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Making explicit the principles of reciprocal altruism that have passed criminals by
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It has been said that increased levels of crime result from the alienation felt by individuals living in a society of strangers. It has also been said that criminality (or virtue, for that matter) is sometimes as much a matter of habit as morality. I don't wish to debate those two notions; I would like to debate the feasability of the following...

All prisoners have a computerised score reflecting their behaviour, which I shall call 'karma' - in analogy with, rather than direct reference to, the religious term. Prisoners enter prison with a negative 'karma' score, dependent on the severity of their crime. Every prisoner has the ability to increase or decrease the karma of each other prisoner as they interact with them, although such karma rating is covert, for a variety of reasons. Importantly, the extent to which a karma score is increased or decreased is a function of the karma score of the increaser/decreaser. Prison staff intervene in the system acting as a increaser/decreaser with very high karma, rewarding prosocial behaviour such as attending courses, and punishing misbehaviour. Still with me? Various controls would have to be implemented to prevent karma vendettas, karma boosting partnerships or karma boosting rings, etc. For example, the effect of repeated karma ratings of one individual by another would decay rapidly with time. Wonderful computer software would pick up suspect karma rating patterns for staff to bust any karma boosting gangs. Perhaps (low-karma) prisoners could be asked to explain the reason for each karma rating at the end of each day with spurious ratings dropped.

It would be hoped that the above would provide a system to rate the effect of social interactions in the prison environment. The aim of such a system would be to promote an environment in which virtue is a measure of status, rather than physical strength or associations with feared individuals. As long as corruption in prison staff is avoided, their objective and powerful karma-rating influence would ensure that power in the system would stay with those whose behaviour was favoured by the prison authority.

To give the karma rating meaning, it should be used to provide benefits to the prisoners. I would not be so bold as to suggest that a high karma rating should be sufficient grounds for release, although it could be taken into account. It could also be taken into account for transfers to lower security prisons (e.g. a "SPAR system prison"). It could be used to provide benefits to prisoners - better cells, better food, hot showers, privacy, televisions, etc... However in this case there is perhaps a risk that prisoners will rationalise their good behaviour in terms of their subsequent rewards. I am not sure how much of a problem this would be. Either way, it would probably be a good idea to group prisoners by karma score, to create communities with norms of prosocial behaviour and encourage a progression from low karma to the sort of behaviour accepted on 'the outside'.

radicalllama, Jul 16 2008

Halfbakery: SPAR System SPAR_20system
[radicalllama, Jul 16 2008]

Halfbakery: Car-Ma Car-Ma
Inkarmaceration for cars, sort of. [radicalllama, Jul 16 2008]

Prison tycoon... wow. http://www.prisonty.../pages/screens.htm#
Related? I wonder if they rate the prisoners' behavior.. [daseva, Jul 16 2008]


       This is rekarmadiculous.
daseva, Jul 16 2008

       It is called positive re-enforcement.   

       This would work better as a SIMS add-on.
4whom, Jul 16 2008

       Bun for everything that makes prisons actually be usefull to the prisoners.   

       But what is wrong with Karma gangs? Assuming they do have to do good to get better karma rating. Organised karma sounds a lot better then organised crime. They might even stick to it once released and cities will be swarming with karma gangs. Just think of it: gangs of young people running around and helping people, selling karma on the streetcorner. Commercialise karma, after all they sold passages to heaven in the middle ages.
zeno, Jul 16 2008

daseva, Jul 16 2008

       I don't understand the rating mechanism. Is this supposed to be explict (does everybody get a little remote on which to press + and - buttons?), or does someone watch everything and make notes?
jutta, Jul 16 2008

       I'm not sure I understand the rating mechanism either, but I was thinking more of the former than the latter, i.e. everyone has small remotes attached to their persons. I'm still unsure on whether ratings should be in the open (i.e. pointing a remote at someone) or covert (buttons in their shoes?). Each would have consequences... getting knifed in the showers because you weren't happy with Big Willie's responsiveness to your request for the salt... or else a generation of ex-convicts who are peculiarly sensitive to small movements of people's feet. I'm drawn to covert rating because, whilst it would give less immediate feedback about positive and negative behaviour, the uncertainty about what rating was going on could provide a stronger psychological pressure, and one more akin to the emotion of guilt.   

       Either way, the system might be improved if it were connected to the CCTV - karma ratings placing a tag on the CCTV footage for either the prisoner or an external validator to later approve or even quantify the ratings given. This could cut down abuse of the system.   

       Also, agreed that I'm not trying to stop benevolent karma gangs; just guys who sit around giving each other good karma ratings whilst not in fact getting each other cups of tea or complimenting each other's hair...
radicalllama, Jul 17 2008

       What happens to those prisoners who don't believe in Karma? After all belief in Karma is religious, so this system would force a unity of religious beliefs and force many who commit crimes to forsake their belief in God to accept this one. In all Christianity, and true Judaism this is contrary to their belief. Many would consider it blasphemous. It is like forcing God on an atheist, or forcing Jesus on a Jew, or forcing Allah on Christians.   

       Regardless of your karma system, of the 3 studies that I learned were done on prison systems, the singular commonality of them led to the evidence that over 70% of crimes are committed by people with poor relationships with their father. It didn’t matter about their relationship with their mother or other family, their income or poverty, their race, religion, or education. Across the board of offenders or repeat offenders it was poor relationship with their fathers.   

       So forcing people to believe a new religion wouldn’t correct anything.
The collector, Jul 17 2008

       Sorry, I wasn't clear enough in the original idea (now edited), but the 'karma' of which I speak isn't meant to have any religious connotations. I'm simply using the concept of karma as a shorthand for describing a scoring system based on behaviour.   

       I do think that karma is a useful shorthand because just as (with karma) good and bad deeds shape future experiences, so it is with the non-religious 'karma-score' I am proposing - shaping the quality of prisoner's lives in prison. And just as karma makes one responsible for one's own life, this is what I am hoping my idea would do for the incarcerated. I am not trying to change their beliefs (and certainly not religious beliefs), only their behaviour.   

       On, your other point, I would be interested to read the specific studies to which you refer. However, I think it is an over-simplification to focus exclusively on relationships with fathers. Even if the 70%+ figure is correct, it doesn't prove that the offender's relationship with their father was the cause (direct or indirect) of their offending, as I think you are suggesting. (And even if the relationship with the father was causal, that doesn't necessarily say anything about the effectiveness of a new religion as an intervention.)   

       In any case, though fathers are important, I think the evidence points away the position you present, in which "their relationship with their mother or other family, their income or poverty, their race, religion, or education" is inconsequential. For instance, McCord (1982) carried out a study of the relationship between homes broken by the departure of the biological father and later serious offending. A loving mother turned out to be a protecting factor from the loss of a father. (Specifically, 62% offended in broken homes without affectionate mothers, and 52% from unbroken homes but with parental conflict, versus 22% for those from broken homes but with affectionate mothers.) Similarly, Juby and Farrington (2001) showed that boys who remained with their mother after parental separation had similar delinquency rates to boys from intact, low-conflict families, whereas boys who remained with their father had higher delinquency rates. Many other studies suggest the importance of other independent predictors - see for example Farrington (2005).
radicalllama, Jul 20 2008

       I wonder if there's a cheat code for infinite karma like on GTA Vice City...   

       [up up down left right down]
WhereYouAt, Jul 22 2008


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