business, love, and parenting.