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Biotech Prisons - Serve A Thousand Years In a Day

Prison is expensive; it costs about $40K per year to incarcerate human beings. What if punishment could be dealt out using chemical or biological means that imposed a hellish experience on the prisoner, manipulating their sense of time so it was less expensive? Should criminals experience a thousand years of prison in a day?

University of Oxford scholars led by the philosopher Rebecca Roache have begun thinking about the ways futuristic (sfnal?) technologies might transform punishment.

What about life expansion that meddles with a personís perception of time? Take someone convicted of a heinous crime, like the torture and murder of a child. Would it be unethical to tinker with the brain so that this person experiences a 1,000-year jail sentence in his or her mind?

Rebecca Roache: "There are a number of psychoactive drugs that distort peopleís sense of time, so you could imagine developing a pill or a liquid that made someone feel like they were serving a 1,000-year sentence. Of course, there is a widely held view that any amount of tinkering with a personís brain is unacceptably invasive. But you might not need to interfere with the brain directly. There is a long history of using the prison environment itself to affect prisonersí subjective experience. During the Spanish Civil War [in the 1930s] there was actually a prison where modern art was used to make the environment aesthetically unpleasant. Also, prison cells themselves have been designed to make them more claustrophobic, and some prison beds are specifically made to be uncomfortable.

"I havenít found any specific cases of time dilation being used in prisons, but time distortion is a technique that is sometimes used in interrogation, where people are exposed to constant light, or unusual light fluctuations, so that they canít tell what time of day it is. But in that case itís not being used as a punishment, per se, itís being used to break peopleís sense of reality so that they become more dependent on the interrogator, and more pliable as a result. In that sense, a time-slowing pill would be a pretty radical innovation in the history of penal technology."

Science fiction authors have been thinking about this for at least a generation (that I know about - perhaps readers can post other examples). Most recently, in his 2011 story Complete Sentence, Joe Haldeman writes about virtual punishment:

"We went over the pluses and minuses before you opted for virtual punishment." "So I serve a hundred years in one day -"

"Less than a day. Overnight."

... She looked over at Draper, lying on the gurney next to hers. His black helmet was more complicated, a thick cable and lots of small wires...
(Read more about Haldeman's virtual punishment)

In his 1963 story The Days of Perky Pat and in his 1965 novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Philip K. Dick introduces the idea of Can-D, a psychoactive drug that, combined with a Perky Pat layout, allows users to actually enter into a shared experience ("translation") that allows users to experience longer periods of experiential time as opposed to actual physical time.

In his 1988 book Mona Lisa Overdrive, William Gibson refers to a kind of mind control imposed on prisoners to make them more manageable while they are serving their time:

Korsakov's, they called that, something they did all to your neurons so that short-term memories wouldn't stick. So that the time you did was time you lost, but he'd heard they didn't do it anymore, or any way not for grand theft auto. People who hadn't been there thought it sounded easy, like jail but then it's all erased, but it wasn't like that. When he'd gotten out, when it was over -- three years strung out and a long vague flickering chain of fear and confusion measured off in five minute intervals, and it wasn't the intervals you could remember so much as the transitions...
(Read more about Korsakov's)

From Aeon via Frolix_8.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/21/2014)

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