Prison colonies aren’t more humane than prisons, quite the opposite. You’re taking all the elements of imprisonment and subtracting the protection and rehabilitation offered by your standard correctional facility. Just about everything people like better about a prison colony amounts to just not liking the cells and squalor. Of course, it also has economic advantages to non-prisoners, but their interests in the treatment of others has to be viewed with a critical eye to say the least.
I think the humane way to deal with most crime problems is to start seriously rolling back prison time for many crimes. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of things out there right now that are class quadruple A felonies that should be a minor fine instead. The entire war on drugs springs to mind. The upcoming war on mp3s springs right behind it. Ticketing these folks like speeders would allow much more consistent and aggressive enforcement of these laws, and would make money instead of losing it. Of course we could just tax those activities, but I think you could get a lot more fence-sitters onboard if you pretend there’s a difference.
Speaking of which, anybody ever thought about how apropos the phrase “Possession is 9/10ths of the law” is these days?