Is it ethically responsible to hold people in detention for crimes they are going to commit in the future?
Normally, you will be sentenced to prison for a crime you committed in the past. The punishment is a reaction to your crime. If you’d commit murder, you would be in prison for 30 years or so, maybe for the rest of your life. We see this as a normal thing, but were you accountable for what you did? Probably so, unless you have a mental disorder. It is very hard to draw the line between those two. Doesn’t everyone who commits murder have a mental disorder? The real question is whether someone will commit murder again. If you have a mental disorder you aren’t expected to. You’re just a case of chance.
But if you’re not a case of chance, and you have been in prison for 29 years, with one year left, are you at that moment still accountable for what you did 29 years ago? How long does a punishment have to last? The worse the crime, the longer the imprisonment. But do those 30 years re-awake the dead person? Do they take away the guilt?
In the Netherlands the police is punishing people for crimes they committed, 4 years ago. People who uploaded videos of illegal sets of fireworks a few years ago are being held accountable for it now. Is this not a strange way of punishing, when people don’t even remember the video existing on YouTube?
What if you’re sentenced for a crime you are going to commit in the future? In the movie Minority Report gifted humans predict that John, the main character, will commit murder in 36 hours. John doesn’t even know the victim at that moment, but he is sentenced for murder. If pre-crime detection were possible in our world, would we use it? Are you accountable for a murder you are going to commit, without yourself knowing yet? We’d say it’s impossible to prove a future crime, but what if the government says the pre-crime detection is certainly right?