Vine & Fig Tree

Justice &

  • R.J. Rushdoony, "Prisons," Institutes of Biblical Law.
  • Joseph Farah, "Crime and Punishment," WorldNetDaily, Feb.24, 2000
  • Adrian Moore, "Private Prisons FAQ," Reason Public Policy Institute
  • Eli Lehrer, "High behind bars," National Review Online 
    "Even behind the barbed wire and guard towers of America's prisons and jails, a total triumph over drugs still eludes the nation. America's failure to keep drugs out of a place where almost nobody believes they belong illustrates the problems of the drug wars as well as the management crisis inside America's prisons."
  • Timothy Lynch, Population Bomb Behind Bars, CATO Daily Commentary, February 23, 2000. "As the nearby chart shows, it took over two hundred years for America to hold one million prisoners all at once. And yet we have managed to incarcerate the second million in only the last ten years."
  • William A. Niskanen, CRIME, POLICE, AND ROOT CAUSES, CATO Policy Analysis No. 218 November 14, 1994. 
  • Nick Gillespie, "Swift Justice for Private Prisons," Reason magazine.
  • Tom G. Palmer, 'Hi, My Name Isn't Justice, Honey,' and Shame on Lockyer, L.A. Times, Wednesday, June 6, 2001
         Here's what California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said at a press conference about Enron Corp. Chairman Kenneth Lay: "I would love to personally escort Lay to an 8-by-10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, 'Hi, my name is Spike, honey."'
         Here's why Lockyer should be removed from his office of public trust: First, because as the chief law enforcement officer of the largest state in the nation, he not only has admitted that rape is a regular feature of the state's prison system, but also that he considers rape a part of the punishment he can inflict on others.
         Second, because he has publicly stated that he would like to personally arrange the rape of a Texas businessman who has not even been charged with any illegal behavior.
         Lockyer's remarks reveal him to be an authoritarian thug, someone wholly unsuited to holding an office of public trust.
         But his remarks do have one positive merit: They tell us what criminal penalties really entail.
         Contrary to some depictions of prisons as country clubs, they are violent and terrible places.


Q. What role would prisons play in an Christian anarcho-capitalist society?
A. None.

Prisons do not bring justice. If Smith steals $1,000 from Jones, justice demands that Smith restore Jones to his pre-theft state. Smith must "make him whole." The modern "justice system" puts Smith the thief in prison and charges Jones the victim to feed Smith and provide him with cable TV and weight-lifting equipment. If Smith is a really bad fellow, he gets to hang around other bad fellows, compare notes, learn successful strategies, and nurture his envy and bitterness at the world that imprisoned him, making prison a college for criminals. If Smith is not a really bad fellow, but a misdirected soul caught on a bad day, he will likely be subject to homosexual rape and other forms of violence and abuse.

None of this has anything to do with Justice.

Nor does it have anything to do with the Bible.

R.J. Rushdoony, in his essay on "Prisons," in his Institutes of Biblical Law, points out that the Bible never prescribes imprisonment as a punishment, but rather commands restitution. He writes:

According to Leviticus 18:24-30, every departure from God's law is a defilement of men and a defilement of the land: it is the basic pollution of all things. The modern prison system is an important aspect of the defilement of our times.

A major part of today's problem is the absence of a postmillennial gospel. People are characterized by envy-based vengeance rather than by a desire to see conversion and restoration. People are willing to inflict pain on a thief even if that does not restore their stolen goods. The high-sounding term "punishment" is often used. It is an unGodly substitute for justice.