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 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: exactly what is considered a crime or a memetic disease is dependent on the moral philosophy of the culture in question).

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 direct brain interfacing gave rise to psychoware technology. By mapping the psychome of an individual it became possible to effectively measure their moral values and behavioural tendencies. Simplistic uses of this technology create a strong association between a specific criminal activity (e.g. violence) and feelings of revulsion, fear and disgust. Correspondingly desirable behaviors (e.g. cooperation) can be wired to pleasural stimuli. Beyond these basic applications more fundamental value associations can be altered in an individual causing a cascade of changes in their psychology that results in a subconscious belief in doing the right thing, as defined by the treatment. Commonly tachydidactic courses are given alongside rehabilitative treatments in order to grant facilitative skills such as effective language faculties for better self-expression. Commonly rehabilitative psychoware will be drawn out over time rather than performed as a single procedure as many societies view radical breaks in psychological continuity as a form of identity death.

In the current era rehabilitation is practiced in many forms across the Terragen sphere. Methods include psychomodding, tachydidaxy, empath augmentation, Aesopica Fantastica lessons (virtual stories to teach morals) and probation programs (the latter operate by installation into the criminal's exoself and act as personal guardnets; directly interfering with motor functions if the probate attempts a 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 reprogramming 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.

Related Articles
  • Crime - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Acts punishable by law, whether a violation of local regulations or of the sentient rights of another being. Crimes in the ultra-civilized systems of the Inner Sphere are in general very subtle - data manipulation, fraud, extortion with embarrassing information or purely software crimes like mind casinos. In the less regulated systems smuggling, theft and more property-related crimes start to appear, and out in the simpler regions traditional seediness and crimes are common.
  • Meme
  • Meme-Allergy - Text by Glenn Grant
    A form of intolerance; a condition which causes a person to react in an unusually extreme manner when exposed to a specific semiotic stimulus, or meme-allergen. Exo-toxic meme-complexes typically confer dangerous meme-allergies on their hosts. Often, the actual meme-allergens need not be present, but merely perceived to be present, to trigger a reaction. Common meme-allergies include homophobia, paranoid anti-Communism, and porno phobia. Common forms of meme-allergic reaction are censorship, vandalism, belligerent verbal abuse, and physical violence.
  • Meme-complex, Memeplex - Text by Glenn Grant
    Also sometimes called a memeticity. A set of mutually-assisting memes which have co-evolved a symbiotic relationship. Religious and political dogmas, social movements, artistic styles, traditions and customs, chain letters, paradigms, languages, and so on are meme-complexes. Types of co-memes commonly found in a scheme are called the: bait; hook; threat; and vaccine. A successful scheme commonly has certain attributes: wide scope (a paradigm that explains much); opportunity for the carriers to participate and contribute; conviction of its self-evident truth (carries Authority); offers order and a sense of place, helping to stave off the dread of meaninglessness.
  • Memegeneer
  • Memeter
  • Memetic Engineering, Memgineering
  • Memetic Infector - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A sapient being used to infect societies or communities with a particular memeset. Memetic infectors resemble ordinary sophonts, but may differ psychologically, often having fanatical or one-sided enthusiasm for the meme-plex they are carrying. Infectors may be replicators (viruses) or non-replicators (memengers).
  • Memetic War - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A war of ideology and persuasion rather than weaponry or military might. Most transapients and archai uses memetics when dealing with lower toposophics and subsingulitaritans, few resort to anything as crude as actual hardware or software weaponry. Examples of memetic warriors might be PR agents, priest, poets, empaths.
  • Memeticity - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A coherent aggregation of component memes that itself constitutes a larger meme. Philosophies, ideologies, worldviews, and religions are all memeticities. An alternative and somewhat more common term for memeticity is memeplex.
  • Memetoselection - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The process whereby memes are favoured or selected against, according to darwinian mechanisms that favour the strongest memes. Memetoselection may be natural or artificial.
  • Modular Ethics
  • Performance Criminal - Text by John B
    In many of the polities of the Inner Sphere it is exceedingly difficult to commit an act that is considered a crime under local law. Angelnetting and ubiquitous memetic engineering prevent most sophonts from considering violating the local laws. Performance criminals are those either designed or licensed by the local powers to rebel (and thus present a spectacular moral play or otherwise release societal tensions), or those who attempt on their own to inculcate a resistance to the powers' memetic engineering and able for a time to subvert the localnet. The latter are quite rare and usually doomed.
  • Psychologist - Text by M. Alan Kazlev, from original by Robert J. Hall
    One who studies and practices psychology, especially for the purpose of aiding other sophont beings. As well as understanding the workings of the mind in general, and assessment of an individual's ability, personality, and expected behavior under specific conditions, psychology is very useful in the treatment of the mentally or emotionally disturbed, in counselling, and in helping to maintain the well-being of a crew on an isolated orbital or deep space ship. Most psychologists tend to be superbright or transapient entities. Many ais show a good aptitude in psychology.
  • Social Criminals
  • Social Psychology - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The study of how individuals interact with and within groups, and how individual behavior and psychology can be affected by group pressure and group dynamics. Social Psychology is related to sociomemetics.
  • Sociomemetics
Appears in Topics
Development Notes
Text by Ryan B
Initially published on 26 April 2012.