By Mike Tront
In a continuation of my series on criminal justice in a libertarian world with private police and courts, last week I wrote about how crimes against a poor person could still be solved. Even if the victim couldn’t afford any upfront costs or crime insurance. You can check it our here.
This week, I’m going to write about a specific, unfortunate situation and how it could be effectively solved without government. I’m talking about how could a murder against an absolute friendless, family-less, homeless, penniless, insurance-less, destitute person ever get solved?
In today’s world, we know that solving violent crime falls on the government. They have a monopoly on police and courts and jails, so we have to use them for better or for worse. If you’re wealthy, it tends to work out better for you and if you’re poor it tends to work out worse!
Without taxes to fund a government police department and court system, the murder of a destitute person seems destined to go unsolved and unpunished.
I imagine most people would have violent crime insurance, so their beneficiary would get paid by the victim’s insurance policy. The insurance company would then pursue the matter to find out who committed the crime in an attempt to recoup their losses in the form of restitution from the criminal. Even a victim who didn’t have insurance, but who does have a spouse, child, parent, close friend, etc who could be considered a beneficiary, could have the murder solved without upfront payment. The potential beneficiary could hire a detective willing to take the case on a contingency basis in the hopes of getting a hefty percentage of the restitution.
But what about the homeless person with no family, friends, or beneficiary? With no one to pursue the criminal, how can this case get solved and the proper criminal get punished?
The best solution to this problem is the homesteading principle. Traditionally, homesteading is something we think about when we’re talking about previously unowned or abandoned land. The idea is that if a plot of land is undeveloped and no one owns it, you can become the owner by mixing your labor with the land. Either by clearing it out and farming it, or building a house on it, or building a road, etc.
So what does this have to do with a homeless guy getting murdered? The way I see it, if this victim has no beneficiaries available to collect the debt owed to his estate by his murderer, then that estate becomes abandoned property. At this point, anyone who mixes their labor with his estate can own it. In this case, successfully finding out who murdered our unfortunate victim, prosecuting the criminal, and collecting the debt would be considered mixing labor.
One of the most beautiful aspects of this is the idea of a competition among detectives to find the killer. Since there is only one estate to be had, it will be a race among local detectives to gather the necessary evidence to obtain a conviction.
Gaining a conviction is just a start though. Multiple detectives may get a conviction. So who would be the rightful owner of the estate if more than one agency gets a conviction? At this point, it would go to whichever agency actually tracks down and apprehends the criminal. With the criminal and conviction in hand, it’s going to be hard for the other detective agencies to claim they have any rightful ownership to the estate and subsequent restitution payments acquired from the criminal.
Acquiring the Restitution
Here we come to the hardest part. Once the criminal is found and prosecuted, how will restitution be acquired? Odds are that this criminal has little or no assets. With this being a murder case, the restitution could and should be somewhere in the millions of dollars. How do we get this payment?
Today, this criminal would be thrown into a prison at great expense to the taxpayers. The prisoner is now in a terribly unsafe environment and will acquire no job skills that could help him stay away from crime should he be released one day. No restitution is paid to the victim’s estate. It’s a no-win scenario for everyone.
In a private system, prisons like this couldn’t exist. No one would fund them. Criminals who commit smaller property crimes, or violent crimes that don’t cause great bodily harm, could probably negotiate a settlement without resorting to going to a heavily monitored work camp to pay their restitution. Something similar to a work release program or a probation type of program, like we have today, could be used to these smaller crimes.
Murderers, rapists, and other people who do great bodily harm to their victims probably wouldn’t have that kind of luxury. These types of crimes would require huge restitution payments, and the perpetrators of these crimes are clearly violent people.
This leads me to believe that these criminals would require a 24/7 prison type environment. But instead of the prison being forcibly paid for by the victims, the prisoners would pay for it through their labor. There could be farm camps, construction camps, factory camps, etc for people that have little or no job skills. For people that have more technical skills or computer skills they could have their own camps too.
The goal of these camps would be to make them voluntary. Someone who is there voluntarily would clearly make a much better worker. Not to mention the prison would be much more cost effective. Now why would a convicted criminal voluntarily sign up for a work camp he can’t leave until his restitution is paid?
Since these camps would be voluntary, there would be competition. They’d compete on how quickly they could get restitution back to the victim, and thus how quickly the criminal could become free again. They’d compete on their safety record. They’d compete on their education programs that would make it easier for the criminal to re-enter society and get a job. Or, in the case of a person who would likely never see freedom again due to their crimes, they could compete on keeping them at least safe and somewhat comfortable.
For those unwilling to go to a work camp, perhaps there would be more of a traditional, forced prison option like we see today. Since it couldn’t be funded with taxes, perhaps it would be funded through donations. Maybe they could make it a tourist attraction where people can pay to visit “Violent Prison World” and see these criminals through two-way mirrors. Maybe they’d film it all and make it a reality TV show. Either way, there would still be ways to house these violent, terrible people and possibly still get some restitution payments to their victims.
No system is perfect. Just like today, some crimes will go unsolved. Victims will go without restitution. Not everyone is going to be walking away from these interactions satisfied. However, a private system would allow for many victims, even the poorest and most downtrodden, to receive some kind of restitution. It would also incentivize people and companies to actually compete with each other to solve crimes. Even crimes committed against society’s most downtrodden people.
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7/20/16 – A Private Criminal Justice System
8/11/16 – Crime Solving, Libertarian Style