Jason Lee Byas: Against Criminal Justice | Who Shaves the Barber? #43

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What gives some people the right to put others in prison? Is prison – and the criminal justice system generally – an ethically permissible method for dealing with criminality?

Individualist anarchist and prison abolitionist Jason Lee Byas goes over the common justifications for the prison system and explains why none of them succeed. Specifically, he covers the doctrines of retributivism (specifically desert retributivism and expressive retributivism), deterrence, rehabilitation, and rights forfeiture, arguing against each. In place of prison, Byas proposes a tort system of restitution. Monetary restitution may not be sufficient to right the wrong of a crime, says Byas; but it is all that the law should mandate, leaving other desired correction or compensation up to community-based initiatives (Byas cites restorative justice as an example of the sort of institutions that can take the place of those corrective aspects of criminal justice that retribution does not address). Byas also explains how a system of monetary restitution can get around problems of class-based inequality (for example, if someone is so rich that they don’t mind having to pay to commit a crime, or if someone is so far in debt that another dent wouldn’t matter). Finally, he explains how violent offenders who pose an “ongoing threat” might be handled in his preferred system.

Next weekJc Beall: Logic of Christ



Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Topics discussed

0:20 – Intro to Jason Lee Byas
2:11 – What is prison abolitionism?
5:42 – What about deterrence?
11:50 – Retributivism
15:00 – Desert retributivism
17:58 – Expressive retributivism
28:36 – Rights forfeiture and self-defense
40:44 – Differences in moral intuition
49:47 – Restitution and class difference
1:08:17 – Intention
1:13:47 – Restorative justice and social pressure
1:27:51 – Due process in communities
1:32:36 – Involuntary containment of ongoing threats
1:42:38 – Prospects


Jason Lee Byas (articles at the Center for a Stateless Society)
“Against the Criminal Justice System” (Jason Lee Byas; Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart V)
Prisons without Punishment?” (Jason Lee Byas)
The Irrelevance of Responsibility” (Roderick Long)
The Apology Ritual: A Philosophical Theory of Punishment (Christopher Bennett)
Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform (John Pfaff)

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