Daily Archives: April 18, 2015

Science Fiction Today – Prisons

PThere were a couple of good topics to cover today for the letter P, but I think I’ll save the other for a longer post. It was also waiting to see what we talked about in regards to the Justice System. There we talked about what could happen if the law, the police, could act upon justice at a moment’s notice – or in advance of a crime!

Today is more a discussion of if the police stay kind of like they do today – they capture people, they have normal sorts of trials, and then they go to prison. Overflowing prisons, perhaps. Privatized prisons, run by corporations that are there to make money from the prisoners – not rehabilitate them. Private prisons already exist, so these are perhaps realistic fears for the future. And the history exists for prisoners to do more than just be prisoners – but to entertain us as well, like gladiators. So let’s look at these possibilities!

Private Prisons

So we recently watch the movie Escape Plan with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, and we were expecting it to be a ridiculous cheese-fest like The Expendables. As it turned out, not really. It was a near-future or alternate-present sort of story, with a professional prison-breaker who helps build better prisons. Someone stole all his best ideas, and built a floating fortress – and trapped him in it. The prisoners were all held basically as long as someone kept paying for them to be in there. Held in international waters, with no jurisdiction over them. And with no escape.

You also see prisons like this existing in full-fledged Science Fiction space societies. Often an entire planet or space station exists for the sole purpose of being a prison, like Crematoria in the Chronicles of Riddick. Or in Mass Effect 2, where you go to get Jack from a prison, where you pay to have her released – until they decide that they can make far more money by keeping Shepard prisoner instead!

Prisoners as Gladiators

Often this is seen as an extension of Reality Television, the idea that competition shows aren’t enough – and eventually Reality TV turns into blood sports. And who better to participate in a blood sport, with everything on the line, than prisoners? Generally something like a shortened sentence or outright freedom is dangled in front of them, and they compete for that.

There are many ideas for what the competition might look like, with those details updating over time even if the basic plot remains the same – like with Running Man and Gamer. Hey look, Arnold Schwarzenegger again… Still, it’s pretty much the use of prisoners as gladiators to entertain the rest of us. And sometimes, freedom isn’t really guaranteed, like for Duncan Idaho in the Dune prequels – where it really is just for the amusement of it.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!