Hensley: A Defense of Prisons

My colleagues call for abolishing prisons which is an idea that, if enacted, would lead to a society in perpetual chaos. Anarchists of all stripes seem to believe that society under anarchism would be some utopia with naturists and vegans and hippies running around collecting flowers and singing Kumbaya. Instead, the results of their ideas would lead to wanton destruction and crime-ridden streets.

I understand the reasoning of my colleagues in that prison in our modern, statist society hurts more than it helps. It has a bias towards minorities thanks to our faulty police system and that hurts communities and families (and individuals must have a community and a family to rely on). The State seems to put people in prison for benign reasons. My problem is the idea of abolishing prisons. Instead of returning prisons to the people and reforming them, these anarchists support abolishing prisons entirely. This is an overcorrection and would hurt society as a whole.

I mentioned in my first article the idea of community-owned prisons. These would replace our State-owned prisons. They would be run by non-profits, funded through donations from the local community, and would be staffed by locals. They would be private (not the same as the barbaric corporate prisons we call private) and free market thus being high quality and low cost yet would be community owned (as donations require the non-profit to cater to the needs of the community).

Prison in an individualist anarchist society would only be for murderers. There are Six Crimes that violate the natural law (arson, assault, murder, theft, rape, and pedophilia) and only one requires prison. Some conservatives may be up in arms as that would mean pedophiles would walk free. That’s a key difference between murder and the rest of the Six Crimes. Restitution and compensation can punish the guilty and force them into poverty not to mention the shame that comes with the crime. The victim in each case can be recompensed or repaid. However, murder cannot be repaid. It is a crime that takes away a precious gift that you can’t get paid back. If we abolished prisons then killers could walk free. No one would want to live in such a society.

I know defending prisons is unusual for an anarchist. I am prepared to be the bad guy. I expect to be called not-a-real-anarchist or, worse of all, an ancap. I’ve been called that several times despite identifying capitalism as a form of collectivism in my second article. I just believe that we must have practical solutions not radical ideas. I know anarchism is radical, but I’m talking about radical in the sense of being impossible to accomplish. You can’t get Appalachians or Midwesterners or liberals or conservatives or any group to support abolishing prisons.

The natural law and the Six Crimes I mentioned would be a hard sell but there’s some reason behind it. That reason is that a crime isn’t a crime unless it violates another’s property and the punishment should be repayment except for murder. There’s no reasoning behind abolishing prisons. That seems like something the Yippies would call for as a joke in the 1960s. We must recognize that not everyone is a granola girl or hippie who lives out in the forest, foraging for berries and practicing some strange, New Age, pagan religion that worships nature. Anarchism is not utopian. It is a political philosophy like any other. We must recognize that humans are error-prone and that we need a way to deal with these errors.

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Dakota Hensley an individualist anarchist and Christian anarchist from Southeast Kentucky. Follow him at @DakotaAHensley.

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