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!

14 responses to “Science Fiction Today – Prisons

  1. Our prison system is already so terrible (I shared a link a couple of days ago about a man termed for 98 years for a double “Armed” robbery, who was then released by clerical error after only 7 years…. the error not being caught until 5 years later, when they forced him to go back… horrifying stuff, really)… it makes me really afraid of the future. Compliance will be our only option.


    • “Compliance will be rewarded.” -Agents of SHIELD

      Then there’s the recent John Oliver story about municipal violations… Scary stuff. Sharing that for those who haven’t seen it…

      Your example is crazy. Yay paperwork? Yay bureaucrats?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m on my phone, but I’ll share the link to that article, too.

        It really is nutty. I’m going back to my idea that we need two presidents. XD

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Our penal system is broken but sci fi version of prisons would be crazy.
    Hope you are enjoying A to Zing

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by! A to Z is going strong 😀

      I agree, we’re not in a great place now – but when we imagine the future, it pretty much always looks worse. One thing that people keep talking about that could help is a change in marijuana laws – would we see a large decrease in the prison population if those changed? And then there’s the John Oliver story I linked in the comments above – are people ending up in prison for ridiculous reasons?


  3. I shudder to think about the prisons of the future! And I love your point about reality tv because I can totally see a Running Man situation. There was a prison experiment (can’t for the life of me think which prison), and I can see more of that too – ordinary people turning into monsters.

    I haven’t seen Escape Plan because I assumed it would be another groan fest – I’m not a fan of the Expendables. It sounds as though I made the wrong choice there – I’ll check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Escape Plan looks pretty cool!

    There’s also the Kyln in Guardians of the Galaxy. Apparently “causing a ruckus in the street” = summary dumping in the Kyln. No trial. No gradations of punishment. Just grubby, violent prison satellite.

    And in Chappie, there’s no real mention of prison. The police robots seem authorized to use lethal force in every scene or something. There is one bit where people are rioting and a (human) person in a helicopter warns them rubber bullets are about to be used, but I think that’s the only nonlethal law enforcement shown…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well the Chappie situation sounds frightening… The robot police in Almost Human were much better than that!

      And yeah, we just watched Guardians of the Galaxy again, and I was definitely thinking of all of this with the Kyln. Maybe they’re thrown in because they all have a criminal record? Or maybe Surveillance was so good that every action was completely recorded? They also have a TON of eye-witnesses who didn’t do much running away, so they must have been watching the whole thing…


  5. Pingback: Science Fiction Today – Television | Comparative Geeks

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