Why not banishment? Or the stocks?

Why does prison (and the unspoken assumption of being raped in prison) now constitute the catchall punishment for crimes ranging from smoking a joint to murder one? Why not reintroduce some old, tried and true methods? They could hardly be more cruel and unusual than the current prison culture:

Banishment: Like a mandatory witness protection program. Professionals and gang-bangers must work at a North Dakota Jiffy-Lube, or at a Kansas International House of Pancakes. No leaving the city limits for at least a year.

Exile: Especially for white collar criminals–lease a couple some islands in Micronesia or the Marshall Islands and drop Michael Milken Jr. there for about ten years, free to roam but with only a single pay phone on the island and no Internet at all.

House arrest: Actually, this is being tried, isn’t it? I’ve read something about strap-on proximity detectors, or something like that.

The stocks: Especially for various misdemeanors like failing to pay parking tickets. Put the offender’s hands and feet in a hinged wooden board and let him sit there. Point a camera at the stocks and broadcast on the Internet and public access TV. For extra fun, coat his feet with salt and put a goat in the area.

Pros and cons? Other suggestions?

The Cow and Honey cure.

Tie the offender to a tree in a field, naked.
Coat him/her in honey.
Let a small herd of cows in.
Stand well back and watch.

Apparently in Ankh-Morpork, this is a standard punishment for “sexual offences, particularly those against children”

I’d imagine the destination city/country would have a complaint or two about banishment or exile.

“those against children”? Nah, I think the coated-with-honey-and-tied-down-on-top-of-an-anthill method would be more appropriate “cure”. Or, simply being set down in the prison population with a sign around his neck advertising his offense . . .

Since you bring up Discworld punishments, I’ll mention the one favored by Agatean Emperor One Sun Mirror: cut off the offender’s feet and lips, and then set him free–on the condition that he first run around the city while sounding a trumpet.

Now that our jollies are out of the way, though, I really would like some halfway serious discussion of the punishments I’ve mentioned, or some alternatives.

Banishment (to a city): not if the offenders were nonviolent, or were housed in a halfway house at night.

Exile (to an island): not if the government leased some uninhabited islands.

I’m certain that the people in that city would not want offenders, violent or not, imposed upon them. Who wants to live in an area known nationwide as a “second chance saloon” for offenders?

Leasing uninhabited islands - would the country be responsible for feeding, clothing and medically treating the offenders? Globally? And how about security (to ensure that they don’t leave and that nobody visits)? The costs would be huge. And if the country decides not to, I could see enormous international protests - could you imagine the media tomorrow if it emerged that (say) the UK had been marooning prisoners on a small island in the Western Isles?

For the city–I dunno, maybe the Feds can create a new city in the desert. Although if an existing town were small enough, I think they could easily be persuaded by a large enough subsidy.

For the islands–I’d say that, after passing a health check, the prisoners should be set up as subsistence farmers if possible. And the US will be responsible for feeding, clothing, and housing them anyway, and the cost of transportation can be deferred by savings in prison guard salaries. Set up electronic equipment to detect the prisoners’ whereabouts and set up a Coast Guard patrol to ensure that no unscheduled visitors arrive.

If the world’s opinion mattered to us, we could set up a moratorium on federal executions in exchange for a federal prisoner exile program.

Didn’t know the court system assumed prison rape, especially since it’s not nearly as prevalent as mainstream TV would make it out to be.

Otherwise, to the OP, I agree that alternate forms of punishment should be explored, and it’s been my understanding that they are (such as, as you mention, in-home incarceration). I’m not so sure that banishment or exile are the solution, though. Anybody got any links to what the psych or correctional professionals say on the subject? I’m sure there are many treaties out there with some decent ideas.

Now, of course, getting those things put into place, I doubt that’d happen any time soon…


Or software engineers, facing an 80% tax rate.

I can’t tell how prevalent prison rape is portrayed on TV, but SPR thinks it’s pretty common.

I’m guessing that the major objection would be that the convicts would be taking jobs away from law-abidin’ citizens. Municipalities have been absolutely delighted to welcome violent offenders, drug users, and the like–into prisons which provide jobs and inject much needed cash into local economies.