notes on prisons...

II. The fundamental rights of the victim

Revenge is not a "fundamental right", nor is punishment. Justice requires, however, that a criminal make restitution for his crime.

The proper recipient of such restitution is the victim.

In cases of fraud, "loss" is easy to determine and restitution straightforward. One cannot place a dollar value on a human life (or on any fundamental right), though, so in fixing restitution in cases of murder, for example, one must take into account the responsibilities that the victim had to his family and others. (see note


III. The fundamental rights of the individual in a society


IV. The valid powers of government

The state, as the agent of the people, has the valid power to enforce contracts, (including restitution), to ostracize, and to defend. It does not have a valid power to violate fundamental human rights: to torture, to kill for the sake of killing, to take property for reasons other than restitution or payment for the services of the state. The state does not have the valid power to infringe the right to liberty.

Insofar as convicted criminals are concerned, then, the government has the valid power and the duty to do the following:

1. Physically remove dangerous individuals from society; in other words, provide for the ostracism of persons who pose a threat to the rights of citizens

2. Oblige criminals to make restitution to their victims and to the community

3. Establish a scale of restitution

4. Protect the fundamental rights of prisoners

5. Help prisoners prepare for their eventual return to society


The state may act against an individual only when that individual poses some kind of threat to other individuals. For example, in most cases the abuse of drugs by an individual is not a threat to the well-being of others. Drug-taking, therefore, should not per se be punishable by the state.