Thursday, July 09, 2009

San Pedro Prison

In Bolivia, the San Pedro Prison is governed completely by the inmates; guards simply ensure that no prisoners leave the facility. Despite this lack of government presence, the prison is safer than other Bolivian prisons and other self-governed prisons, like Andersonville prison camp. I argue in my paper on San Pedro, that the relative order is the result of inmates ability to operate businesses and own their own cells, which provide the resources necessary to invest in capital for protection and raise the cost of predatory behavior.

News reports indicate that Bolivian officials have begun cracking down on the prison. Inmate businesses are being shut down (including the inmate-run tours), ownership of cells is forbidden, and entrance to and exit from the prison is now tightly monitored (which will greatly reduce the extent of the market). The result will likely be greater violence and degradation.


Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying, but my question is this, is increased "violence and degradation" within the prison walls necessarily a bad thing?

Certainly the objective of prisons is not to simply minimize the amount of violence within prison walls? I believe the main objective of prisons is to deter crime outside the prison walls. If there is more violence and degradation within the prison walls, isn't that a stronger crime deterant?

David said...

Interesting point. More violence amongst incarcerated inmates may or may not be a good thing depending from a normative point of view. For example, you may thing some minimum level of subsistence is required because of social justice.

My paper examines the institutions that facilitate order inside prison, and I simply contend that this change in policy will reduce the ability for inmates to do so.

Also, deterrence is not always a good thing. If the previous cost of incarceration was optimal, then assuming nothing else has changed, the increased cost of incarceration will lead to a sub-optimal amount of crime.

Justin Ross said...

My guess (and that is all it is) is that David's interest lies in the spontaneous order within the prison, not whether or not it is good or bad.

It is interesting that with private property and no form of governance imposed on them, a bunch of criminals and social misfits organize in a manner that is relatively violence free.

Will Luther said...

"It is interesting that with private property and no form of governance imposed on them, a bunch of criminals and social misfits organize in a manner that is relatively violence free."

It is probably a little strong to claim "no form of governance imposed on them." There are guards there and they have guns for a reason. Like it or not, this runs into the shadow of the state argument.

David said...

Will, my paper takes as given the conditions required to be considered anarchy from the previous literature, namely from Hogarty's work on Andersonville.

But, I'd also argue that the inmates are left pretty much to fend for themselves. The prison officials only tasks are to provide a gruel-like meal daily, take a count of the inmates in the morning, and then not let any inmates leave the prison. (Although for a bribe prisoners can take 'day trips'.) Guards do not secure property rights or enforce contracts; the inmates develop mechanisms to accomplish this.

The only way that this might 'run into the shadow of the state' problem is that outsiders cannot attack this community - there is no threat of foreign attack. I see this is as a particularly useful fact, however, because it removes one more complication and allows better approximation of when order can and cannot be achieved.

Viagra Generic said...

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Anonymous said...

You say that there is virtually no violence but there actually is a lot of violence in San Pedro. Because there is a class system in the prison those on the lower rung are forced to be violent, to steal and in some cases kill to survive in the prison. In fact because inmates are left to fend for themselves there is greater violence and poverty. It is a false society and therefore if there is more control than there will be fewer problems. The main problem is cocaine cultivation which is San Pedro's greatest export. Also, property rights are enforced as it is the guards who sell the contracts for the cells and make sure it is maintained. If you cannon afford your cell, you are thrown out by the guards so someone else can move in.

Generic Cialis said...

I've been there... and I've heard an amazing story about the Prison... but I can't remember anything about it, maybe I should go again.

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Certainly the purpose of jails is not to simply reduce the quantity of assault within jail walls? I believe primary of jails

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