How life would look like in a Penal Colony

Previously we have argued in favour of sending dangerous criminals to penal colonies, where the criminals have to stay but are further free to do what they want. In this post we have a closer look on what life would look like there.

First the colony itself has to be designed. A small space habitat as the Stanford torus designed for about 10,000 people, seems to be suitable to serve as a penal colony. There will be some non-convict staff, but since the convicts are not supposed to be under 24/7 supervision as in normal prisons, the number of guards can be kept low. It suffices to control the entrée and exit gates of the colony, in order to prevent escape.

Most staff would consist of medical and paramedic personal and probation officers. But the non-convict stuff should be no more than 25% of the total number of residents. Instead most of the services should be provided by the convicts themselves. For instance some convicts could get a barber’s license and provide hair cuts to other criminals, hence there will be no need for hiring non-convict barbers.

A part of the colony will be reserved for agriculture, and plots of agricultural land will be given to some convicts for the purpose of growing food for the colony’s residents. This will reduce the need of importing food, and hence saves public funds. Agricultural surpluses will be exported in order to cover the expenses of the colony.

Other convicts will be employed to run the shops in the colony, or in the waste management department. But importantly all employment of convicts is done voluntarily, because forced labour is generally less productive. However, taking up some employment will increase the likelihood of being eligible for parole.

Besides employment the convicts will need accommodation. Our suggestion is to house them in simple residential containers, which could look like this one. And here we have a picture of how the interior might look like. Though the floor plan of such container has some similarities with a prison cell, the main difference is that in this case the convicts are not locked op in their containers and are allowed to leave it at any time. Since the convicts are supposed to prepare their own meals, each container will have a cooking unit.

For those who think this treatment is “soft”, recall that everyone sentenced to penal transportation has to stay in the colony for at least fifteen years, during which they are isolated from their friends and family (given the remote location of the penal colony, visits are almost out of the question). And a person condemned to this penalty, has to live among people who have proven to be dangerous criminals. Further parole is not guaranteed, but is at the full discretion of the government.