I’ve maintained that becoming a determinist leads many people to promote criminal-justice and prison reform. This comes from realizing that people have no choice in their actions—including committing crimes—and so criminals should be treated as if they were broken machines to be fixed (if possible) rather than as “people who made the wrong choice.” Readers have responded that promoting prison reform can also come from non-deterministic world views, and that’s true. But I believe that “hard” determinism, not sullied by the semantic taints of compatibilism, leads more automatically and naturally to criminal justice reform.
Well, you might disagree, but that’s not important for today’s post. I think most of us will agree that American prisons are cruel, inhumane, and do a lousy job of rehabilitating prisoners. That’s largely, I suspect, because American prisons are directed more toward punishment than rehabilitation, and what you learn in prison is how to commit more crimes.
But here’s a country where prisoners are treated much more humanely: Finland. And here’s the story of one Finnish murderer who’s serving a long sentence but appears to be on the path of reformation. As the video claims, the recidivism rate in Finland (re-imprisonment within two years after release) is half of what it is in America. If you see the environment experienced by Finnish prisoners, and the efforts made to treat them humanely and reform them, that makes sense.
If someone can really be turned into a good and useful citizen, very unlikely to do any more crime, why should they be kept in jail under horrible conditions? You may say—and some will—that “the U.S. is not Finland.” But why can’t it be in the ways shown below?