Chauvin’s Life in Prison

Don't believe everything you see on TV.

There was a lot of speculation in the comments here yesterday that Derek Chauvin’s life is going to become nasty, brutish, and short as a police officer in prison. There were the usual rape fantasies and speculation that he’ll need to seek protection from white supremacist gangs or be placed in solitary confinement given the nature of the crime for which he is infamous. This is all unlikely.

Leaving aside that no justice system, let alone in a civilized society, ought to condone rape, long-term solitary confinement, and other forms of torture, real-life American prisons aren’t “Shawshank Redemption” or “Oz.”

A Vice article from last December (“How Former Police Officers Are Treated in Prison“) explains:

It’s reasonable, then, to expect that a former police officer would not receive a glowing welcome on a typical prison wing. But what the more fanciful depictions of prison violence get wrong is that it’s unlikely that ex-police would be put on a normal wing in the first place. There’s a better chance they’d be placed on a separate wing, according to Neil “Sam” Samworth, a former guard and author of Strangeways: A Prisoner Officer’s Story, a memoir about his time working in one of England’s most notorious prisons.

“At the reception interview, prisoners are asked about the offence they committed and what their occupation was,” Sam explains. “So unless someone lies, it will be flagged up that someone is an ex-police officer straight away. Normally, they would be put on protection, which means they wouldn’t go to a normal wing.”

“If I was a police officer,” says Carl, “I’d be trying to get out of harm’s way, and the best way to do that is to get put in with the sex offenders. People generally request to do that.”

Being house among sex offenders wouldn’t be many people’s first choice, but does come with the benefit of not getting your head kicked in. “You don’t tend to get as many assaults,” says Sam.

If police officers didn’t want to be put in with sex offenders, there is another option: the healthcare wing, which is essentially a hospital within the prison. “One copper we had at Strangeways was offered a job as a cleaner on the healthcare wing,” says Sam. “That’s an orderly job where you’re out during the day, cleaning the showers and doing laundry, things like that.” This policeman remained on the healthcare wing for the full three years he served, despite being in robust health. “It’s quite a safe environment,” says Sam. “There aren’t many prisoners, it’s very small, and a lot of people there are ill.”

[…]

What about the idea, propagated by so many prison dramas, that people would tamper with your food? As with all these nightmarish tropes, in real prisons measures have been taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening – precisely because at one point they did.

“At Strangeways, the kitchens are located quite a long way from the wings,” says Sam. “So when the food trolleys come over, the prisoners who work in the kitchens don’t actually know where they’re going. Prior to this, if they knew a food trolley was going to the Vulnerable Persons wing, then they might well interfere with that food.”

Despite the damage that some inmates might like to inflict on police officers, Carl stresses that prisons generally aren’t as violent as people think. “Jail isn’t a tenth as violent as it’s made out to be,” he says. “People think it’s all brutality, murder, heroin, Fred West. But people in there are there for non-violent crime. I met people in for really stupid shit, like stealing a packet of bacon to feed their kids, or not paying a fine.”

Whether we should put people in prison for non-violent offenses, particularly minor ones, is a question for another time. Regardless, Chauvin is unlikely to put into “Gen Pop” and subject to abuse. Which, again, is good. No one should be.

Indeed, as CNN reports, “He is being held in a segregated unit.”

Chauvin on Tuesday was taken to a state prison — the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights — to await sentencing, Department of Corrections spokesperson Sarah Fitzgerald said.

The correctional facility is in Stillwater, about 25 miles east of downtown Minneapolis. There, he was placed in an administrative control unit – a housing unit that is separated from the general population, Fitzgerald said. “He is on ‘administrative segregation’ status for his safety,” Fitzgerald wrote to CNN in an email. “Administrative segregation is used when someone’s presence in the general population is a safety concern.”

Presumably, he’ll be moved to a permanent facility after sentencing. But, almost certainly, he’ll be in some sort of protected custody. Which is as it should be.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Police
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    While I will agree that putting Chauvin in protective custody is certainly the right thing for a moral society to do, my inner sociopath still leans toward him experiencing what it’s like to be the victim of an Officer Chauvin. Fortunately for all concerned, my inner sociopath doesn’t get to make any important societal decisions.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    Assuming that British memoir generalizes to US prisons, it’s good that prisons are managed to reduce violence and abuse. To the extent they aren’t, I wouldn’t single out Chauvin for concern.

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  3. Mu says:

    Segregations works to a point, during the big revolt in the Santa Fe state prison in 1980 the first thing the rioters did was break into the segregated block and cut up people with blow torches. No legal consequences for the warden for failing to evacuate the at-risk inmates.

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  4. Kingdaddy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I don’t understand your inner sociopath. Sure, someone who is on the receiving end of the evil they’ve perpetrated might see the light. Or they might just sink more deeply into a nihilistic worldview. Sometimes you’re the bat, and other times you’re the ball. Who knows what moral destination their minds and hearts will find.

    I don’t want anyone abused, terrorized, molested, or murdered, which is why I want justice done in the cases of abusers, terrorists, molesters, and murderers. “I’d like to see them get theirs” is just a way of saying that there are legitimate circumstances under which someone might be victimized — which, of course, is the opposite of saying that victimizers never have a reason for their acts. Meanwhile, the victimizers almost always think they have a good reason. So we want to be like them?

    Really, I just don’t get vengeance. I don’t need “closure,” which is just a polite word for vengeance. I need to know that people like Chauvin are no longer threats, that our system of justice can prosecute them, and that there is a decreasing number of future crimes like this one.

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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    This is not the UK.

    First, we don’t have a national prison system, we have 50 state prison systems plus a smaller federal prison system of varying quality. Second, while I’m sure there are some tough boys in UK prisons, they aren’t dominated by gangs to the extent that many of our state systems are.

    The only stats I’ve seen suggest that 4% of prison inmates are subject to some form of sexual assault. That number is likely bullshit – inmates don’t necessarily ‘share,’ with researchers. Crimes committed in prison – sexual assault, assault and battery, torture, etc… – inmate on inmate, guard on inmate, are almost certainly underreported for obvious reasons.

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  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kingdaddy:
    I agree with you that prisons should be safe and orderly, but I definitely understand @Just nutha ignint cracker: desire for revenge.

    Maybe you’ve led a charmed life and not been the victim of violence or the credible threat of violence. Many years ago my wife was jumped walking down the street by a guy who put a gun to her head and tried to drag her into a field to rape her. She remembered to pretend to faint, slumped, the guy lost his grip, she screamed bloody murder and he pistol-whipped her across the face. I heard her scream, ran outside to find her face covered in blood.

    Had the perp been caught, I’d have wanted him to have a safe and orderly prison experience. But had I caught him, I’d have used a baseball bat to break his knees up so badly he would never jump anyone again. Or jump, period.

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  7. S. Waters says:

    @gVOR08: A British national cannot possibly know what an American prison is like. Especially a medium or maximum facility. I served five years in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Didn’t meet or hear of a single gang member. Other inmates identified you from where you were from. Chicago or L.A., etc. I break out in a cold sweat just thinking about gang infested and sexual predators in Corrections across the U. S. today. Just a visit to YOUTube will open you eyes. U. S. Prisons are horrible cesspools, under funded and under staffed, and this creates danger to many men and women.

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  8. mattbernius says:

    @Kingdaddy:
    It’s a sense of moral justice that is deeply ingrained in most Americans (and I think perpetuated by popular media). As I will repeat ad nauseam (apologies all), we wired for punishment and that, more than anything else, is the driver of our mass incarceration issue.

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  9. EddieInCA says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    I understand @Just nutha ignint cracker completely.

    You’re a better human being than I. I want Chauvin to suffer. I want other police to know they can no longer do what they’ve been doing for the last century.

    Dr. Joyner writes: “But, almost certainly, he’ll be in some sort of protected custody. Which is as it should be.”

    My response would be: “Why? Why should he be in protected custody? The fact that he’s a cop? To me, that is the reason he should NOT be in protective custody.”

    We give police a gun and a badge and give them the power of life and death. When they screw up, it affects more than just the people they directly harmed. The bigger issue is the eroding of trust in the system. For that, I want them put in the general population, not protected.

    Play stupid games. Win stupid prizes.

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  10. mattbernius says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Dr. Joyner writes: “But, almost certainly, he’ll be in some sort of protected custody. Which is as it should be.”

    My response would be: “Why? Why should he be in protected custody?…”

    Again, the real issue is why can’t we create a safer prison environment for everyone. The problem is that Chauvin may be more protected, it’s that we can’t give that protection to everyone. I’d rather focus on the latter rather than the former (though @Michael Reynolds’ comment about our fragment prison system again makes that really, really hard to do).

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  11. James Joyner says:

    @EddieInCA:

    “Why? Why should he be in protected custody? The fact that he’s a cop? To me, that is the reason he should NOT be in protective custody.”

    I understand the desire for vengeance which, as @mattbernius suggests, is really at the heart of our awful system of incarceration. But human decency—and the 8th Amendment—would seem rather obviously to require the protection of those known to be in danger while under state custody. Chauvin has been sentenced to the loss of liberty, not to rape and abuse.

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  12. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner: @mattbernius:

    So we have to protect Chauvin because of “human decency”? Eff that! Where was the human decency Chauvin showed George Floyd? Where was the human decency shown to Floyd by the other three officers?

    Sorry. No.

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  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    @mattbernius:

    Again, the real issue is why can’t we create a safer prison environment for everyone.

    Classic divide and conquer. If the prisoners are all fighting each other, they can’t unite against the guards.

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  14. Pylon says:

    I could see Chauvin being targeted by a certain segment of the prison population. But I can also see him being befriended by another (the JK Simmons Oz crew) and also by a large percentage of the guards.

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  15. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “Chauvin has been sentenced to the loss of liberty, not to rape and abuse.”

    Which prisoners have been sentenced to rape and abuse?

    If the answer is none, then why are you concerned that Chauvin in particular get better treatment than the average prisoner?

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Derek Chauvin is probably very fortunate to be serving his time in Minnesota as opposed to Mississippi (Partchman) or Louisiana (Angola). I suspect “protective custody” means something entirely different in MN than it does in either LA or MS.

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  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @mattbernius:

    As I will repeat ad nauseam (apologies all), we wired for punishment and that, more than anything else, is the driver of our mass incarceration issue.

    Mmhmm. All that Calvinism …

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  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    If you want safer prisons:

    1) The desire for extreme punishment is in part a function of our failure to apprehend bad guys. The more bad guys that don’t get caught, the more fear in society and the more fear, the more desire for showy (and expensive) deterrence.

    2) There are guys who threaten your stuff, there are guys who threaten you, and there are guys who go after children. These are not the same guys. They do not belong in the same system. I was in jail with guys who stole stuff, and one guy who murdered an old lady and cut her fingers off to get her rings. Not the same sort of men at all. We thieves? We were law-breakers, but not evil. The other guy? Evil. We all wanted him locked up. When you put law-breakers in with evil sons of bitches, guess who ends up in charge.

    3) Hire better CO’s. This is much easier said than done, especially in the wastelands where prisons are usually set. Some guards are there to make a living and collect a pension, and they live in places where the alternate career is running the fryer at Hardee’s. Other guards are there because they get off on the power rush. And in some prisons – San Quentin comes to mind – you have a different problem: who the fuck in the Bay Area wants to work keeping men in cages? There are after all, other potential careers. CO’s in California start at something like 45K. In the Bay Area 45K is basically minimum wage.

    4) Stop playing ball with the gangs. Gangs run prisons because the prisons can’t be bothered to run themselves. Low pay for CO’s and scarce resources = gang control. Lock fewer people up, you have more money to run a decent prison system. In many prisons there’s an effective segregation by race, which makes life easier for guards in the short run, but harder for inmates and society at large.

    5) Cut recidivism by taking rehabilitation seriously. I believe in redemption. I’m living proof. We need to treat inmates with substance issues, we need to treat inmates with mental health issues, we need to offer education and job training. We need to stop treating inmate labor like slaves – you don’t teach people to work unless they experience some reward.

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  19. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: “Where was the human decency shown to Floyd by the other three officers?”

    Pretty much the whole point of civilization is that we as a group try to rise above the base instincts to which we as individuals are all prey.

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  20. mattbernius says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Mmhmm. All that Calvinism …

    Yup, I definitely believe that Weber was onto something in “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    1) The desire for extreme punishment is in part a function of our failure to apprehend bad guys. The more bad guys that don’t get caught, the more fear in society and the more fear, the more desire for showy (and expensive) deterrence.

    I haven’t checked case closure rates, but the reality is that crime rates have been in decline for about 2 decades now. Yes, we are currently in an uptick, but we don’t have enough data to see if that’s a trend or not. In terms of closure, I think the rates have remained pretty steady (or gone slightly up, but that may also be police playing with accounting). In terms of convictions, 80+% of people plead, so pretty much if the state presses charges against you, you will most likely be getting some type of conviction.

    However, the perception that crime rates remain high has far more to do with the continued presence of mass incarceration and punitive focus.

    5) Cut recidivism by taking rehabilitation seriously. I believe in redemption. I’m living proof. We need to treat inmates with substance issues, we need to treat inmates with mental health issues, we need to offer education and job training. We need to stop treating inmate labor like slaves – you don’t teach people to work unless they experience some reward.

    People love to talk about rehabilitation but the moment you float stuff like “college in prison” or making the conditions more humane, then folks across the aisle immediately go to “why are we treating people who were convicted crime better than folks who are out of prison.” Show them how other countries like Germany handle prisons and they go balistic.

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  21. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Which prisoners have been sentenced to rape and abuse?

    If the answer is none, then why are you concerned that Chauvin in particular get better treatment than the average prisoner?

    I’ve written a crap ton of posts on the broader issue of the abuses in our incarceration system over the years; my concern is about society, not Chauvin. But it’s also true that people who are naturally going to be especial targets (former cops, child predators, transgender individuals, etc.) should be especially protected.

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  22. gVOR08 says:

    Something of an aside, and a question, perhaps for Kurtz. I have seen several statements by libertarians that criminal deterrence isn’t possible. I made a valiant effort to read Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Sorry, I read for education or entertainment, and after a long slog neither seemed in promise. Nozick says deterrence can deter, but he rejects it because his framework requires an infeasible calculation of the exact punishment. Although his framework seems to depend on such calculations being routine elsewhere.

    I’ve seen various justifications for criminal punishment. For me, a consequentialist, vengeance, “closure” whatever that means, “justice” serve no societal purpose. The only ones that make any sense are rehabilitation and deterrence. And we seem to pay only lip service to rehabilitation, the prison system seems more designed for the opposite.

    So why do libertarians reject deterrence? Do you feel punishment does not deter others? Do you accept Nozick’s view that erring on the side of over-punishing is an unacceptable intrusion on the perp’s liberty? Are there other arguments? What is the libertarian position on criminal punishment?

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  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kingdaddy: My inner sociopath runs with the notion “as you have done, so shall it be done to you: a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye…” and so on. I call him my inner sociopath because he is the person I COULD have grown up to be in different circumstances, and he’s sociopathic because he has a moral code–just not yours–and sees it to be the vehicle by which justice IS achieved. One point of yours with which he will concur is that society acting as the agent for such a justice system would be wrong. The individuals directly affected by the offense need to be the agents of justice in the best version of the vision. Since we have chosen to confine people to dystopia for their crimes, my inner sociopath has no problem with the dystopia’s residents being the agents of justice in that they already are disposed to victimizing others, so there’s relatively low additional psychic/karmic damage to be done.

    As to a decreasing number of these crimes in the future, my inner sociopath wishes you well but will put his money on humanity being exactly what it has shown itself to be so far. The me who I have become wishes that I were able to be more optimistic than my inner abyss dweller, but I’m not.

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  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Exactly! You, as the stakeholder in the matter have the right (and the moral right) to decide in the case as you describe it. One question you might ask yourself is what will breaking his knees so that he will never jump another person again will do to you, and your wife, as the actual victim, would have the option to offer unmerited favor to the perp if she so chose. It’s also possible that either you or your wife would eventually decide that justice comes at too high a price in terms of how taking vengeance will affect both of you, but there’s moral hazard to everything.

    Either way, demanding that society extract your vengeance would only diminish society. Society is bad enough already without adding extra burdens.

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  25. Mu Yixiao says:

    @gVOR08:

    I can’t speak for libertarians, but my view is that…. it’s complicated.

    Deterrence definitely works for a lot of stuff. But this is, I think, mostly for people who want to “get away with something” rather than those people who are out to intentionally commit a serious crime. Anyone looking to shoot up a mosque isn’t going to be deterred by the possibility of getting a prison sentence.

    And, of course, crimes of passion aren’t going to be stopped by “you’ll go to jail”. Nor will it stop those who think they’ll never get caught. Or are so desperate that they have little choice.

    The risk of losing their entire fortune will probably be a deterrent to a white-color embezzler. I don’t see the threat of jail stopping a gang-banger.

    So… basically, you’re only stopping the “honest” people. It’s still (mostly) worth it, but don’t expect great things out of it.

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  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Indeed! And my inner Manichaean salutes you!

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  27. Mu Yixiao says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’m opposed to the death penalty. Not because I think it’s cruel, but because it’s so badly applied. The economic and racial disparities are so staggering–and the number of false positives is unconscionable (especially in light of the afore-mentioned disparities).

    From a purely moral stand point, however, I understand it and how it offers “closure”. We have a need to “defeat evil”. Putting evil in a box doesn’t defeat it. It just… saves it for later. Kill the evil, and it makes us feel better. Safer.

    I don’t, however, imagine that the death penalty has every stopped someone from doing evil.

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  28. mattbernius says:

    @gVOR08:

    I have seen several statements by libertarians that criminal deterrence isn’t possible.

    If they’re philosophers (like Nozick) I frankly don’t really care what they think unless they are addressing ethical issues within their domain bailiwick*. I’m much more interested in the feedback from data scientists (quantitative sociologists, criminologists, and economists) to try and understand what deterrents work. And there is work being done in all of those areas.

    * – This a rule I try to apply to most things, including myself. I’ll share my opinion on things, as you all know, but I’m also the first to admit the very narrow range of topics I’m able to have a truly *informed opinion* on.

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  29. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    my concern is about society, not Chauvin

    Same. And more importantly, my concern is with reforming the system for folks who have less systemic power than Chauvin within said system.

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  30. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Just to go full sociopath, I would never – no matter how provoked – kill someone in revenge. Prosecutors and juries can tolerate a certain amount of righteous mayhem, but murder leaves them no room to take it easy on you. Still, if I busted a guy up I’d expect to be arrested and charged. Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time. (Er…I just made that up. Yeah, that’s the ticket). In that event the time would be easy – I’d be in for an honest beef. There may not be honor among thieves, but there is respect.

    To be clear, I’m not justifying that kind of thing (much), I do recognize that you can’t build a civilization on justice meted out by individuals. But do I understand the impulse? I went looking for the guy who pistol-whipped my wife that same night. Didn’t find him, which is a good thing. like being able to say truthfully that I never committed a violent crime.

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  31. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    Ditto. Absolutely opposed to capital punishment. But do I lie awake nights sad that Timothy McVeigh got the needle? Not even a little.

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  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    How we punish people is about who we are, not about the bad guy. Do we want to belong to a society that sends some prisoners to be raped, and allows others to commit those rapes with impunity?

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  33. Mimai says:

    Lots of “honor culture/ideology” being expressed here.

    The folks at the Sentencing Project have been on this beat for quite a while now. Lots of good resources at their website.

    To Build a Better Criminal Justice System contains a collection of essays that summarizes a lot of research and public policy on such matters – freely available here.

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  34. Teve says:

    Anybody who supports prison rape should rethink themselves.

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  35. Kingdaddy says:

    All of this makes me appreciate even more John Locke’s argument that what makes civil society preferable to the state of nature is that we cannot be trusted to be judges in our own cases.

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  36. Moosebreath says:

    @mattbernius:

    “And more importantly, my concern is with reforming the system for folks who have less systemic power than Chauvin within said system.”

    That’s where I come out. And I think discussing this with Chauvin as the person we have to reform the system because of will be counterproductive.

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  37. OzarkHillbilly says:
  38. rachel says:

    @Kingdaddy: Or Bacon’s essay On Revenge.

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  39. Chip Daniels says:

    How we punish people is about who we are, not about the bad guy.

    In my younger days I was a strong supporter of the death penalty. What turned me against it, ironically, was the execution of Ted Bundy.

    I say ironically because Bundy of course, was the poster boy for the death penalty- he was sane, unremorseful, had no mitigating circumstances, no reasons whatsoever to be deserving of anything less than horror.

    Yet…as I watched the crowds outside cheering and screaming lustily for his death, I thought of those medieval crowds who delighted in watching torture or burnings, and it occurred to me how that bloodlust and rage destroys us and turns us into lesser beings, worse versions of ourselves.

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  40. Kurtz says:

    @gVOR08:

    IIRC, you’re in the neighborhood. I really don’t feel like digging for that damned book.

    I don’t think he thought either a retributive model or a deterrence model fulfilled their goals. I think this was one of the key differences between Nozick’s libertarianism and the more radical forms associated with Rothbard.

    His formulation was essentially: the EV (gain times probability of getting caught) of a harm done to another minus the potential cost of punishment. A positive EV incentivizes harm.

    He highlights problems with both models:

    If we go with deterrence, there is a source of indeterminacy. We must determine how much wrongdoing can be tolerated, because to deter all instances of harm would require imposing escalating costs with the aim of deterring other would be violators. The outcome would likely create more unhappiness than caused by the initial transgression.

    If we go with a retributive model, we would add an additional cost, adjusted by the violator’s degree of culpability. This is also indeterminate, and doesn’t even provide a deterrent. If the probability of getting caught is very small or the EV is very high, it misses both marks–it’s both disproportionate (the gain outweighs the cost, cutting against retributive value) and it fails to set up an incentive structure that dissuades would-be transgressors.

    This is from memory, so I am forgetting some nuance. I suspect that’s the case, because this explanation doesn’t exactly draw clear distinctions between the two models in the retributive theory.

    I would also submit that this lays bare some striking limitations in purely analytical approaches to complex human behaviors.

    Lastly, Libertarians cannot be viewed as a solid block. I’ve had extensive discussions with several well-read ones and they differ quite a bit on key issues. One argues that everything, including roads, law enforcement, and other infrastructure should be private with one exception: maintaining overwhelming force in the interest of national defense. Huemer would likely disagree with that on the basis that national borders are an impediment to the free movement of persons, goods, and services. Nozick argues that some form of the State is inevitable, what Rothbard* called “the immaculate conception of the State.”

    Libertarianism is just like any other broad descriptor–it contains multitudes.

    *He’s my favorite of the right-libertarian theorists for a few reasons, one of which is quotes like that.

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  41. Kurtz says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Fucking beautiful response.

    This discussion has made some strange bedfellows. I upvoted a bunch of comments
    that have some amount of tension between them.

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  42. Kurtz says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    Indeed. Well, let’s be honest, one need not go back to the medieval era to find public bloodlust in the realm of crime and punishment.

    The question one must ask is whether our more ‘humane,’ less spectacular institutions of retribution have hidden the bloodlust and distributed moral culpability such that few can be said to be taking direct action, even if those actions are taken on our behalf.

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  43. Kurtz says:

    @mattbernius:

    If they’re philosophers (like Nozick) I frankly don’t really care what they think unless they are addressing ethical issues within their domain bailiwick*. I’m much more interested in the feedback from data scientists (quantitative sociologists, criminologists, and economists) to try and understand what deterrents work. And there is work being done in all of those areas.

    * – This a rule I try to apply to most things, including myself. I’ll share my opinion on things, as you all know, but I’m also the first to admit the very narrow range of topics I’m able to have a truly *informed opinion* on.

    I prefer to think of people like Nozick as political theorists rather than philosophers. Similar to the way (I assume) you see Weber as a sociologist rather than a philosopher.

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  44. Scott O says:

    Related, an article I found interesting from 5 years ago.

    My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard

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  45. Kurtz says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Yeah, let’s not make that guy the discussion starter for reform.

    @Michael Reynolds: @mattbernius:

    It may not be the first step politically, but I think the initial action should be to stop imprisoning people for crimes that do not cause harm to others. Crimes that violate the sanctity of the body? Yeah, sure. Property crimes with no (implied) threat to another individual? How about we, ya know, NOT put the transgressor in prison if only so that just restitution can be made in a timely fashion. And then maybe we can have an honest discussion about whether cocaine and heroin cause violence and terrorism or if most of the the harm attributed to them are due to their criminalization rather than something intrinsic in the substances.

    It seems to me, we can solve many of the problems in the prison system by reducing its population.

    @Kingdaddy:

    Is it just me, or is there no small level of irony in American lust for punishment has created a simulacrum of the state of nature within the walls of prisons?

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  46. gVOR08 says:

    @Kurtz: I appreciate the reply. While your knowledge of Nozick is far deeper than mine, I don’t see a contradiction between your description of his views on deterrence and my more superficial description. I accept there is no such thing as “the libertarians”, after all, the WIKI page on libertarianism is largely a taxonomy. But I have seen self described libertarians say deterrence can’t work, and none of the replies I’ve gotten really address why they say that.

    @Kurtz: Much of philosophy deals with political theory, going back before Plato’s Republic, so the distinction is largely semantic. Given that Nozick made his living as a professor of philosophy and ASU won a National Book Award in the category “Philosophy and Religion” it seems fair to call him a philosopher.

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  47. Teve says:

    @Chip Daniels: Bundy killed a girl at my junior high. The day he was executed our school bus was slowed by people cheering on Baya Avenue, waving signs and shouting. I didn’t know what to think of it at the time. I probably supported it. I don’t now.

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  48. Teve says:

    To be clear, I don’t care if Ted Bundy were thrown into a Troy-Bilt chipper/shredder. I don’t support the death penalty because so many innocent people get it.

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  49. Kurtz says:

    @gVOR08:

    Agreed on all fronts. Your explanation was right on. Just adding a little detail in the course of trying to answer your question. It was kind of a memory exercise for me. I didn’t add that I think he favored the retributive approach, if only for practical reasons.

    I suppose it’s most appropriate to situate Anarchy, State, and Utopia in reference to Rawls’s A Theory of Justice. But in my view, none of it really matters much beyond idea acquisition and understanding how others think.

    Whatever flavor one chooses, L justifies the pomo skepticism of metanarrative. There’s no arrow pointing toward progress or liberty; no wind carrying us toward the end of a rainbow; no point when the weak link snaps. No line drawn from rule by divine right to consent of the governed to the dissolution of the State as checkpoints on the way to human liberation.

    Also, the distinction between political theory and philosophy as one of semantics was exactly my point. I used Weber, because I know Matt is a fan of his work. But they’re both philosophers and as such demonstrate the value of philosophical inquiry to practicing sound science.

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  50. Mimai says:

    @Kurtz:

    Re Rothbard,

    He’s my favorite of the right-libertarian theorists for a few reasons, one of which is quotes like that.

    This surprises me. Aside from the turns of phrases, what are the other major things that make him a favorite. I’m familiar, so a simple list will suffice, though feel free to embellish if you want. If you choose to respond at all.

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  51. mattbernius says:

    @Kurtz:

    I prefer to think of people like Nozick as political theorists rather than philosophers. Similar to the way (I assume) you see Weber as a sociologist rather than a philosopher.

    Fair points. And I really shouldn’t comment on someone I haven’t read (Nozick) in this case. Especially since I haven’t seen how Nozick works with data.

    It may not be the first step politically, but I think the initial action should be to stop imprisoning people for crimes that do not cause harm to others.

    Agreed. Though this also requires also thinking through what social safety nets need to be in place in order to help reduce some of those crimes.

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  52. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    Yet…as I watched the crowds outside cheering and screaming lustily for his death. . .

    Yep. I understand a reaction that runs something like, ‘Well, that’s one asshole we won’t have to worry about again.’ But that salivating, cheering, excited reaction is appalling.

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  53. Kurtz says:

    @Mimai:

    a simple lis will suffice

    I see what you did there. 😉 I know, I know.

    I’ll give two:

    -He recognized that it was a mistake for the libertarian movement to ally with conservatives. He stuck to his principles and told Buckley to go fuck himself (figuratively) when Cato turned jingoistic and bureaucratic to fight the Soviets

    -He recognized that socialism and capitalism were both focused on maximizing individual liberty, which is both true and at odds with the way most people distinguish them.

    Of course, I disagree with a lot of what he thinks about the composition of free markets, but his unreasonableness showed his commitment to reason.

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  54. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Yep. I understand a reaction that runs something like, ‘Well, that’s one asshole we won’t have to worry about again.’ But that salivating, cheering, excited reaction is appalling.

    Yeah, I find this reaction unpleasant.

    But at the same time, I understand it from @EddieInCA more than if it was say, you or I getting a boner at the prospect of danger to Chauvin. You and I don’t have to navigate the public space in the same way Eddie does.

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  55. Mimai says:

    @Kurtz:
    Ha! I didn’t intend to poke you but, in hindsight, am pleased with my implicit self.

    Thanks for the response. Rothbard’s dedicated trolling of Rand was also delicious, especially because they were both so damn hard-headed.

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  56. Kurtz says:

    @mattbernius:

    Agreed. Though this also requires also thinking through what social safety nets need to be in place in order to help reduce some of those crimes.

    Yeah, I recall that scene from The Big Short film, when the two garage investors started dancing and Rickerts chided them, because x number of people commit suicide for each point increase in unemployment.

    It’s interesting that we arrived here on this thread, because the schadenfreude re Chauvin displayed by some liberals is similar to the sudden Republican hand-wringing about rural deaths of despair over the last few years. When those things were mostly seen as a problem in cities, it was a collective moral failing in communities.

    The inconsistencies are so glaring I don’t understand how these people drive without crashing into every parked car.

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