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"How realistic is the concept of a space gulag?" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2020 9:36 p.m. PST

"So let's say you want another option outside of a stern talking too, a fine, confining to quarters, demeaning tasks, VR "re-education," beating the snot out of somebody, or showing them the door (i.e. spacing them). Maybe you need to keep them around for political reasons. Maybe they have a useful bit of knowledge that my come in handy some day. Maybe the crime falls in between beating the snot out of them and boiling their cerebral spinal fluid in an ocean of nothingness.

How realistic is a space gulag in general? How realistic is it that they end up mining whatever it is on a brutal rock isolated from everyone else with JTK? What would the conditions be like? What would keep this place running? Mining output? Payment from the original society?…"
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Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2020 9:40 p.m. PST


Have you ever seen Earth 2?


Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2020 10:28 p.m. PST

I'd say not very, until space travel and settlements become a lot more economical.

Much cheaper to house them in horrible conditions dirtside.

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2020 11:38 p.m. PST

There's a lot of people incarcerated, world wide.


If you correlate the wealth and ability needed to create prisons in space with the largest prison populations, I guess that leaves the possibility for China, Russia or the US.

Thresher brings up the pertinent issue of the economic benefits of having a huge number of people incarcerated on earth as opposed to the expense of removing them.

It's an interesting question, nonetheless.

Mobius03 Jan 2020 5:42 a.m. PST

There probably wouldn't be any work for them as machines would do all the mining. Though that would give the prisoners all day to plan on escaping.
If they have a life sentence with no chance of parole then dropoff them and their habitat from a transport and don't even land.

Bigby Wolf03 Jan 2020 6:59 a.m. PST

I think there'd be too much temptation for games of
"Oops! Surprise decompression!"

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2020 7:44 a.m. PST

(a) nothing until things get a lot cheaper.
(b) hard for me to imagine that our present policy of keeping alive identified homicidal maniacs will endure that long, but if transportation were cheap enough, it might be economical off-site storage for con men, burglars and the like. See Australia. Or Georgia.
(c) otherwise, not so much a gulag as a vent, I think: let a few fanatics go found colonies and take their goofy ideas with them. See Plymouth Colony, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland and (extreme case) Rhode Island.

We won't live to see the reality, and it's plausible enough for SF. I have my doubts about off-planet "hard labor" though. Requires too much supervision, and forced labor grows less competitive over time. More sensible just to drop them some place where survival requires said hard labor.

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2020 12:34 p.m. PST

See Australia.

The prisoners transported by the British to the Antipodes did include some genuine criminals but the vast majority were victims of an unfair judicial & social system. The rich found it expedient to institutionalise poverty then make property crime carry draconian penalties. The "Bloody Code" had 220 crimes punishable by death by the end of the C18th century. Judges & juries would often transport convicted criminals (children as young as 7!) to side step the horror of these laws. About a third of all "criminals" at this period are sent to OZ. Most had stolen minor things in order to survive: the literal crust of bread.

So, back to the present. Would it benefit , say, the Top Three (see my link) to rid themselves of their vast and swollen number of prisoners by sending them off-planet?

The Chinese have a lot of political prisoners in the millions of prisoners as do the Russians, so I'd think "yes" for reasons expounded below.

BTW why does the US have what seems to be a greatly disproportionate number of incarcerated? Clearly not political prisoners, so I'm not sure in their case.

It comes down to expense I guess but if the Chinese government, for example, thought there could be political benefits in such a scheme, it might happen.A large prison population, amongst other problems, is an embarrassment to the country and "Sci-fi transportation" a way of hiding the issue.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2020 12:59 p.m. PST



Cuprum203 Jan 2020 7:13 p.m. PST

The sense of punishing the offender is either to correct his behavior, or, if this is considered impossible, in isolation from society.
It will be cheaper to immerse the criminal for correction in virtual reality, where it will be possible to carry out any psychological work with him. For example – play the gulag as a prisoner)))
To isolate the criminal from society, the easiest way is to send him to a distant colony. It is not necessary to create any unbearable living conditions – migrants will create living conditions for themselves, as well as provide a standard of living. The benefits are obvious – the development of new territories and the isolation of undesirable elements from society.

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2020 11:07 p.m. PST

Heinlein had something to say about the matter:


Just because you're a convict doesn't mean you're a criminal.
Again, when you look at the numbers in the link I gave (above) , you wonder.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2020 12:07 p.m. PST



Ghostrunner07 Jan 2020 5:17 p.m. PST

I can very easily see the North Korean headline…

"Leader's disgraced uncle regains honor by volunteering for ‘deep space assignment'"

After all, I guess there's a small chance the tank round he was attached to could achieve orbit.

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