Penal Colonies

I’ve long been an advocate of bringing back penal colonies. At any one time American has about 1.5 million people in prison and about 150,000 of those are serving life sentences. Then you have a greater number serving long sentences of 15 years on more. There’s probably about a third of our prison population who will spend most of their lives in jail. Many will be released eventually, but as old men.

At the same time, the vast majority of prisoners are doing short stints on minor crimes. Drugs probably make up the bulk of it, but many of these cons pleaded down to the drug charge so it is not a good assumption to make. Libertarians always get this wrong. The guy doing time for weed is often there as result of a plea, where the more serious charge was dropped.

Anyway, having a million low-level offenders in with a population of hard core criminals in for serious violent offenses is crazy. States and the feds try to segregate the prisons, but it is not always practical. Of course, the expense of maintaining cages for violent lunatics is higher when you choose to put those cages close to population centers. The result is a terrible prison system that costs a lot of money.

There’s another piece. Many of these people will never be able to live as normal people. Call it evil. Call it bad wiring. They are just incapable of living a civilized existence. Former football star Lawrence Phillips is a great example. This guy was given every chance to avoid a life of crime, but he just liked hurting people too much. In prison serving 30-plus years, he is a menace to his fellow prisoners now. Why put him near people you intend to release one day?

We have lots of small islands we could use for penal colonies. Guys like Phillips could be shipped off to these places with other violent lunatics. Yeah, they will probably kill each other, but so what? Why spend billions stopping nature from taking its course? Stick them on the island and let them sort it out on their own. That way, they cause no more harm to decent people.

I’m not suggesting we maroon them on an island without supplies or medical care. A facility to distribute food and basic health care would be necessary. Shelters would be provided, but if they destroy their housing then that’s on them. This is not supposed to be Club Med, just a place for them to live out their lives in the degree of peace they choose, away from civilized society

Similarly, an island for sex offenders makes sense. These people are never going to be cured. Stick them on an island to themselves. You drop in food and supplies, but otherwise they are on their own to make their structures, organizes themselves and so on. Maybe a government run medical facility can be maintained on the island to handle the basics.

It sounds cruel, but is it more or less cruel than putting them into these sadistic hell holes we call prisons where more men are raped than women in the whole country. That’s right. More men are raped in prison than women are raped outside of prison.  At least on the island, you have some chance to save yourself from that horror.

That’s the other part of it. Libertarians bitch about the cops, but there are no worse humans than prison guards. If your dream job involves looking up another man’s ass for contraband, you’re a man with problems. Stories like this are far more common than people probably realize.

We’ll have to have jails. Locking up drunks and thieves is a necessary part of society. Maintaining cages for hyper-violent lunatics we never intend to let free only makes sense if there are no other options. Hanging them used to be the solution, but that’s no longer possible. Putting them in a penal colony is possible and more humane. This is basically what Russia has always done, sending prisoners to Siberia.

The one other change that would have to be made is in sentencing. Sending a  weed dealer off to jail for 15 years is crazy. At the same time, giving a violent repeat offender 15 years is just as crazy. Penal colonies have to be forever punishments so giving out terms of 15 – 30 years would have to end. Punishments would be two tracks. One for those who can rejoin society and one for those who cannot.


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11 Comments on "Penal Colonies"

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james wilson

I guess Catalina could hold ’em. 13,500 per square mile would pack in a million there. That would leave over two thousand square feet for each critter, maybe a thousand after easements.


But it’s only 26 miles across the sea!

Coincidence: I have long advocated the same on this side of the Atlantic, but for a slightly different reason. Britain has many partially or wholly deserted islands (and if Scotland stays in the Union, even more out in the Atlantic) which can be turned into a prison for the incorrigible. Like you said, supplies can be airlifted in and if they are given shelters (probably made of concrete) they can sort out their own society. Sure some may kill each other but unless they set up their own judicial system there will be no court case, nothing other than retribution… Read more »

For the lifer population I have always advocated chemical restraint. A simple implant, renewed when required, could reduce the violent element to a pastoral flock requiring little correctional supervision. If they are indeed sociopaths, and cannot help their violet proclivities then simple medication could relieve their and societies problems. Why punish when you can sedate?


Not a bad idea, really, but it would empty out lots of places, including, by your description, the area you live in. We’re already at the “Escape from New York”, “Escape from LA”, “Escape from Detroit”,”Escape from East St. Louis”, “Escape from 3rd Ward of Houston” (keep on indefinitely) stage. We’d need a good-size island. Madagascar-sized, or Zanzibar-sized, maybe.


Robert Heinlein explores this concept nicely in his short story ‘Coventry’. It makes so much sense, especially for country as large as America, it is difficult to understand why we are not already doing it. Thank you for bringing it up.


Bill James (the baseball sabermetrics guy) put forth an ambitious prison reform scheme in his “Popular Crime” book.

Sailer discussed it here:


[…] predators is never coming back in the West, until the Muslims take over.  A compromise is to setup penal colonies to house people like this […]


[…] predators is never coming back in the West, until the Muslims take over.  A compromise is to setup penal colonies to house people like this […]


[…] be similarly punished as we know that sex criminals can never be rehabilitated. This is where penal colonies make a lot of sense. Sexual assault, on the other hand, is a made up crime that is entirely […]