Some Thoughts on Retributive Justice
by The Editor

Retributive justice is about vengeance and punishment. This is bad. There is no need to harm criminals, only render them harmless.

People often complain about prisons in some places being too nice. And it's true lots of money shouldn't be showered on prisoners. But prisons shouldn't be made so bad that they are designed to make people suffer, or discourage them from going to prison. That is cruelty, and cruelty isn't in any way justified by the fact that someone is a criminal.

Prisoners should be encouraged to work, and to the extent they are able to, provide for their own needs and buy "luxuries" (like TV, computers, phone) if they can afford to. There's no reason to deny them this, if it comes from their labor.

People often appeal to an argument like, "if your family was murdered, wouldn't you want the criminal to suffer? Wouldn't you want him to die?" Wanting others to suffer is immoral, and will not resurrect one's family members.

Killing a murderer, or even just making him suffer a bunch, is scapegoating. The murderer is not the only person responsible for his bad ideas: knowledge advances by variation and selection, so his knowledge of why it is a "good idea" to kill hookers is a result of him taking existing ideas and changing them in a way that is not selected against. What you should actually want to do is find out why this happened and fix the problem, which is incompatible with killing the murderer. The state kills murderers partly in the vain hope that his bad ideas die with him, but this is not entirely accurate and so in practice the murderer is a scapegoat. And if you think the appropriate way to deal with problems is by scapegoating, it's a short step from that to taking people who have done nothing wrong and sacrificing them for the sake of getting rid of your bad feelings, i.e. - more murder.

Sometimes people argue, "if society doesn't exact vengeance on criminals, victims and their families might take things into their own hands." But that's arguing that we should do X first so they don't do X, where X is a crime. In other words, it's arguing for the appeasement of would-be criminals. This is immoral.

It's also immoral to keep prisoners in a place that's not safe. Prison rape should be unheard of, but instead it is laughed at. This is horrible and disgusting. Prisoners should not be exposed to crimes in jail.