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What would we do about violent people who are already in prison? (I am an anarcho-communist)

–1 vote
I know we can help teach the next generation and all that stuff but what do we do about the rapists and murderers who are already in jail? If we were to topple the state tomorrow all those people do not just disappear.

(edited to add crime tag and correct spelling of prison tag)
asked Aug 10, 2010 by anonymous
edited Oct 30, 2011 by dot
Hmm.  Perhaps I do not share your perspective of anarcho-communism.  Can *you* explain "anarchism" to *me*?  I think the question demands a fairly contextual definition, and that Dot hit the nail on the head.
I recommend reading everything you can on the topics of prison abolition, community accountability and restorative/transformational justice. Lots of stuff to delve into.

Here's a taste, you'll have to explore:

http://www.criticalresistance.org
http://www.generationfive.org
http://www.creative-interventions.org/
http://www.incite-national.org
(in particular:  http://www.incite-national.org/index.php?s=114)

in part

The book Instead of Prisons:
http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/instead_of_prisons/
OMG and you ought to read this one too:

http://www.generationfive.org/downloads/G5_Toward_Transformative_Justice.pdf

and the books The Incite Reader (http://www.incite-national.org/index.php?s=88)

and The Revolution Starts at Home (http://www.incite-national.org/media/docs/0985_revolution-starts-at-home.pdf)

There's some quality stuff out there. I'm glad you brought this up. My ex partner is an anarchist who used to work with incarcerated folks and their families and it was hard work that constantly challenged any sort of simplistic approach to prison abolition.

3 Answers

+3 votes
who is we? what is violence?
how are you picturing the state getting toppled? surely that is a crucial part of the question?

as hard as i try, i can't figure out how your question makes sense outside of a classic revolutionary scenario (suddenly we (tm) have the power to decide how to punish bad people, but they're still defined as bad by the same constructs that some of us are fighting against).

put another way, the people who have the violence done against them (and their friends and family) would presumably be the people who would decide what to do--and maybe this would include the friends and family of the person who done wrong, and maybe the wrong-doer as well, depending on the situation.
or maybe, no one would decide anything. maybe people would just move away, like they do now, and/or get ostracized by some folks and not by others...

i expect there would be a lot of different ways to deal with messed up behavior, and all of them would work in some ways and not work in others.
answered Aug 15, 2010 by dot (57,750 points)
By we I mean society as a whole.

The way I promote and see the state being destroyed is by what I call "gradual revolution". It's basically about non-violence as most as possible and just living the solution instead of declaring a civil war and taking to the streets with guns.

I just don't see how anyone would want to go to the prisions that are filled with gangs and just let the back into society even when those people might have raped or killed someone. Now I'm not saying I agree with prisions or that people who stole or did drugs deserve to be there, I'm just saying how do we help move prisioners back into a society where there are no laws or police.
yea, it sounds like you're assuming a lot of things would stay the same - like society-as-a-group-of-people-who-are-fundamentally-estranged-from-each-other and who-have-and-use-the-power-to-control-other-people's-lives.
i reject that.
we open up the prisons and start over with everyone. some fucked up shit will happen, no doubt. but the revolution (whatever that means) is not about not having fucked up shit happen. it's about changing the range, the level, the scope of the fucked up shit that happens.

edit: i changed something but then was dissatisfied with how i said it. i'll see if i can revisit it better later.
i love the way dot says it. "we open up the prisons and start over with everyone" but in my opinion those who disagree with anarchy will probably start a group -similar to police- who would "get rid" of the criminals. not because they would be paid in any way but because they feel its important to "get rid of" the criminals.
That's assuming the "group-similar to police" are not too busy fighting among themselves or otherwise besieged by some kind of opposition, no? It's too easy to graft your own imagined hypothetical scenario's onto that of others (like I just did). It's too self assuring to simply say " if x happens, then y will surely follow, resulting ultimately with z without a doubt".  Stating an intention or desire is not the same as predicting the future via the use of some lame fictitious script, blueprint, or crystal ball.
+4 votes
One of the many frustrating aspects of the judicial system, for me, is the acceptance of the idea that we can't decide what is right or wrong for ourselves; that someone we have no connection to, who knows nothing of us or our situation, is allowed to decide whether or not we have been wronged by another and then make a decision about the fate of that person. Is it so crazy to think that we could empower ourselves to take back that authority in our own lives and communities?
 
Example (not the best, but there really never is a perfect example). If someone breaks into my home, I don't desire to call a stranger (the police) to make them whisk the person off, so that another stranger (the judge/jury) can decided whether or not they were really in my home and whether or not that was okay. I should be able to confront them at that moment, in that place. In the time it would take to call the police, one could instead call friends and neighbors if they felt they needed someone else involved.

When you get into more serious matters, like instances of sexual assault or murder, things will always be tricky. But the current "justice" system has proven that it is ineffective at both identifying the correct perpetrator, and stopping them from doing something again (except in cases of lifelong imprisonment/death). Whose to say that the people directly involved couldn't do a better job or finding out who did it and finding a correct solution.  And, while I do recognize the problematic aspects of "vigilante justice", I personally find no fault in physical confronting someone who has harmed you or telling them that they must leave town. But there is also room for talking through things, understanding a situation, learning from our mistakes, and moving on in way that those directly involved deem appropriate.

And we must recognize the cause of most crime. Personally, I don't beleive that people are born murderers or rapists. Society, the conditions of their lives (especially as children), and a variety of other factors affect what decisions people make. So, we must take a look at the causes of violence in the first place. The disempowerment that comes from economic, racial, class based, etc oppression that may cause someone to lash out and seek power over another. The obsession with power that this society tries to force-feed us that causes those with power to desire more at any cost. The message that empowerment or power over are both power - and therefore interchangeable, equal, and necessary to our well-being.

I apologize if this sounds vague or intangible, but the abolition of prisons is far more complicated than the simple destruction of a few walls. We could rid ourselves of prisons tomorrow, but we would find that people would simply replace them. Same goes for police, we could kill all cops, but new cops, even if under a different name, would pop up everywhere As long as there is a need for such institutions, they will continue to exist. We need to change the way we view ourselves, eachother, our communities, our relations, etc. We must rid ourselves of a need for prisons.

First and foremost we need to empower ourselves, our friends, our communities, to take back that control, to recognize that we don't need the mediation of strangers to decided what is good or bad, right or wrong for us.
answered Aug 29, 2010 by Katherine diFiore (6,020 points)
edited Sep 20, 2010 by Katherine diFiore
Yeah I completely agree with you
I feel that I didn't directly answer the question of, 'if the prison system were abolished tomorrow what would we do with all the criminals that are /current/ incarcerated', so to add to my answer:
Firstly, the question itself is mildly absurd. The prison system isn't something that /can/ be done away with overnight. As long as we have system where there are "criminals" there will be jails, so that question kinda puts the cart before the horse.
Secondly, /we/ shouldn't /do/ anything to/with them. What options do we have? It would be ridiculous to re-incarcerate them in an "anarchist prison", to put them through "accountability processes" or exile them from communities they aren't apart of. I would argue that we would simply let them be. Most people in jail just want to get out and get on with their lives. Those who continue to cause harm, will be dealt with by those it relates to, but I would speculate that this would be a small minority of cases.
I think I agree with you, I think we could effectively let them be. Not specifically let them out in some kind of mass prison exodus like opening caged birds. But just let them live and if they wish to "re-enter" society then they will be judged as equals to the rest of society. If they are violent individuals, then let those they harm decide what is to be done, potentially in the moment they are harming them or shortly thereafter.
@Anarcho-Goth

Hm, not sure I understand your idea of how to destroy prisons, if we aren't "letting them out" like "caged birds": a cage is either open or it isn't, a prison exists or is destroyed. Is there a middle group you are foreseeing? If you imagine that prisoners are going to stay in these prisons until they "wish to re-enter society" you have a twisted understanding of a prisoner's reality.
I suppose I imagine that prison would cease to exist as a concept, as the would the concept of the "criminal". Without the systems keeping them in prison; wardens, police and courts, they would just be seen as people, free to again re-enter the society they were never truly apart from anyway. Without the state, prisons are merely buildings.
–3 votes
As many anarchists thinks like me, I suggest to heal them by education and love.
answered Jul 14, 2013 by - (100 points)
why do you think they need healing? what kind of education and love are you talking about?
here is one example of people being educated:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reeducation_camp
here is another:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deprogramming
certainly re: the second one, people would say they are deprogramming someone out of love...
as would the missionaries running and teaching in missionary schools that indian children were forced to attend.

so, unclear on your point....
...