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Time Dilation Drug Could Let Heinous Criminals Serve 1,000 Year Sentences 914

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Like something out of the movie Inception, Rhiannon Williams reports in the Telegraph that Dr. Rebecca Roache, in charge of a team of scholars focused upon the ways futuristic technologies might transform punishment, claims the prison sentences of serious criminals could be made worse by distorting prisoners' minds into thinking time was passing more slowly. 'There are a number of psychoactive drugs that distort people's sense of time, so you could imagine developing a pill or a liquid that made someone feel like they were serving a 1,000-year sentence,' says Roache. Roache says when she began researching this topic, she was thinking a lot about Daniel Pelka, a four-year-old boy who was starved and beaten to death by his mother and stepfather.

'I had wondered whether the best way to achieve justice in cases like that was to prolong death as long as possible. Some crimes are so bad they require a really long period of punishment, and a lot of people seem to get out of that punishment by dying. And so I thought, why not make prison sentences for particularly odious criminals worse by extending their lives?' Thirty years in prison is currently the most severe punishment available in the UK legal system. 'To me, these questions about technology are interesting because they force us to rethink the truisms we currently hold about punishment. When we ask ourselves whether it's inhumane to inflict a certain technology on someone, we have to make sure it's not just the unfamiliarity that spooks us,' says Roache. 'Is it really OK to lock someone up for the best part of the only life they will ever have, or might it be more humane to tinker with their brains and set them free? When we ask that question, the goal isn't simply to imagine a bunch of futuristic punishments — the goal is to look at today's punishments through the lens of the future.'"
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Time Dilation Drug Could Let Heinous Criminals Serve 1,000 Year Sentences

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  • Re:Ridiculous. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:04AM (#46532911)

    And it's a TV show plot.

    The Sentence []

  • Doing it wrong... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flogger ( 524072 ) <non@nonegiven> on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:05AM (#46532917) Journal
    Use this pill on Friday night and make the weekend seem like it last for 5 years instead of 20 minutes.
    Maybe I could give it to my spouse before sex.
  • Re:Ridiculous. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:07AM (#46532943)

    On other hand, this could actually be used positively. If someone is sentenced to thirty years, but they only had to spend 10 real years (but 30 with time dilation drug) - then they come out into a society that isn't all that changed, comparatively, and easier for them to readjust back into, having served their time.

    There's bad and good with every technological use.

  • Re:Not useful (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:27AM (#46533185) Journal
    Bottom line: drugs like this have no place in or penal system, regardless of the ethical ramifications of using them on prisoners.

    Our current penal system has no place in our penal system.

    What we have now amounts to a mockery of justice-as-rehabilitation, where we give otherwise-good people multi-year "we need to do something" sentences for obvious accidents (involuntary manslaughter, for example, or virtually all victimless "crimes"). They then come out as actual hardened criminals, far more likely to go on to commit real crimes (one well-studied population, nonviolent drug offenders, come out four times more likely to go on to commit a violent crime than the general population).

    That said, I have to admit that this woman strikes me as likely a dangerous psychopath herself. Sentencing someone to a thousand years of boredom? "A lot of people seem to get out of that punishment by dying"??? Holy shit, woman, what kind of sick fuck would come up with something like that??? And I say that as someone who supports the death penalty, and personally would rather we use straightforward and effective punishments like caning over merely wasting a decade of someone's life on the taxpayer dime.

    But hey, at least you would effectively reduce the cost of prison, since virtually everyone would resort to suicide after their first few "sessions".
  • Re: Ridiculous. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:28AM (#46533197)

    In a society that cannot bring itself to punish its worst criminals by execution, people are inevitably going to come up with ideas like this.

    The article did raise an interesting point: if there are crimes so severe that only vengeance gets through to the perpetrators' minds in the absence of any hope of 'correction' (the Wichita Massacre or the Knoxville Horror, as US examples), then wouldn't some future technology for "tinkering with the brain" be a more "European" alternative, by their way of thinking, than execution?

  • Re: Ridiculous. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chatsubo ( 807023 ) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:48AM (#46533487)

    While I agree this person seems... misguided, I do see a point in this.

    Currently we "rehabilitate" people by putting them in a cage with a whole bunch of other sociopaths for decades and expect them to emerge as productive members of society. In doing so, we already are cruel by removing a substantial part of their lives from them (and probably get them raped, psychologically and physically abused, etc). They can never get that time back, no matter how productive they emerge, no matter how sorry they are, no matter that they'll never do it again, or that they've already been punished by being completely removed from normal society for an extended period of time. That life "time" is gone forever.

    I'd actually be behind a concept similar to this GIVEN that the drugs don't put them in a state of agony, paranoia, hallucination, etc. (you know, stuff normally associated with the drugs she's talking about). Or in the case of a virtual world: If the person could live in some kind of prison-like world, still study, interact with others (hopefully non-sociopaths), etc....

    Basically serve out their sentence without losing that much of their actual life. Then maybe this is a more humane thing to do. It certainly helps in the case where someone receives "8 life sentences", to make that sentence more severe than just one. My only concern: Could you really rehabilitate someone who has done something so bad as to receive a punishment that harsh? A THOUSAND years?! Isn't part of the point to remove lost causes like that from society? What you're essentially doing in that case is shortening the time-frame that we are all safe from these people.

  • Re: Ridiculous. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:53AM (#46533551) Homepage Journal

    Why do we "punish" criminals, anyways? Is society some sort of arbiter of karma?

    Deter? Yes.
    Rehabilitate? Yes.
    Keep off the street? Yes.
    Punish? I don't get it.

  • Re: Ridiculous. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stabiesoft ( 733417 ) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @10:30AM (#46534009) Homepage
    I've often wondered about drastically modifying the prison system. Some offences, such as the recent sxsw killings would get the death penalty immediately, as there is no question as to who did it and definitely not an accident. Under those conditions (murder+in the act), death penalty is punishment. For other serious crimes, (armed robbery, kidnapping, or murder and we did not catch you in the act) you get a trial, and if convicted, you go to rehab. And I mean a concerted effort at rehab. After rehab, you have one demerit. You get out, help is given to get a job, like halfway houses etc. Again, real help. You get caught again, trial etc, rehab, demerit number 2. Get caught again, trial, convicted, no more rehab. Death penalty. This system provides real effort to make you a member of society, and allows for mistakes in the trial system. And if you really don't want to be part of society, society does what most pack animal societies do, eliminate members that can't play nice.
  • Re: Ridiculous. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by allo ( 1728082 ) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:03AM (#46534391)

    the problem is the lethal injection. There are ways to kill someone without any pain (see assisted suicide), but the death penalty is executed with some very painful medicine. Why?

  • Re: Ridiculous. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sentrion ( 964745 ) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:13AM (#46534493)

    The only problem with a 1,000 sentence condensed into 10 years is that a prisoner rights group will argue that the prisoners will need more than their one-hour of outside recreation time. A lawyer could probably convince a judge sooner or later that in the first 30 years of his "sentence" that the prisoner was very well behaved and should be released on parole, even if in real time he served only three months.

    I would also be concerned about prisoners developing a dependency on this type of drug.

    Which raises another question: why couldn't this drug be put to use so that I can enjoy a three week vacation at the end of my typical real-time work day?

    How productive would a prisoner be on such a drug? Would they be able to benefit from counseling, group therapy, prison ministries, community service projects, job training, prison jobs, etc. or would the prisoners be stuck in a coma-like stasis? I'd rather have a prison population that was either very busy working on rehabilitation efforts, or for those serving life or on death-row, those prisoners should be given an opportunity to contribute to their own support, such as working in the prison kitchen, laundry, etc.

    I've seen how much the bill is for a civilian to spend one week in an ICU. I think the prison system is expensive enough as it is.

  • Re: Ridiculous. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoploss ( 2842505 ) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:34AM (#46534753)

    the problem is the lethal injection. There are ways to kill someone without any pain (see assisted suicide), but the death penalty is executed with some very painful medicine. Why?

    I recently did the research about this very question. I won't provide the many links I found, because all were trivially available on google.

    1. An Oklahoma medical examiner came up with the three drug cocktail. He has no pharmacology background (btw, this is foreshadowing for what comes next).

    2. A multi-drug cocktail was chosen in order to avoid comparison with animal euthanasia.

    3. Ironically, the three drug cocktail would be considered unethical to use on animals. They use a reliable, long lasting barbiturate overdose (e.g. phenobarbital).

    4. When asked "why these three drugs?", the protocol inventor's response was "Why not?"

    5. "Why not"s include drug incompatibility that causes drugs to precipitate out of solution if saline flushes aren't used between drugs, the fact that some of these drugs ship in solid form and have to be turned into a solution by prison staff or a compounding pharmacy, and that the barbiturate used (pentothal) is extremely *short* acting.

    6. The current alternative protocol that uses midazolam is far superior. It's a surgical anesthetic that causes anterograde amnesia. The other drug is hydromorphone (aka. Dilaudid). If it gives you any sense of what that is, ERs constantly have drug seekers coming in and faking injuries or kidney stones to try to get hydromorphone. The gasping the one executed guy had was likely due to the fact that his brainstem was dying. Basically, this protocol is like a junkie OD with tranqs. The three drug cocktail doesn't have gasping because drug #2 is pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the lungs.

    7. No one will advocate improving the protocol because of the retarded politics that surround capital punishment. The anti death penalty camp will latch onto any suggestions of improvement as "proof" lethal injection is inhumane. The pro camp won't give them that opportunity, so we're stuck with a fucking achingly stupid drug cocktail invented by someone who was the equivalent of a stereotypical Slashdotter who suggests "improvements" for the Mars Rover. Why not just inject these prisoners with phenobarbital? Works great for animals. Peaceful death... but ZOMG! can't use the *animal* protocol on *humans*!

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato