Jonah: Roger on your last. I had a colleague in England circa 1980 who had
been a prison probation officer in a previous life. I remember the
following from our conversations. (1) There are three kinds of people doing
time in prison: the sad, the bad, and the mad. (2) Prison serves four
social purposes: punishment (you did something bad to us, now we’ll do
something bad to you), incapacitation (locked up in here, you are no threat
to free citizens), deterrence (free citizens who may be thinking of a career
in crime see how it ends up) and rehabilitiation (we’ll have a shot at
making something decent out of you, if you seem willing). He also told me
that imprisonment was a recent invention, historically speaking. Most of
the great ancient civilizations–Rome, China, etc.–held very few prisoners.
The usual punishments for antisocial acts throughout most of human history
were exile, mutilation, or death. Imprisonment is a pretty new idea.