Oncilla Rambles™: Predictive Justice
(Alt. title: Oncilla Has Strong Opinions About Something She Learned About in a Comic Book™)
[Mods, I apologize for the length of this; please let it through.]
A little background: Lately I've been reading the trade paperbacks for Marvel Comics' Ms. Marvel series (it's great by the way, tons of diversity, very relevant storylines, a strong-but-relatable protagonist), and I reached the one covering the Civil War II event. My first thought while reading it was, "Huh, so the plot of Civil War II is 'Captain Marvel thinks Project Insight* is a good idea.'"
(Side note before I go on: IRL predictive justice, like most IRL things compared to the comics-verse, is apparently a very different thing which is a lot less extreme. It's not without problems, but it's not what I'm talking about RN.)
The basic gist of it was, Captain Marvel (not to be confused with Ms. Marvel) and some of her allies found a guy whose superpower is insane skills at probabilities. They figured out that they could use his powers to predict the likelihood that someone would commit a crime, and they recruited Ms. Marvel to go out and stop people before they could commit crimes based on the one guy's predictions.
And there are problems with that.
The book was not ignorant of this; the main plot thread was Ms. Marvel slowly becoming more and more uncomfortable with that system of justice. Because, as Captain America would say, "This isn't freedom, this is fear."** However, after thinking about it for most of the day***, I've come to the conclusion that there are more problems than just the dystopian-ness. There are even problems beyond the inherent danger of trusting a single person with everyone's freedom. Namely: it wouldn't work.
The whole goal of the project, in the story, is to lower the crime rates. But if my observations of human nature are correct, it would actually raise them. Because better to be hanged for a sheep than a lamb, right?† If they're going to arrest you regardless of whether you do anything, why not actually commit that crime and get that food for your family or the catharsis of revenge or whatever you were considering doing the crime for? Or even just for the sake of rebelling against the ones doing the arresting?
Adding more anger and fear to a society will never make it safer. People want to be trusted. They want to live in a community they helped to build and maintain and are invested in, not in a society they were forced to participate in or be punished. There's a reason cleaning up a crime-ridden area and giving residents a reason to feel proud of it works better than just enforcing the laws more strictly.
Thank you for reading my opinionated rantings on comic books and sociology. If you got through that wall of text, have a virtual cookie.
*From the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier
***And technically well into the night too, wHAT NO IT'S NOT ThReE IN THE MOrnING
†Yes this is absolutely why I was thinking about that phrase