Criminal Rehabilitation
Image from Bernd Helfert
Emerging at various times throughout history, the rehabilitation approach to crime works on the basis that a tendency to criminality in a particular sophont that is not caused by a medical condition (or, in aioids, by faulty programming or wiring) is not an immutable characteristic of that sophont but can in fact be changed. According to this theory people become criminals because of influences from their environmental, especially memetic influences that are deleterious to society at large. As such a criminal can be thought of in the same way as a person afflicted by a memetic disease in need of treatment (note: this should not apply to those who engage in criminal activity when the crime is a product of unjust or impractical law).

Suitable methods of rehabilitation were explored throughout the late Industrial Age but were hampered by a lack of understanding of psychology, cognitive neuroscience, sociology and memetics as well as widespread ideological opposition from those who subscribed to an absolutist view of crime. Many nations of the age did not support rehabilitation methods due to a common misunderstanding that rehabilitation did not involve punishment; this led to many campaigns against what people perceived to be a weakening of justice.

As improvements in both the natural and social sciences continued in the Information Age rehabilitation experiments began to collect hard data from which new models and theories of criminal psychology were developed and applied. Experimental prisons tested a variety of different approaches for different types of crime and criminal including mandatory work for the community, targeted education, simulated social environments, personal therapy, psycho-neural reprogramming and variable sentences (wherein inmates could not leave even after their temporal sentence was carried out until they were approved as rehabilitated). Experimental programs often showed success in lowering recidivist rates for petty crime compared to the mass jails of the time that often acted as breeding grounds for further criminality. Exceptions from this process include crimes caused by a product of biology (this was a particular disappointment to societies that prohibited homosexuality) such as psychopathy, psychosis etc as the rehabilitation process could only help those who were willing to learn rather than those who acted due to a biological imperative.

The greatest strides in rehabilitation practice came when advances in neuropsychology and philosophy of education gave birth to tachydidaxy as a field unto itself. Utilising many sciences and technologies the field of tachydidaxy aimed to create highly personalised, highly successful, adaptable teaching methods so as to bring the profession of teaching to its ultimate expression; guaranteed speed teaching. In doing so tachydidaxy experts developed systems of monitoring and manipulating an individual’s psychological state to one that is greatly receptive to learning (achieved through both invasive [i.e. drugs, electromagnetic stimulation] and non-invasive [i.e. empathy based conversation, appropriate sensory stimulus] means). When applied to rehabilitation procedures this enabled the field to develop well established protocols for how to adjust a criminal back to a contributing member of society, though it is important to note that if a criminal is unprepared to change it becomes far more difficult to rehabilitate.

Progressing beyond tachydidaxy came the science and technology required to directly rewrite or edit an individual’s memory and personality (neural-programing). In many cases subtle use of this technique is a standard part of criminal rehabilitation, especially for those individuals predisposed to crime due to a neurological fault. Drastic use of neural-programing in order to turn a criminal into a 'perfect' member of society is used by few societies as it is deemed to be more valuable/ethical for the criminal to go through the process of rehabilitation rather than be edited to the end state (this is particularly of issue for societies that subscribe to the pattern theory of identity) and it runs the risk of creating a brainwashed society rather than one where individuals are given the opportunity and knowledge to choose to abide by (and contribute to) a common moral code. Having said this there are common accounts of apparent Archai intervention in the rewriting of notorious individuals.

In the current era rehabilitation is practiced in many forms across the Terragen sphere. Methods include tachydidaxic therapy, empathy development, Aesopica Fantastica lessons (virtual stories to teach morals) and probation implants (the latter operate by installation into the criminal’s skull. From there they constantly monitor and counsel on what a criminal does and thinks; they appropriately secret drugs and apply electromagnetic stimulus to create a moral reward response with regards to social interaction, they are also capable of paralysing the criminal if they go to commit another crime). In the safest places of the Terragen Sphere (with hazard ratings of near zero) crime is virtually impossible due to physical and social constraints. In many cases hyperturings operating via the angelnet employ preemptive memetic engineering to ensure that sophonts do not resort to crime or adopt criminal mindsets. In places where such engineering isn’t available or utilised rehabilitation forms an important part of jurisprudence and in many Empires combined with high quality of life for all it allows for an environment that is virtually crime free.

Unfortunately this excellent result is a source of significant controversy; at its basis this controversy surrounds the use of direct neural reprogramming. Critics of such technologies argue that tachydidaxy, empathy therapy and other rehabilitation methods work by educating the criminal to the point where they can choose to become a better person whereas neural reprogramming takes any freedom of choice from the process; if they don’t change it is because they fundamentally disagree with the moral code of society and they shouldn’t be forced otherwise (though should still be punished for their crime).

They go on to argue that simply reprogramming someone to act differently does not equip them with the necessary faculties to judge other situations and that a secondary effect of neural reprogramming is to suppress the development of law by brainwashing all those who disagree into conformity. Advocates of neural reprograming respond to this by arguing total success rates and reject the argument regarding authoritarian government by pointing out that law can change through democratic process without the need for people to break it.
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Development Notes
Text by Ryan BInitially published on 26 April 2012.