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Fugitive on run for seventeen years found living in cave by a drone (bbc.com)
183 points by cinbun8 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 165 comments

There was a similar case in the US. In the 70's, there was a crooked cop who was convicted (for some lewd acts) and had to surrender himself to prison. He chose to run instead and spent 22 years in the forest.

Eventually he couldn't take it anymore and surrendered himself. He was then given a suspended sentence citing that he already has been through enough.

Here's a podcast episode on that: https://snapjudgment.org/cop-out

Though nobody really knows what happened to him, and I think he's still on the FBI's most wanted list - here in Arizona we have the case of Robert Fisher:


Yep - he's still on the wanted list - going on 18-19 years now. It's unclear whether he's dead, hiding out, or what; all signs point to him at least escaping and "going into the wilderness". What's happened since that point is anyone's guess.

For that matter, though, the whole escapade has a lot of questions if you research it. The official story is that one day, he snapped, and decided to kill his wife and kids, then blow up their house (natural gas explosion - leveled it) - supposedly to try to hid the evidence of the murder. Then he took the dog with him in their SUV, ran off into the wilderness - then vanished. The dog and the SUV were found, and that was it.

There were questions (at the time) - theory, conspiracy, you name it - but I don't know what to make of them; it was all one weird thing in what would turn out to be a tumultuous year, and quickly overtaken by events and somewhat "forgotten".

The questions still remain as to why and what really happened - the official case states marital trouble, but none of it seems (but who knows what his mental state was) to rise to the level of what occurred, though the background seems a convenient explanation after the fact.

It sounds like he used the power of his job to rape several women. Now that he is free, it says he is helping fight police corruption and donates to organizations that help victims of sexual assault, but if I was one of his victims, I don't think I would feel justice is served just because he hid in the woods for 22 years. This is a pretty tricky scenario imo.

There are a lot of people who feel like the primary goal of what we call the criminal justice system is making the victims feel like criminals are treated poorly enough. While perhaps satisfying to some individuals, it results in high rates of recidivism, which makes society less safe for everyone.

A criminal justice system centered around reform results in a safer and more humane society for everyone.

> He was then given a suspended sentence citing that he already has been through enough.

I wonder whether this is typical, or he was given special treatment.

It's in keeping with the 3000+ year old sentence of exile or imprisonment.

Interesting story, an interview with him here.


Hmm... I could take this tradeoff.




Are you saying that he needs to go through more?

Wait he sufficiently exiled himself and rejoined nature, survived (likely alone) for 17 years, and they take him back to prison?

Right or wrong, a large function of the prison system is to ruin someone's life in a sufficiently public way for performing actions outside of the given society's norms and values to serve as a deterrent to those who would follow in their footsteps.

Except that has never proven to reduce recidivism, and in the US seems to increase it. The Swedes seem to have much better luck with education, training, and rehabilitative options.

Op mentioned nothing about recidivism or it's usefulness to the prisoner. That's just about irrelevant if the intended desired effect is deterrence.

If you look at legal theory, the actual reasons for punishment are a mixture of deterrence, prevention, rehabilitation and retribution.

It is certainly possible to question how well any of these goals are met, or even the overall framework. But it is useful to start with the reality of how folks talk about punishment in a criminal justice context.

Ref: search "purpose of criminal punishment" and pick one.

Your whole comment comes off as exceedingly arrogant. OP is pretty clearly talking about retribution, so calling this out as one of the "actual" reasons is condescending and a non-sequitur. Moreover, assuming that somebody will agree with you after Googling something implies the only source of the disagreement is another person's lack of knowledge - this is again exceedingly condescending.

Apologies. Punishment is not a deterrent.

seriously? you can notice people being deterred by the threat of punishment every day if you pay attention.

just Saturday night I tried to walk outside of a bar holding my drink. the owner asked me not to do it because he might get in trouble.

So if there was no threat of punishment you would become a murderous, thieving, drug user?

> So if there was no threat of punishment you would become a murderous, thieving, drug user?

Many years ago I worked in a startup, as it turns out the primary owner of the business is what a typical person would likely consider a con-man. I have a rolodex filled with people who were harmed by this man's lies.

Good luck seeking justice if you don't have a bank-roll to fund a strong lawsuit.

I've long since let it go, but for a solid year or so I was consumed by hatred for this man and very much would've loved to take a tire-iron to this man's knees. Some of the other people hurt are close personal friends, I can say with certainty that I'm not the only one who wanted retribution. These people also have family / relationships, some amount of wealth, opportunity, etc.

As it turns out, the risking non-trivial amounts of time in prison serves a deterrent for certain classes of individual. People with something to lose. That, statistically, it doesn't quite appear to serve the purpose should make you question the circumstances, the incentives at play as relates to the people committing those crimes.

Do be cautions when drawing black-and-white conclusions from statistics.

The GP is talking about a bartender refusing to allow drinks to be taken outside. I think it’s fair to say that if there was no threat of the bartender getting in trouble, the GP could have walked outside with the drink, no problem.

This argument can be extended to cover murder, theft, drug use and any other crimes you might think of by examining people’s value systems. I think we can all agree that murder is against most people’s values but you can’t say it’s universal. Some people are okay with murder in different circumstances but they may not necessarily be psychopaths who crave murder to the detriment of all else. It’s these people that I think may be deterred by the threat of punishment for murder.

Furthermore, to complicate matters a little bit, there is the principle of marginal deterrence. If the punishment for murder is much more severe than for burglary, for example, you can expect a burglar to think twice before deciding to murder the home owner during a break-in. If, on the other hand, you punish stealing with the same severe penalty as murder (say, death penalty for either crime) then you risk incentivizing the burglar to murder anyone who might be a witness to the burglary.

Ultimately, I think the soundness of the principle of punishment as a deterrent derives not from the assumption that everyone has the same values (we don’t) but from the differences in everyone’s values. This helps society produce an outcome that would not otherwise be achievable if we required 100% consensus on every individual value.

No, but I'd happily bring a bottle of beer along with me while I walk the dogs through a park.

I have my personal set of ethics/morals. Murder and theft are not allowed by those. The laws in Canada line up pretty close to these ethics, but not perfectly. The threat of punishment is what stops me from doing stuff in the "does no harm to anyone" category where the laws and my ethics disagree.

Most people probably wouldn't choose that just because the option would now be available. They might also fear the now legal extra-judicial punishment available to friends/families of victims.

I know a lot more people would park in handicap spaces if the fines were made optional. Speeding is another good example where people literally slow down when they see someone capable of punishing them.

If you need an engineering analogy, think of it as defence in depth. Punishment is part of a package of measures that seek to reduce criminality. Doesn’t stop everybody, and it’s not the only thing that stops anybody.

The main flaw in your argument is that not all repercussions are legal.

Would I try heroin if there were no negative consequences? I'd certainly be less averse.

black and white is not usually an effective model for the world. I don't think I would become a "murderous, thieving, drug user", but I would probably take parking rules a lot less seriously. I might fly my drone places where it's not allowed. I'd probably get a really loud exhaust for my car too.

> I'd probably get a really loud exhaust for my car too.


why not? it's fun. I'm not sure I would actually want to live with it on a daily driver, but it'd be great on a weekend car.

I'm mainly using it as an example of a behavior that's mildly antisocial but not bad enough to trigger serious enough guilt/embarrassment to stop people from doing it if they couldn't be punished.

And you are wiser than anyone in authority that has walked before you? (eg. parents, law makers, authorities, teachers, etc).

Punishment is a deterrent and has been proven so for millennia.

>Punishment is a deterrent and has been proven so for millennia.

A proven deterrent? Do you have any facts to back-up your posit? The crime and recidivism rates would seem to indicate the contrary; especially, in the states.

Essentially, we should - in theory - have no crime by now (given it's been over a millennium) as all rates should've diminished to zero, yeah?

At best, punishment as a deterrent is keeping the for-profit prison-industrial complex in business and that's about the extent of any benefit[s] (if it can even be called that) it might be providing to society.

This is absurd. Something can work in some cases for some people and yet not in all cases. It's not a matter of always working or never working.

There's a line of thought I keep seeing in this thread: a purpose of imprisonment is deterrence by punishment. people still commit crimes. therefore deterrence by punishment doesn't work. therefore prisons should be replaced with free-range daycare for adults.

You don't have to like the idea of restricting someone's freedom. But would you rather that a violent offender be in prison and unable to cause further harm? I would.

It's not an either-or kind of thing, where we can either put people in a hell-on-earth where they're traumatized or we can let them go free. It's possible to acknowledge that a person has done something terrible while also treating them with some basic human dignity. Lots of professions agree that you get from people what you expect, and when you expect people to act with dignity many of them do.

Prison doesn't have to be a place where punishment is meted out upon some imperfect soul for an eternity. It can just as easily be a place where the inmates are expected to make an effort to understand why they are there and how they can move on from that chapter of their life. And we can still lock up the unrepentant for a very long time.

Many of the Christians that I've talked to use the phrase "hate the sin, love the sinner." Maybe it's time we took that to heart and allow our prison population the dignity of being treated like human beings?

And by your ridiculous standards, crime in Sweden should be going down, yet it is booming. The rate of sex crimes alone has tripled since 2014.


This has nothing to do with an actual increase in crime, and everything to do with the reclassification of sex crimes in Sweden.

What reclassification? And how would you account for the fact that every other type of crime also increased? Assault, robbery, threats, gun homicides, detonated hand grenades?

Just curious, how would you account for the increase in those crimes?

The reason we use "deterrent" instead of "prevention" is that we understand that punishment cannot prevent all the crime. Some people will not be deterred by a threat of punishment.

If you entertain such a possibility then it is easy to see that the system with ideal deterrence (i.e. it detters everyone who could possibly be deterred) will also have 100% recidivism as the only people who get punished are the ones who cannot be deterred and will keep committing crimes no matter what.

> The reason we use "deterrent" instead of "prevention" is that we understand that punishment cannot prevent all the crime.

No, the reason is because of the four main theories of criminal punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation (also known as reformation), and incapacitation—that is, all but retribution—are all forms of prevention, and so “prevention” lacks specificity.

> If you entertain such a possibility then it is easy to see that the system with ideal deterrence (i.e. it detters everyone who could possibly be deterred) will also have 100% recidivism as the only people who get punished are the ones who cannot be deterred and will keep committing crimes no matter what.

This assumes that the system not only has ideal deterrence, but entirely lacks both rehabilitation and incapacitation.

"Deterrence in relation to criminal offending is the idea or theory that the threat of punishment will deter people from committing crime and reduce the probability and/or level of offending in society." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deterrence_(penology)

So, punishment as a deterrent is currently a theory.

> Theory

I want to reply to wickedsickeune below, "Gravity is also a theory," but I think the thread's hit max-depth.

The word "theory" in the context of Deterrence_(penology) is not the same as the word "theory" in "theory of Gravity." The _Theory_ of Gravity refers to a model or explanation that follows from observed facts.

Deterrence, according to the Wikipedia page, doesn't fit that definition of the word.

> Despite numerous studies using a variety of data sources, sanctions, crime types, statistical methods and theoretical approaches, there remains little agreement in the scientific literature about whether, how, under what circumstances, to what extent, for which crimes, at what cost, for which individuals and, perhaps most importantly, in which direction do various aspects of contemporary criminal sanctions affect subsequent criminal behavior.

(Off-topic) It's sometimes (always?) possible to reply despite the missing "reply" button. Click the timestamp of the post to see it on its own page. That page seems to have a reply button even when the thread does not.

Thanks for this comment! I realized I was missing something when I got a reply (with my post being at the same depth as the one I couldn't reply to).

> Deterrence, according to the Wikipedia page, doesn't fit that definition of the word.

Yes, because the word "theory" was used erroneously. Saying that its currently a hypothesis would have been better.

> Yes, because the word "theory" was used erroneously. Saying that its currently a hypothesis would have been better.

No, it was used correctly; “theory” has definitions other than those in the context of empirical science and the use of “hypothesis” would have been at least as wrong as the scientific sense of “theory”.

Gravity is also a theory. The word "theory" scientifically, does not mean "idea". It means a rigorously tested and researched collection of co-related ideas that reinforce each other. Do not use it to dismiss something's value.

> So, punishment as a deterrent is currently a theory.

The use of “theory” in that sentence is not in the scientific sense; it is a philosophical rather than a predictive model. (There are predictive models of deterrence, some of which might be theories, or perhaps hypotheses, in the scientific sense, but that's not what the quote is discussing.)

I never claimed to be wiser, though there is evidence that agrees.

At least in the US, murder rates are consistently higher in states with the death penalty.


While I generally agree with your broader point, I doubt this relationship is causal.

Agreed. It's entirely possible that high murder rates drive support for the death penalty, for example.

magashna: Punishment is not a deterrent. rbut: Punishment is a deterrent and has been proven ... magashna:murder rates are consistently higher in states with the death penalty. joshuamorton: I doubt this relationship is causal.

Magashna is clearly not arguing causality, but rather that the death penalty has failed to be a deterrent to murder.

This doesn't show that though. You have to examine the counterfactual: would the crime rate be even higher without the death penalty? If yes, it is a deterrent.

How can one examine a couterfactual in cases like this? Barring access to Marty McFly’s time machine unless you have two identical copies of a state to experiment on how would you go about this?

Edit: legitimately curious, not trying to be nitpicky

You probably can't, which is my point.

Generally the best ways to analyze the impact of similar social changes is to compare two similar locations, one that makes a change and one that doesn't, over the same time period, and hope that controls for broader social change.

It's not perfect by any means though.

A confounding factor in this statistic is that even if you were a rational actor, weighing the deterrence value of the death penalty, the actual application of the death penalty is far from certain, so you'd appropriately assign it low probability. The distance from the present in time, and absolute probability are likely key contributors to this not being a good stat. A good look at deterrence would be Singapore, where probability of swift punishment seems to materially reduce crime.

Thanks dad.

I don't know what the aggregate statistics are, so I don't know the data says about this at the societal level. But at the individual level, I think it is more accurate to say this varies and it may work with some people but not others.

There is a thing that officially gets called Oppositional Defiant Disorder where you have a kid whose wiring boils down to You can't make me! Neither of my sons has been given such a diagnosis, but that's perhaps in part because I recognized that trying to force issues as a routine thing or be dictatorial with them would be counterproductive.

As a parent, I didn't use a punishment model because I believed that would backfire with my kids. Maybe it kind of works with some kids, but I was sure that would be a case of "There will be hell to pay" in my home.

Studies typically show that every dollar invested in the health, welfare and education of preschoolers saves multiple dollars down the line on things like prison. Of course, we still need some means to address the issue when things go sideways, but it's problematic to focus overly much on addressing problems at that late stage.

We have jokes about "the third world country of America" because America does a relatively poor job of designing a society that generally works for most people and prevents issues as much as possible. Instead, we deal with problems after they develop at a point when they are much harder to address and when any optimal outcomes are no longer possible.

Even if it's not as effective as other alternatives, I think it is most likely at least something of a deterrent. For example, I hear of criminals purposely avoiding crimes with more serious punishments (e.g. mugging someone but avoiding hurting or killing them).

In addition, there's a saying that "locks don't keep criminals out, they just keep honest people honest". I think it's likely that punishment at least serves a similar role.

Granted, I think we would probably both agree that the US justice system (for example) is too focused on punishment and not enough on rehabilitation.

So what is an effective deterrent if not punishment?

Better education and healthcare I'd assume.

Deterrent is, I think traditionally at least, considered “negative reinforcement.” So, “I don’t want to end up like that person, so I won’t do what they did to end up in their situation.”

Just because it's the traditional view doesn't mean it's correct, or that it works. Crimes like drug use have shown great benefit from using rehabilitation over punishment, as proven in Portugal's long test of decriminalization and rehab. Rates of drug use and diseases like HIV have dropped significantly.

I agree drug use is better treated with addiction therapy than prison.

But the article in question is about a human trafficker. How does giving a human trafficker "education" (free college?) deter them from doing more trafficking?

I wouldn't assume that human traffickers are proud of what they do, or that they enjoy it. I guess the question is why does someone get into a hard criminal lifestyle like that in the first place. Maybe education and opportunity are the answers to that.

Not at all. You should look up the definition of negative reinforcement. It doesn’t operate as social demonstration, the way prison is supposed to work according to those who advance the deterrence myth. Now if the claim is about recidivism that may apply to negative reinforcement. But as others pointed out that’s not usually what’s meant by deterrent. We mean a deterrent even to those who have not been incarcerated.

... said the guy who obviously doesn't have kids.

But I have parents. Do you think I was raised in a vacuum?

There is a huge difference between having something applied to you, and having to determine the correct course of action (independently) to apply with someone else and then deal with the consequences/fallout.

In my experience, you have to pick something - and nothing is perfect or works all the time. It is usually worse not picking something (inaction) or being inconsistent in what you pick (wildly varying expectations/results).

How this applies to the current thread is up to the reader.

It doesn't work for deterrence either, but it's pretty clear by now that the function of most penal systems is vengeance.

You are arguing reformation vs. restitution. Most countries (and their electorate) would rather have restitution, not because restitution is a better solution, but because vengeance has been the gold standard of justice for millennia. It's a self-perpetuating zeitgeist.

The irony is that these systems do not achieve restitution. The victims may experience righteous indignation, but that will soon fade away. Meanwhile the perpetrators gets to spend a few years among their peers in crime university.

> The Swedes

That is a reformative incarceration system.

recidivism and deterrence in general are not the same thing. high recidivism does not mean that people who haven't been imprisoned yet aren't deterred from committing crimes.

What about an ever increasing rate of criminality? If more and more people are competing crimes then doesn’t that suggest the deterrent effect is minimal, more importantly insufficient. And if the deterrent effect is insufficient then shouldn’t we try to find a better way by making use of modern science and data driven decision making?

> If more and more people are competing crimes then doesn’t that suggest the deterrent effect is minimal

It's a multi-variable system. It could be that other conditions and effects override what is, in other circumstances, a solid deterrent.

Threat of long imprisonment works great on the guy who doesn't want to lose his cushy job and easy life. It doesn't work as well on someone with nothing and no hope of gaining anything.

Saying it doesn't serve as a deterrent for a certain class of individual is a fair statement, saying it doesn't work, full-stop is most certainly wrong.

My statement was that it is insufficient. It serves as a deterrent to some extent. But it’s not meaningful with respect to the ultimate goal. Have you ever decided not to do something because you could be imprisoned? There are psychopaths but I think they are in the minority, even here.

> If more and more people are competing crimes then doesn’t that suggest the deterrent effect is minimal, more importantly insufficient.

is this actually true? as I understand it, we are well past the peak of criminal activity ( at least in the US).

The incarceration rate has declined in the past decade but I would guess that’s due to already having locked up a large proportion of the population as well as changes enforcement and prosecution. Weed is legal now, to take an obvious example of prosecutorial waste that’s been ameliorated.

In the US there should be separate prisons for first-time offenders versus offenders who have previous convictions.

This is in China, not the US. Different system.

This article is about China...

It's intended* function is to act as a deterrent. The jury is still out on whether it actually functions effectively as a deterrent. For instance, do active criminals know the potential punishments for their transgressions? Do they know what life is like for current or former prisoners? If yes to either, does it actually deter active criminals or do they just consider it a risk, a cost of doing their "business?

Deterrence is a nice in theory, but it depends on awareness among the general populace, and depending on people being aware is not a good start to any policy.


"How does one preform actions?"

Is this some epistemological Zeno's paradox type incredulity?

I think he's hung up on the misspelling of "perform"

It feels like you're trying to argue for the sake of it

If exile was seen as ruinous enough in the public eye, that could provide a humane alternative to imprisonment.

Racist sentimemts could be exploited for this in a very humorous way. Imagine hackers being exiled to Mexico, and being let in on the precondition that they spend the first X years working on improving Mexico's public infrastructure.

> Imagine hackers being exiled to Mexico, and being let in on the precondition that they spend the first X years working on improving Mexico's public infrastructure.

I think people would even volunteer to do that for free if the willingness was there, but it isn't really.

Yes, traditionally official exile to another continent was considered sufficient. However, eventually the United States, and later Australia, started refusing exile shipments. I suspect that Mexico would refuse exile shipments.

Prisons are pretty expensive, couldn't Mexico be paid to house exiles? I doubt they couldn't handle a few people with violent tendencies if paid the right price.

He seemed to prefer his freedom to prison.

I’m not sure why so many people think it’s an equivalent punishment.

Don’t people think that he would’ve been willing to hurt others who crossed his path in order to keep his secret?

It is practically "exile"?

Self-imposed. He liked that option better than the others, which isn't a luxury most criminals get.

"Exile" is far, far from "imprisoned".

Many people, introverts, like me, are more annoyed by people than needing company. I've dreamed about living in exile out in the wilderness (it's too much effort and risk for me so I haven't). Other's have done it voluntarily.

It's vastly better than prison.

Many people think that the goal of prison shouldn't be punishment or retribution.

There's a reason they're called "correctional facilities". Unfortunately, they've become the opposite and we don't seem to care much about actually fixing anything.

Also, the entire system is built around "justice", not retribution. People should only be imprisoned for as long as necessary to repay their debt to society or until they can prove they're no longer a threat to society (e.g. they've reformed), whichever happens first.

Ok, I'll bite. How would an institution go about "correcting" human traffickers, organized crime members, serial murderers, serial rapists, or really anyone?

Seems to me if there is no real punishment, there is no deterrent keeping the person from doing it again as soon as they are released: "Oh wow, I trafficked women and all I got was a few years of psychotherapy in which all I had to do was smile and nod? That wasn't bad at all, I have no remorse, and I'll do it again, this time learning from my mistakes so I don't get caught!"

I don't think that it has to be a black or white issue. Some people likely cannot be rehabilitated because they are psychopaths, some because they are simply evil, etc. However, that doesn't mean that there are not many people who could be reformed.

For example, John Newton was a slave trader before finding God, becoming an abolitionist, and writing "Amazing Grace".

The Apostle Paul was at least an accessory to murder before his conversion.

I'm sure that there are examples outside of Christianity. That's just my background so its what I know.

Except most data shows that punishment is not an effective deterrent.

I'm curious why "whichever happens first", rather than "whichever takes longer". (My gut reaction is probably biased towards "whichever takes longer" with a crime-appropriate level of "prove".)

He wasnt "alone". He was getting food somewhere. He had lots of stuff he couldnt make himself. And someone had contact enough to report his location. Id bet he was stealing from locals.

This was in rural China. He could have found work as a migrant and no one really cared much about documentation.

He was also living near his hometown. So “cut off” is a bit less likely than mostly under the radar.

I thought the same thing, but the article closes saying he had trouble communicating from not having done so for so long. Not sure how they determined that, but presuming it's true, then maybe he was truly alone.

It is difficult to determine whether he was alone in a 'Wilson' Cast Away sense or if he was alone while watching others do their activities and stealing from them to support his necessities.

These two environmental conditions can have varying impacts on a person's mind.

There was a story of a kid up in Maine that ran away to live in the woods for 27 years.


He stole food and propane tanks from the vacation homes in the area. When he was eventually caught and put in jail for all of the theft people remarked at his strange use of language. They claimed he talked like a book.


The other side of the punishment is to show to the victims and law abiding citizens that justice is carried out.

The criminal has decided to break the social contract, our agreed rules and impinge on our peace and freedom; therefore society will now impose a sentence on him, restoring some balance, easing minds.

While I sort of get your point: What would be your ideal alternative? Just let him keep going on?

It's the same if not better compared to the alternative, right? Person isn't bothering society and the state isn't subsidizing their imprisonment. Exiling people kinda sounds like the best option unless you like punishment.

I really don't like the idea of keeping people in boxes, and agree that even in the case of the most wretched human being I'd rather have them free and alone than locked in a box without a goal besides punishment. However, this man's crime was human trafficing. Do you really want a human trafficer living in the woods like some kind of troll monster, ready to capture more children? That sounds like it could potentially result in more captive humans, rather than less.

Being alone is not healthy whatsoever. I dread to think of his mental condition.

Provided the conditions outlined in GP are met, why not?

What's the point of imprisoning someone?

Punishment? This clearly was less harsh, or he would not prefer it.

Protecting society? He roams free.

A deterrent? Leaving him there would send the message to others that escaping and evading capture is a viable route to freedom.

Ideally it'd be rehabilitating the offender, so they can rejoin society and be less likely to offend in the future.

This could mean mental health evaluation and treatment, addiction counseling, education and job training to help them learn a skill, and restorative justice.

I'd say none of these things happened in a cave.

17 years is a long time to think about what you've done, so it's very possible that he is no longer a threat to society. And if there's no evidence that he has committed crimes while living in the cave, how likely is he to commit crimes going forward?

I think it should be brought in, evaluated, and released if he no longer poses a threat.

> Punishment? This clearly was less harsh, or he would not prefer it.

The fact that it was less harsh does not mean it was not harsh enough; meaning that chineese concentration camps might be disproportionately harsh to the crime (although his crimes were among the worst, so...)

> Protecting society? He roams free.

That's an exaggeration, I highly doubt that he could roam free. His maximum radius of travel must have been severly limited, given no access to transportation, plus it looks like so, as he did not move away from that, high risk area.

> A deterrent? Leaving him there would send the message to others that escaping and evading capture is a viable route to freedom.

Nonetheless, it is a viable route to freedom. It would be enforced/promoted if they left him though.

Fence/wall off a large section of useless land in a temperate climate. Post the perimeter with motion-activated machine guns.

Give the condemned a backpack of provisions, the cut them loose into the Exile Zone.

Sure, maybe we can also televise it. Maybe we can send people in to hunt them, too.

'The Island'

While I'm kind of on your side, there is an argument to be made for hauling him back in. If you know he's there and let him live there, you set a precedent: "It's OK to escape from prison as long as you live in the woods."

The article says he was imprisoned for "trafficking women and children." Assuming that's accurate and not Chinese propaganda, I'm fine with the idea of permanently cutting him off from potential victims.

That's the reason why the statute of limitations exist (at least one of em)

Statute of limitations applies BEFORE conviction, not after.

Before charges. The time between charges, trial and conviction is often far longer than the sol.

You're right. Charges is what counts. I was wrong here.

He was already jailed, reportedly for for human trafficking. He escaped in the early 2000s.

I don't know in China but in many countries not only do they take you back to prison to resume time where you left off but evasion is a further offence that gets you extra time.

They guy had managed to inflict himself punishment at no cost to taxpayers. At least victims will have some relief, otherwise it's a waste of time.

It's unclear from the article what his crime was, only that he escaped from a prison camp. It could be that his only crime was being Tibetan or Uighur or a member of Falun Gong or that he said something against the government. It's China, so the only 'victims' might be the prison guards on whose watch he escaped.

It says so literally in the first paragraph:

“The 63-year old, named Song Jiang by the police, had been jailed for trafficking women and children but escaped from a prison camp in 2002.“

Don't know how I missed that. Sorry everyone.

> It's unclear from the article what his crime was, only that he escaped from a prison camp.

It is spelled out clearly in the article why:

> The 63-year old, named Song Jiang by the police, had been jailed for trafficking women and children but escaped from a prison camp in 2002.

The article immediately mentions he was originally imprisoned for human trafficking. It’s the first or second sentence.

The second line of the article mentions that he was jailed for trafficking women and children.

He had a source of water and fuel. But what did he eat? The "household rubbish" suggests he had some sort of supply line?

> Yongshan police received clues about Song's whereabouts in early September, they said on their WeChat account.

So there is no tech or surveillance story here. Only the use of a relatively common high tech gadget aiding good old fashioned police work.

His crime is sufficiently distateful that I dont want to defend him specifically. But the overall subject raises interesting questions about enforcement of laws and their applicability as enforcement approaches perfect. (ie 100%)

For example consider speeding laws we can actually approach perfect enforcement using GPS data and engine management. But then the question becomes how does the archaic law morph when perfectly applied? Should _every_ driver who _ever_ speeds be charged the fine? That is roughly every driver every time they drive whom uses the highways near me. And how often should they be charged? Each time they exceed the speed limit (for example if speedlimit is 65 and I brake to 64, then speed to 66 several times, is that several tickets?) ...

I suspect that most of our laws have been written without grace/forgiveness knowing that we used to only catch a small percentage of perpetrators, and likely the most egregious of them (assuming frequency & magnitude would increase probability of being caught). What ought do if that percent sky rockets, but the laws were designed for the former value?

> I suspect that most of our laws have been written without grace/forgiveness knowing that we used to only catch a small percentage of perpetrators

Or that we can choose not to prosecute in order to use their testimony against a bigger fish. It's called prosecutorial discretion, and it seems reasonable at first, but it's responsible for the slow encroachment of government in all aspects of private life. After all, why change or protest a law you break every day if it will never be used against you?

Everyone probably breaks multiple laws a day without realising it.

If everyone that broke any law had to be charged and prosecuted, we would have a much more politically engaged populace, a much more efficient process to appeal judgements and repeal unjust laws.

I would also argue that having to mount a defense against an accusation is sufficiently punitive (can easily bankrupt) almost any individual in today's society (at least in north America).

Maybe it's easier to just pay the speeding ticket because to fight it would cost 10x in lawyers fees. That's not justice, it's just economic extortion.

Worth thinking about when this law came into effect and limitations of technology at that time. Given GPS data, it's possible to ensure the car never exceeds the speed limit and hence, perfect enforcement of the law may result in no more fines (or even less) as it does now. There is of course safety implications of forcing cars under a speed limit which the law would be taking into effect, which is yet another twist making the perfect enforcement unlikely.

I've watched "Alone" on the History Channel from time to time. One of the things that surprised me was how the contestants were affected mentally. Often enough they tap out not from lack of food, but from lack of human contact.

It's amazing this guy survived. It's close to a miracle he did it alone.

Establishing a new identity wasn't a huge task when we were paper based. A pretty common approach was finding someone that died young, roughly your age, in a rural or religious community that probably didn't file the right papers to document the death. Or somewhere small enough that destroying the single paper in a file accomplished the same.

Then bootstrap that up from a birth certificate to a social security card and so on.

I imagine it's not that simple anymore.

It's strange to imagine how much the world has changed in 17 years, from this guy's perspective.

Yeah, I bet he didn't expect to be found by drones. That's got to be the most immediate confrontation with how much the world has changed.

I beg to differ. For example Enemy of the State which dealt with aerial surveillance was released 21 years ago.

Predator drones were deployed in the middle east in 2000 but were in use from 1995 in the Balkans. Quadcopters are new though.

17 years and people were living online lives. With Web 2.0 which began a couple of years later around 15 years ago. There's not much that has changed fundamentally which could cause a psychological shock.

Now, if he was on the fun since 1980 maybe ... but 2002 was just around the corner (at least for the type of people who read HN).

> Predator drones were deployed in the middle east in 2000 but were in use from 1995 in the Balkans. Quadcopters are new though.

Quadcopters wouldn't have even been possible without serious advances in battery technology and radio infrastructure.

There was no reason for him to expect the police would've had access to these kind of resources.

> 17 years and people were living online lives. With Web 2.0 which began a couple of years later around 15 years ago. There's not much that has changed fundamentally which could cause a psychological shock.

Even just the invention of the smartphone would be alien to him. I think you may have lost perspective on how different it is. People did not expect to be connected like we are today. It's obvious in hindsight but nobody could have predicted it.

I'm sorry, drones were not in the public consciousness in 2002, let alone 2010, when the military was still mostly using helicopters for this type of search. Drones were used for bombing, and they are probably 10 times as large as consumer drones.

There was no way he expected the police to have this technology and a desire to use it against him specifically.

He also didn't read HN- he's barely able to communicate in his native language according to the article.

The concept of a drone and being discovered by one was probably quite a shock to him.

I guess a re-do of "My Side of the Mountain" would be completely different in 2019!

There is a recent chinese movie along the same theme "Ash is purest white". A person is jailed around 2002 and released about 10 years later and the whole world has changed.

I think Shawshank Redemption showed it pretty well.

It’s 5 years, not 10. (But it’s 5 years in early-2000s China, so it might as well be 10.)

Living in a cave not able to leave maybe slightly better than a jail cell? Of course I'm not sure what other horrors he faced in a Chinese prison.

Personally I would rather live in a cave. When you're in a jail cell, you might end up on an operating table because some wealthy someone needs a new liver, and yours was a match. This person did live in exile, but he lived nonetheless. To some life itself is more important.


There are hundreds of thousands of people who live in caves. China and Turkey leap to mind.

The article I read about it in Turkey showed it as a kind of cultural heritage thing, not a poverty thing.

The article I read about it in China was about the Chinese government forcing people who live in caves to move to cities, where they have no social nets or coping skills. Apparently there is some huge number (hundreds of thousands? millions? I forget) of people in China who live in caves in the western part of the country, and Beijing considers their lifestyle an embarrassment.

What defines a prison is not the lock on the door, but who controls the key.

The article says he escaped from prison camp which I assume is a work camp.

I wonder if he'd had means, not a lot just a few thousand dollars, he would have been able to remain free.

Maybe moving completely out of the area, buying a used car cash and driving to another state entirely?

Somehow getting himself into Mexico and boarding a ship somewhere in south america or asia?

I wonder if these days with all the surveillance it really takes living in a cave to get away from law enforcement.

And how much longer before they use facial recognition to identify the fugitive then execute the arrest?

Execute made me think of Judge Dredd. What the movies gets wron is it won’t be a person who is the Judge it will be an AI. Fugitive match found, sending drones to confirm, deploying Cop AI, running Judge routine, sentenced to death. I am the law.

We call it, law-and-justice-as-a-service


Sadly, both justify.com and justify.it are squatted it appears.

justify.ai too.


How much longer before governments, at society's request, use autonomous drones and facial recognition technology to execute enemies of the state and petty criminals remotely?

Enemies of the state in hostile countries, that's been standard policy for nearly as long as drones have existed. It's a new and improved form of assassination which is used for the same kind of things assassination has always been used for.

Petty criminals are another story entirely. We could easily let human officers fire at will if we supported it as a society, but we don't, so automating that is not a natural step forward.

On the other hand, simply using the recognition side of the equation is a more slippery slope. Wanted posters have been accepted for centuries, so this is in many ways just an improvement on what police already do. But just because something is accepted as a necessary evil doesn't mean that it is still acceptable at orders of magnitude greater efficiency.

Dunno why people are down voting you, china already does this.


Reminds me of the famous examples of Japanese soldiers fighting on after 1945, two of them (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroo_Onoda, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teruo_Nakamura, on separate islands) until 1974.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_holdout even mentions “Shigeyuki Hashimoto and Kiyoaki Tanaka joined the Malayan Communist Party's guerrilla forces to continue fighting, returning to Japan in January 1990”)

Might be a good twist: it's a state sponsored DJI ads, PRC gently saves the drone industry.

What an amazing script for a movie

Julian Assange?

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