Would Heinlein's "Coventry" work?

In his short story “Coventry,” Robert Heinlein postulates a “reservation” where criminals are exiled.

Exile imposed on those who act to harm others, to a “reservation” where the Covenant is not observed. Coventry is surrounded by a heavily guarded force shield to prevent the exiles from leaving without permission. The concept behind this treatment is that the government has no right to “punish” its members, but an individual who is unwilling to abide by society’s agreements may be ejected from the society.

Could something like that be used today to deal with those sentenced to death, life, or multiple life sentences? Maybe take 75 square miles of Montana, out in the middle of nowhere, fence it off, mine the snot out of the border, station a few anti-aircraft sites in suitable positions, and then dump all the incorrigibles there. Have a few sats to monitor the airspace, and shoot down anything that enters. No way out. We don’t kill them, we don’t imprison them…we simply remove them from society. Forever.

I think with proper planning, this could be cheaper than prison, morally superior to the death penalty, and ease prison overcrowding. I know John Carpenter did this with “Escape From New York,” but that was too close to civilization.

Possible? Desireable? Problems of both the moral and engineering kind?

It makes it even harder on the innocent. Not to mention, what about children born in this hellhole ? Why should different crimes get the same punishment ?

We tried that its called “Australia” :slight_smile:

Sounds like Escape from New York.

Can we include incomplete reading of OPs on the list of crimes to send people off to Coventry for? :smiley:

Seriously, though, in our society, we generally accept that society does have the right to punish its members, so I don’t really see any reason for this, other than to maybe save money. When we start to reject that premise, then maybe we ought to have this debate.

Devil’s Island

But Devil’s Island, Australia, and all the other transport colonies were just that…colonies. What I propose is that we just isolate them completely. Zero contact. No exploitation, no trade, no nothing. We are not using them for labor, we are removing them from a society they have rejected by not playing by the rules.

Der Trihs, what about the children? Who cares? They would have the same impact as children in Africa, or Aruba, or India. This is a “different country.” let them handle their own troubles with kids. It is no longer our problem.

I fail to see how this proposal can be considered morally superior to anything.

It might work, if we set up an infrastructure beforehand, and at least for the first “generation” had the populace seeded with farmers and engineers. But farmers, statistically speaking, don’t commit that many crimes. That’s problem one. Criminals, much like the rest of modern society, are not self-sufficient people. They cannot support themselves without the rest of society at their backs. Sending them off into a wilderness area unprepared is a death sentence, and a slow one at that. The possibility that they might scratch out an existance isn’t a justification.

But let’s assume our inmates do survive in large numbers and think about the children. In a few years Coventry ceases to be a place of exile for criminals, as the population of people born there grows and reaches majority. Perhaps they may even outnumber the criminals. You say that Coventry should be considered a separate nation, and that we aren’t responsible for the conditions the children are born into. But Coventry obviously isn’t another country. It’s inhabitant can’t leave for any nation, can’t trade or make treaties with them, and we’re continually dumping new loads of child molesters and serial killers across their borders. What could possibly give us the right to do that to a soverign nation?

What happened, for instance, such that prison colonies fell out of favor? Simply that no one wants to give up the land, or what?

(bolding added)

Of course, in this scenario we are imprisoning them. Or would we allow them to leave?

Say, for example, that there’s another country that accepts (some) immigrants from this Coventry. They might agree that putting murderers there is fine, but those who commit grand theft auto should be rescued. They don’t want to start a war over it, so they aren’t going to invade us and “liberate” the exiles. However, they want to allow some car-thieves a second chance in their country, and send a helicopter to pick them up.

Would we shoot it out of the air? Would we allow them to attempt their rehabilitation? How would we respond if they formed diplomatic relations with whatever form of government coalesced in Coventry?

If we wouldn’t allow this, then we are explicitly and undeniably imprisoning those people. Therefore, the idea that society doesn’t have the right to punish them has been violated already.

If we do allow this, how do we stop Coventry from becoming a sovereign nation? Eventually some sort of government will form. Other countries may recognize them as legitimate trading partners, or at least a form of cheap labor. They’ll have an economy of some sort, even if we give them little or nothing in the way of natural resources to begin with. If we deliberately try to stop this from happening, we are clearly violating the principal that society has no right to punish these people.

And if we must assume that the only people sent to Coventry are the truly dangerous who are so sociopathic that they cannot form any type of functioning society whatsoever, then we’re only talking about a very small portion of real criminals. Organized crime groups like La Cosa Nostra have been able to remain, well, organized for many, many years, even while being full of those with violent and immoral tendencies. In other words, you’d still need prisons or some form of punishment for the vast majority of criminals that aren’t sent to Coventry.

The problems they have will largely be ones we created. It would be our fault, not that we would care.

Bad idea. I’m not so convinced that a member of society should perform a crime once and be exorcised from society. Isn’t that one of our problems now?

Shouldn’t we be working more towards re-integration and rehabilitation?

Right, so you would sleep well at night knowing that children who have the misfortune to be born to criminals would be stuck growing up in the 75 square miles of earth that contains all the violent, sadistic, sick motherfuckers that prey on little children? It’s all well and good that your children are away from the child rapists, but the children of criminals have to grow up surrounded by them?

The problem of children is easily solved by separate facillities for male and female exilees.

I’d prefer using deserted islands, somewhere way out in the middle of an ocean, probably in the tropical zone. Each exilee would be provided with a knife, first aid kit, supply of fish hooks and a copy of the Boy Scout Manual, or suitable basic survival guide. Whether the exilees live or die is not our problem. If they find the islands undesirable, they have the option of swimming to the nearest country. They may make it, or they may feed the fishes. Again, not our problem if they die. If they make it back to the mainland, perhaps they’d be offered a second chance.

And some city guy - who’s likely illiterate - is going to use that to survive ? Hardly; that’s more of a dishonest way of executing them.

Considering that we put them there, yes it is.

Again, yes it is; we stuck them there.

Why would they want a second chance with people who’d do such a thing ? It’ll just give them a great excuse to claim that society is in no moral position to judge them.

A couple other problems : What if they are innocent ? Do we say “Sorry we sent Daddy off and he froze to death.” ?

What happens to the political stability of our country, when large numbers of poor, dark skinned people are grabbed, shipped off and never seen again ? It’s bad enough when they just go to prison disproportionately; it’ll be worse if they are essentially fed to wild animals, and forbidden to breed; it just screams “eugenics !”.

Another thing to remember about the children: the grandchildren of U.S. citizens are automatically U.S. citizens, the status of their parents nonwistanding. As citizens, they deserve the full protection of U.S. law.

I like George Carlins version.

I’d support this the same way I support the death penalty- only if every single precaution is taken to make sure we don’t give such a sentence to an innocent

And RE “what of the children born into this hellhole?”

HELLO! Ever hear of sterilization?

In Heinlein’s Coventry those who had committed offenses serious enough to warrant exile could avoid it by undergoing psychological rehabilitation. Most of their crimes boiled down to being “antisocial”. It wasn’t just that they had committed a crime, but that they were incapable of understanding that such an act was not acceptable.

So the issue of just dumping criminals does not apply. Some of those exiled were members of groups dedicated to dominating the country, and imposing a regime with no mercy at all.